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Aqua Vitae Institute Mixes Knowledge and Fun When Training Budding Bartenders

By Pamela Sosnowski

Being a successful bartender these days requires much more than simply knowing how to pour a beer or a shot of hard liquor. A good bartender can make drink recommendations, whip up the hottest cocktail on the bar scene, and know when a patron has reached their limit. At the Aqua Vitae Institute of Philadelphia they teach aspiring bartenders all of this and more, while respecting the craft of alcoholic beverages and responsible drinking.

"There are so many amazing things that happen because of alcohol and the primary goal is education," Ori Geshury, the school's director of education, said. "While we can't fix all alcohol abuse, we hope to at least change this culture little by little by training people with the ability to create unforgettable experiences where alcohol is enjoyed responsibly, and also by creating unforgettable experiences with alcohol for whoever comes into our school."

The institute's core bartending course covers everything one needs to know to become licensed to bartend, including a 48-hour mixology program that even covers how to get a job in the industry. Additional four-hour classes cover specific drink categories such as martinis and manhattans, margaritas and daiquiris, and beer and wine. The flair class teaches bartenders the ins and outs of performing theatrics behind the bar such as spinning bottles, using fire for special effects, and pouring drinks with panache; all of which give a bartender the wow factor when competing or serving a particular crowd.

The school was founded by Ariela Yankelewitz, an Israeli woman who gained financial independence thanks to an education in bartending.

"The main reason Aqua Vitae Institute was founded was because Ariela Yankelewitz, our president, wanted to give back and add to the industry that she spent so many of her years working to promote," Geshury said. "She came to the U.S. and found a small bartending school where she learned the career. A few days (after) graduating, she found a bartending job and raised enough money to buy a house, pay for her husband's PhD education, and support two children."

Instructors hail from a variety of backgrounds in the alcohol industry; many are beer brewers, sommeliers, and mixologists in the Philadelphia area and have competed nationally in bar tending competitions. All are also members of the United States Bartending Guild (USBG). According to Geshury, the institute works hard to stay current and competitive.

"We teach more theoretical knowledge than almost any bar in the world and many of our graduates already know more about modern techniques, spirits, and cocktails than people who have been in the industry for decades," he said. "We do this by constantly consulting with other bar managers from across the city, constantly talking to liquor companies and working on improvement."

One of the school's most unique features is its comprehensive library, stocked with hundreds of titles on bartending and hospitality. The library is accessible to all students and graduates of the core bartending course.

Upon receiving their license, a student's relationship with Aqua Vitae doesn't necessarily end. The school offers job placement assistant run by its student services office. Staff is available to assist with resumes, cover letters, interview questions, and general knowledge about making it in the industry. They also keep their Facebook alumni page regularly updated with new job postings.

Classes typically start on Mondays and Saturdays, and students can register online at

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About The Author

Pamela Sosnowski is a freelance writer, social media manager, contributor for REBEAT...

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