R5 Q & A With Dennis Ryan, Founder of New Rochelle's Academy of Professional Bartending

Is flirting part of your job description?
Yes, we’re there to make money and ensure that people have a good time and want to come back. So we play the crowd and a lot of flirting does go on.

So, do you get hit on a lot?
Yes—and by both sexes.

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How do you handle that?
I’m real polite—for the women I might say, ‘I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that too much.’ For the guys, I say something like, ‘I’m straight as an arrow, but if I were gay, you’d be the first guy I’d take home.’ Usually, they just melt.

How did you get into this line of work?
I started in 1990 to supplement my income as a computer engineer. When I no longer needed the extra money, I continued because I loved it. I decided to do it full-time in 2003 and opened my school with my wife, Giovanna, in 2007.

How long is the course of study offered?
The basic course is a forty-hour program that covers full-service, fine-dining, and high-volume bartending, and it costs two hundred ninety-five dollars. We also offer advanced courses in garnish prep, responsible alcohol awareness, and flair bartending.  

What exactly is flair bartending?
It’s the art and sport of precision bartending and preparing a cocktail with a bit of style. Think of the movies Cocktail and Coyote Ugly.

What’s your signature flair move?
Fire breathing. I can expel a flame anywhere from six to fifteen feet. But don’t try this at home—fire is very unpredictable.

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What’s the best way to get good bar service?
One way not to is by pounding on the bar, snapping your fingers, flashing cash, or demanding to go ahead of everyone else. Nice manners, a smile, and saying ‘please’ go a long way.   

What was your biggest tip?
Three days before Christmas, a businessman who came in every day throughout the year but never tipped gave me five hundred dollars cash, saying that he figured I would like it all in one shot.
What’s the most common misconception the public has about your profession?
That all of us are alcoholics.

Can you drink on duty?
Absolutely not; it’s not good practice. Besides, would you drink while you are working on your job in any other profession?

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Dealing with irate, drunk patrons.

What kind of person makes a good bartender?
No drama queens. You can’t take things personally; you’re there to make money.

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What do most people talk about?
Their problems on the job, at home, and with their spouse and children. Sometimes I feel like a therapist.

Would you say a lot of your patrons are drowning their sorrows?
Not really, but a couple of cocktails do make people more forthcoming—it acts as a lubricant.

What’s the most outrageous thing a patron has told you?
One married guy was hitting on his wife’s sister. They hooked up, and, when the wife found out, it turned into a
ménage à trois.

Who are the best—and worst—tippers?
Blue-collar people are usually the best—they understand that we are working hard. But forget about the under-twenty-five crowd—they have no money.

What’s a common request you could do without?
‘Can you get me that person’s information?’ What is this—high school? Go over there and get it yourself. I’m not Chuck Woolery on The Love Connection.

Photo by John Rizzo

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