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Web reality show ‘The Rookie Bartender’ shakes things up with a new twist on the same old competitions

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 22, 2012 09:03 AM

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bern rookie bartender season 2.jpgBy Lisa Hagen

Thanks to a plethora of reality TV, we viewers have been able to get our fix of multiple variations of the ideas of finding true love and winning cash based on physical stamina. By now, we all know that the “relationship” on The Bachelor will deteriorate the minute the fame-grubbing contestant receives the final rose. It's high time that producers start developing more creative reality show concepts to stand out from the crowd and keep audiences tuned in.

Thankfully, a local web-based reality show is giving its viewers a taste of a new reality TV idea -- and it tastes a lot like a Cosmopolitan or a martini. The Rookie Bartender, which has been filming its second season on location at The Place since January, gives amateur, wanna-be bartenders the opportunity to compete for cash and a bartending job by completing a series of tasks that reflect their charisma behind the bar and flair for mixing drinks.

Inspired by and created as a vehicle for Kayla Harrity, the "original rookie bartender" and current show host, The Rookie Bartender underwent a major transformation between seasons, expanding from following one rookie’s experience to having four contestants compete for the ultimate title. The show also added Greenview Entertainment, a new production company founded last year by executive producer Amy DePaola, to its team of executive producers SJ Torres and David Larkin from Dirty Water News.

“It wouldn't have made sense to find another ‘rookie’ like Kayla and focus on one individual because her experience was unique and would not have worked another time around,” said DePaola, who also produces 617 The Series, another web-based show. “Adding more characters and the competition really brings our show to a place that can be used commercially for many reasons.”

This season, the four rookies -- Cassidy Quinn Brettler, Chris Fox, Natalie Holland, and Bern Prince -- learn how to create drinks with “pour and presentation” at The Poppin’ Bottles Bartending Academy. Helping them in their “studies” are trainers Cara Maria Sorbello, a contestant on MTV’s latest season of The Challenge; Kate Squillace, formerly of Oxygen’s Bad Girls Club; and Dre Haynes, a native New Yorker and experienced bartender.

“Many of the show’s bartending lessons and competitions are direct results of all of our careers in the service industry,” said DePaola, who currently bartends at Howl at the Moon and will start grad school at Emerson College in the fall. “Every one of our producers has experience as either a bartender, cocktail waitress, or promoter.”

Each episode, the rookies face off in different competitions, including pouring and serving drinks blindfolded and bartending at different locations, such as Mija in Faneuil Hall. Unlike many competition reality shows, The Rookie Bartender does not vote its contestants off; instead, they’re judged based on how much money they have in their “tip jars” at the end of the night and online viewer votes. DePaola, Harrity, Larkin, and Torres, plus visiting guests, all serve as judges.

Video courtesy of The Rookie Bartender. Song "99 Bottles" by Slaine.

Going from the show’s rookie to host was “an easy transition,” said Harrity, who has a broadcast degree from Emerson. Bartending on the show was a step towards pursuing her entertainment industry dreams and helped her make some money at the same time.

The Rookie Bartender has been a great learning experience,” she said. “From behind the bar to in front of the camera, I've learned how to flair bottles, and I've polished up my reality hosting, which is something I've always wanted to do.”

Contestant Brettler said she was a total bartending novice before joining the cast. As Harrity’s former roommate, she watched her compete on the first season and decided to audition for season two because it would be a good opportunity to win some money and a chance to learn something new and promote herself.

“I'm definitely learning as I go, and I've had a lot of ‘rookie moments’ where I've forgotten which button is for Coke on the soda gun or grabbed a reading book instead of a ‘book’ to put a check on,” Brettler said. “But that's what makes entertaining video, right?”

Photo of Bern Prince by Savas Studios

About Lisa -- I'm a Boston University sophomore and Jersey girl majoring in journalism and minoring in art history. I currently intern at the Dorchester Reporter and have written for several other publications during the past few years. I'm interested in politics, art, and traveling, and I'll be studying in Washington, D.C., during the upcoming fall semester.

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