Career paths in Beverage – Cicerone, Sommelier, and Mixologist

One of the fastest-growing businesses in hospitality is the beverage industry. By 2021, this global industry is forecasted to reach a value of approximately $1.9 trillion. For those looking to enter this burgeoning segment of hospitality, there are numerous career paths and opportunities. Let’s take a look at some of the growing fields in the beverage industry and how you can become a needed asset and an expert in the field.


While becoming a “beer professional” sounds like a dream job for many college-bound seniors, this growing profession involves much more than sampling suds. To become a cicerone requires certification that involves intense study and multiple levels of exams. At the end of the program, you will have an in-depth knowledge of the beer industry and be able to distinguish a Hazy IPA from an American West Coast-Style IPA, and so, so much more.

Just what do the world’s greatest beer experts know? By the time you complete your certification, you’ll understand the brewing process, how to differentiate between the many types, and how to pair it with food.


The Cicerone Certification Program began in 2007. Today it consists of four levels of certification: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone, Advanced Cicerone, and Master Cicerone. Each level requires testing in the following areas:

  • Keeping and Serving Beer
  • Beer Styles
  • Flavor and Tasting
  • Brewing Process and Ingredients
  • Pairing Beer and Food

Each test consists of a written exam, a tasting test, and a demonstration. By becoming a Certified Cicerone, you are letting the world know that you have reached a certain level of knowledge (quite a bit, actually) when it comes to beer. You’ll also need to have a certain level of determination to make it through the courses. The pass rate level is less than 50 percent and there are only 19 Certified Master Cicerones in the world. Don’t, however, let this deter you. Those who are genuinely interested in the fine art of creating and tasting beer find a way to succeed.


There are several competitions around the world that will allow you to test your chops once you’ve become a Cicerone. The Can Can Awards, the only canned beer tasting competition, invites those who are Cicerone Certified to act as judges. Passing the Beer Judge Certification Program will also set you up to judge the many competitions that occur at festivals every year. This program provides educational resources as well as ranks and certifies beer judges. The organization has sanctioned over 10,500 competitions.

Career Opportunities

There are numerous opportunities open to those who have become Certified Cicerones and an authority in the industry. These include: Cicerone and Beer Director, Brewer, Distributor, Director of Sales, Beer Writer, and Restaurant & Bar Consultant. As with most careers, you can work your way up or jump a few hurdles by studying and achieving accreditation.


Sommeliers, or wine stewards, have been in existence, in some form or another, for centuries. From the experts of Roman times who tasted and determined the quality of the wine, to the somerier who cared for the wine during lengthy travels in medieval France, the keepers of the wine have held esteemed and important positions. Today’s sommeliers are trained knowledgeable wine professionals—experts in service, growing regions, and wine tasting.


There are several certifying bodies that provide training and testing which lead to the title of Sommelier. These include: The Court of Master Sommeliers, International Sommelier Guild, International Wine & Spirits Guild, North American Sommelier Association, National Wine School, Union de la Sommellerie Francaise, and Associazione  Italiana Sommelier.

The Court of Master Sommeliers was conceived in 1969 and offers four levels of certification leading up to Master Sommelier, a title that only 269 people have earned since the Court’s inception.

As with cicerones, many a sommelier has worked their way up the restaurant ladder. The Wine Enthusiast reported on Malek Amrani, an advanced sommelier and founder of The Vice Wine, who worked his way up to beverage director, starting in the industry at the age of 17 and now tasting 30 to 40 wines every day.


There are numerous competitions that allow you to compete against the best once you’ve attained your Sommelier Certification. These include the Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition, the ASI Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World, and Best USA Sommelier Competition (designed to select the U.S. representative to the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition). The Sommeliers Choice Awards judges wines, and awards medals to those wines that meet specific criteria. Sommeliers act as judges.

Career Opportunities

Sommeliers in the restaurant industry often work with chefs to implement a wine program. They may be responsible for maintaining inventory, training, and ensuring guest satisfaction by recommending food and wine pairings. Other career options include positions at wineries, sales representatives, wine retail, freelance writing, consulting, and marketing or brand ambassador.


While the term “mixologist” dates back to the 19th century, it wasn’t resurrected until the 1980s, and didn’t really start trending until 2000. As the name implies, a mixologist, in its simplest form, mixes drinks. But this mixing of various ingredients is based on art, the craft of creating exceptional beverages and innovative cocktails. Mixologists are known for designing best-in-house signature drinks as well as seasonal specials. They prepare ingredients such as bitters, syrups, and tinctures that will go into an establishment’s beverage program, and reimagine classic cocktails while researching antiquated recipes.

According to Restaurant Hospitality, restaurants that elevate their beverage program to the mixology level often increase their bar sales by 20 percent. Of course, that number relies on targeting the appropriate customers.


Mixology is the new kid on the block when it comes to certification programs. Created in 2016, A Bar Above’s Mixology Certification Program offers online training via videos and exams and includes ingredients, balance, and flavor. Professional Bartending School offers a 40-hour online learning Bartender Mixology Certification Course that can lead to a PBSO Bartender Mixology Certificate.


Winning one of the many cocktail competitions is a great way to make a name for yourself as a talented bartender or mixologist. A Bar Above even offers a free eBook called “How to Win Cocktail Competitions.” A few of the many competitions they list include Vipra Halloween Cocktail Contest, A Toast to the Service Industry, The Star of the Bar Competition as well as Bartender of the Year.

Career Opportunities

While there is some dispute in the industry regarding the terms bartender and mixologist, the two are definitely intertwined. Some brands have bartenders that make drinks and serve the customers with mixologists creating the homemade ingredients and recipes. Others use the all-in-one approach. Another opportunity is writing (think The Modern Mixologist by Tony Abou-Ganim or The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan). Consulting and brand promoting are also considerations as well as working directly with distilled spirit companies.

The road to success? Choose your drink of choice and then become an expert in the field.

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