A Cocktail Journey

Screwdriver or Harvey Wallbanger.

White Russian or Toasted Almond.

Manhattan Perfect or Bone Dry.

These drinks are among the plethora (103 in total, thank   you very much!) that I’ve been learning to create over the past four days at bartending school. Yes, you read that right. Bartending school. Bartending school. Barten… you don’t even want to finish reading the words, let alone speak them out loud. Well, hear me out:

Formerly a waitress, a student, a journalist, and now a PR gal, I’ve never actually had the chance to add the title of bartender to my young resume. I yearned for my chance to be behind the bar during my days in the restaurant biz, but got out before I had the chance to develop the necessary skill sets. All the while, my excitement and enthusiasm for the spirits industry have only escalated. With the ardent goal of better communicating with and learning from you, the key players in this community, I’m taking on the challenge of learning to be a bartender. I’ve also enrolled in the Bar Smarts Advanced program and will be testing my knowledge at the live DC event (I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my bartending kit to practice at home!). Please email me and let me know if you will be there, too!

So what have I gotten out of said bartending school so far?

Dale DeGroff recently wrote for Liquor.com that “If you can make a simple Whiskey Sour, you have the template for hundreds of cocktails” and I think that holds true. I’ve learned a screwdriver (1 oz. vodka, fill with OJ) can become a Harvey Wallbanger by just adding a lace of Galliano. Swap the Galliano with sloe gin and you’ve got a Sloe Screw. It’s really simple! And fun! Time, dedication, and a love for the craft are what chiefly seem to separate the run-of-the-mill from the upper echelon of bartenders and mixologists.

I’ve also learned a great deal about Manhattans. Personally, I prefer the clear liquors – gin & tequila are easily my favorites – and got a good lesson in using sweet vermouth as opposed to the dry that typically  accompanies my gin martini.

The one major downfall I find with the program, however, is the liquor. All the major brand players are stocked behind the bar (which resembles more of a test kitchen with its long countertops as bar stations, barstools, and overabundance of sinks) but they are filled with dyed water instead of the liquor product itself. I find that to be a real flaw. What if a student doesn’t know the difference between a bourbon and a whisky? I’d think this would be the ideal environment to sample and learn the variance of all these products. The same could be said for a liqueur – wouldn’t it be wise to recognize the differences between Cointreau and a generic triple sec going into your margarita? That way you could tell your customer of the better product sitting on the shelf and, in the process, up-sell your drink.

So I have four more classes – 16 more hours – to go. Between this, and Bar Smarts, I am hopeful that I’ll be prepared for the challenges that come with being a bartender. But, more importantly, I will be better prepared do my job as a PR professional in the spirits industry. Plus – and I’m just throwing this out there – if anyone needs another body part-time behind the bar, I’m more than ready and able for the job : )


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