Not long after we became “empty-nesters” a couple of years ago, it became obvious I needed another hobby to keep me busy. While the logical route would be to take a cooking class or something along those lines, I wanted something that would do a better job of holding my interest.
I wasn’t actively seeking a bartending class when I stumbled upon an ad for BarSmarts in “Imbibe” magazine. I just wanted to learn the basics of mixology. I probably should have paid a little more attention, but the idea of taking an online bartender education course seemed pretty appealing, especially for a very reasonable fee. It wasn’t until I got started that I learned that the course was designed for working bartenders, and I’ve never been behind a professional bar in my life.
In truth, the course was challenging, but not so much that I couldn’t handle it. Even though I haven’t worked behind a bar, I have enough practical experience as a consumer to know what I like in a cocktail. I just didn’t know what went into the process or the history of distilled spirits.
Developed by Pernod Ricard USA, the BarSmarts spirits and mixology training and certification program truly is made for anyone who has a genuine interest not only in how to make a good cocktail, but also in building their knowledge about various liquors, cocktails and their origins. But having said that, it should be mandatory for all professional bartenders. In fact, I’d recommend that those in the trade go beyond the BarSmarts “Wired” online course and enroll in the BarSmarts Advanced program.
BarSmarts Wired comes with a workbook and accompanying videos. Participants are required to pass an exam at the end of each of four separate modules before completing a “drink builder” final exam covering “25 classic drinks that every bartender should know.”
The instructors behind the program and featured in the videos are part of a virtual all-star team of personalities in the spirits industry. For example, Dale DeGroff, who gained fame as the bartender at New York’s Rainbow Room, is one of the best-known mixologists in the world. And David Wondrich is the world’s foremost expert on the history of the American cocktail. All of the instructors are partners of the Beverage Alcohol Resource and bring experience and knowledge from a variety of areas of the industry.
The BarSmarts program was fascinating, and I’m appreciative of the program’s leader Suzanne Freedman for letting me gain a wealth of valuable intelligence. It not only expanded my knowledge, but also my taste for certain spirits, and most definitely for a well-made cocktail. It’s the kind of education that shouldn’t be limited to bartenders.