In the hallway outside of Spectators Bar in Kansas City, over 130 anxious BarSmarts students are rattling off ingredients and drink names from flash cards and work books, getting in any last minute cramming they can before they are off to take their BarSmarts exams (BarSmarts is a bartender education and certification program that was created by Pernod Ricard USA and BAR, for more information look HERE). In just a few hours, in the same bar they are standing outside of, the tests will be over and the BAR Partners (Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steven Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich) will be buying everyone a celebratory shot of Jameson, as promised by Doug Frost during the morning’s General Session. Today wasn’t solely about passing the exam; it was about the information and celebration of the cocktail community. (Although passing and becoming BarSmarts certified, as well as a member of the USBG, is a prize that everyone was hoping to receive!)
The morning started with the General Sessions, and from 9-11 am, Steve, Doug and Paul took the group through an extensive blind tasting of 6 spirits(all 6 spirits were from Pernod Ricard’s amazing portfolio, so don’t feel too bad for these guys), refreshing everything these students had been practicing in the weeks leading up to the test. The BAR Partners have turned the process of blind tasting into an art form, identifying each individual scent and flavor of the spirits. The students had clearly done their homework, and were shouting out what they could detect within the spirits as well, and they all sounded ready to ace the blind tasting portion of their exam.
From 11:30-1 Andy, Dale and Dave took us through a history lesson of cocktails and bar tools. I was never a huge history buff when I was in school, but I could’ve listened to these guys for hours.Their knowledge of the industry and the culture of the cocktail community was incredible, and their passion to share this information with everyone made listening even more enjoyable (although the punches that Mr. DeGroff and Mr. Wondrich made to accompany their discussion made listening more enjoyable as well!)
After the morning sessions were over it was time for lunch, which was simply a large room full of nervous bartenders rushing to finish their sandwiches so they could squeeze in some more studying before the exam. I have never seen a more serious group of bartenders, which goes to show just how important passing their certification was! Just before 2 o’clock it was time for the tests…