Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) Course ’09

Think of the bartenders that you recognize as great bartenders.  What makes them so great?  Is it that they make fantastic classic and creative contemporary cocktails?  Is it because they are consummate gentlemen/women?  Is it because they wear cool vests and hats or throw bottles around with synchronized abandon?

Customers tend to think that any bartender that knows more about spirits and cocktails is a great bartender, so when I tell my customers that I went to NYC for this B.A.R. course, they imagine and picture in their heads something FAR different than what I experienced.

Beverage Alcohol Resource, as they say, “is the spirits and mixology equivalent of a Masters of Wine or Master Sommelier program…whose mission is to propagate the healthy and responsible use of beverage alcohol products through innovative and comprehensive training programs and seminars. Formed by six of the world’s leading spirits and cocktails authorities, Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steven Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich, BAR is revolutionizing the way in which spirits and cocktails are viewed, understood, appreciated and enjoyed.”

Before I even start to talk about the course itself, do you recognize at least a few of those name?  If you read any books or magazines concerning cocktails, you will recognize names which surely you have heard before and whose research and efforts have made all of our lives better.

Taking the B.A.R. course is like taking a literary course taught by a living Mark Twain, a breathing and fighting Ernest Hemingway, a deliberate Yukio Mishima or even the wonderful Patrick O’brien.  Yes – this is a course taught by the recognized living giants of the industry.

Dale Degroff?  He “has been credited with reviving and reinventing the profession of mixology.”  He’s the founding partner of B.A.R, and has been awarded such notable honors as a James Beard Wine & Spirits Professional award, Lifetime Achievement Award from Nightclub & Bar Magazine, 2008 TOTC Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award, and was the 2007 Cheers Beverage Industry Innovator of the Year.

WondrichDave Wondrich?  If you’ve read any of the best-selling books on spirits and cocktails, surely one of the books that you have read was written by Wondrich, who “is widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on cocktails and their history.”  Dave Wondrich is the author of Killer Cocktails, Esquire Drinks and has been a contributing author of many other great books and is a contributing editor to Esquire magazine.

Are those two enough?  Could you fill your week listening to those two teach you about spirits?  If you had to pick just ONE more guy, the shortlist would have this name:

F. Paul Pecault.  The author of the Spirit Journal, and “is the only journalist in the world to concurrently be a life member of Keepers of the Quaich whisky society (Edinburgh, Scotland), a life member of Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, and a life member of France Company of Armagnac Musketeers“.

Would that be enough?  Sure, but then you find that teaching at the B.A.R. course is not only Steve Olson, aka Wine Geek but…holy shit…Doug Frost, one of only three people in the world to be not just a Master Sommelier, but also a Master of Wine.

There were 40 people at the course – a course that is run only one time a year.  Between this annual course, some B.A.R. instructors teach Barsmarts, the most innovative direct-to-the-bartender spirits, mixology and service training and certification program available. Designed exclusively for Pernod Ricard USA and instructed by the celebrated partners of Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR).”  But, on this first morning of the course, the 40 of us were sitting in the pack-to-the-gills tasting room at the Astor Center, all staring around the room at each other, wondering who the hell we all were as we watched stroll into the classroom, one by one, these giants of the industry.

In the weeks preceding the course, most of us received in the mail our almost two-pound course manual.  Our textbook.  Our 207 page collection of a surely small portion of the life’s knowledge of our instructors.  207 pages, bridging three sections and 11 chapters, covering everything from Chapter 1, “An Introduction To Distilled Spirits” to Chapter 11, with resources to help the reader find “Products, Services and Sources”.

Next thing that we knew, were were knee-deep in introductions, learning who our instructors and other classmates were.  In the classroom were bartenders from all over the country.  In the back row, stage right from the front, directly to my right was the lovely Tara McLaughlin, one of the only three Pacific Northwesterners to ever join the course.  Apparently, in this seventh year of the course, most of the time the course was populated by East Coasters, but this year besides us Pacific Northwesterners (Tiki-king, Portland’s Blair Reynolds being in attendance),blair off the top of my head there were bartenders from San Francisco (Jacquie Patterson and Martin Miller’s John Santer from Heaven’s Dog), bostickLos Angeles (Chris Bostick from Varnish), Las Vegas (Amanda Gager – $100K winner of the Absolut Top Bartender Reality Show winner), Colorado Bartener’s Guild’s Sean Kenyon and Annika Zappe…  Just to name a few.  Hell, I’ve not even mentioned Sergio Fernandez from Miami, or Boston’s Jackson Cannon from Eastern Standard or Chicago’s Todd Appel from Crimson Lounge. AND!rhiannon How can we forget North Carolina’s Gary Crunkelton from The Crunkleton!?  Yellow!!!! (Long story…)  What about New Orleans’ and Cure’s Rhiannon Enlil?

Oh, the list could go on and on.  I could name Angus Winchester, House Of Tanqueray’s Global Ambassador,  all the way from The Continent, or Adam Devermann, voted Best Bartender in Shanghai, showing up all the way from China where he is a bartender and has a cocktail consulting company.

But first…sleep.  It’s almost 5am and damned if I should not get some sleep.

The next installment will talk about the generalities of the course itself, the day-to-day occurrences that made the course so unique.

“Smell and taste twice”.  Remember that.  “Smell and taste twice.”

2 Responses to “Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) Course ’09”

  1. […] of the Colorado Bartender Guild (COBG), whom I met while we were taking the B.A.R. course in NYC [Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) Course ‘09].  He continues, “We have created a network for bartenders to email or call if they have […]

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