It’s been one week since Washington, DC, where I completed the last – and most rewarding – portion of the BarSmarts Advanced program.
Many of you may have previously read Sam’s posts praising the BarSmarts Wired and Advanced programs. While the two share many similarities in material taught by the BAR Partners (a la Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steve Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich), the Advanced has an added value. After completing four online timed tests, participants are invited to a live event featuring seminars, tastings, hands-on mixology, and a (ominous) “Final Exam.” If you want to read up on more background information from the BarSmarts programs, I would suggest visiting the web site’s FAQs.
Before I go any further, a big muchas gracias goes out to SeanMike “Fantasty Football” Whipkey and Marshall “Pickle Back” Fawley of Scofflaw’s Den for facilitating my pub crawl through our nation’s capital and relieving me of my pre-BarSmarts jitters!
My day started early – much earlier than any individual who calls his or herself a bartender by trade should ever be awake – and the action got underway! The first half of the day was consumed with informative sessions with the BAR partners, refreshing concepts from our workbooks and reinforcing best bar practices within the craft cocktail scene today. Unfortunately, David Wondrich did not bring his ice axe for demonstration purposes (something having to do with TSA regulations, whatever that stands for…) but I did get to see him build a Jameson’s punch and watch Dale DeGroff, King Cocktail himself, stir up a vodka sour in front of our group without even blinking an eyelash. Just, wow.
The second portion of the day involved a two-pronged written and practical exam. The comprehensive written exam captures many of the finer points we learned throughout the workbook, along with a short blind tasting. However, since I am not behind the bar at an establishment day in and day out (or any day for that matter), I was most anxious heading into the practical exam, where I was to learn the ins and outs of 25 classic cocktail recipes, from the Aviation to the Stinger. I also found this to be the most gratifying element of the program for me at the end of the day. After all, how often will I get to say I was slinging drinks for the likes of David Wondrich, who happened to be my judge? I presented the Historical Oracle with a Manhattan, a Caipiroska (a modified Caipirinha with vodka), and a Margarita.
Whether or not I pass the program (a question to which I still have no answer), I consider this program to be a huge personal building block. I owe my sincerest thanks to Pernod Ricard for inviting me and will wholeheartedly encourage other bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts to enroll in either Live or Wired when the program next opens up.