all seem to have their own take on the
craft,” says Gaz Regan, author of numer-
ous books including
The Joy of Mixology
and host of gazregan.com. Now that bar-
tending is widely seen as a legitimate food
service career choice, one with prospects
and potential, being trained at the high-
est level is increasingly seen as a signifi-
cant step for advancement.
Short History
Paul Pacult, who leads the hyrda-headed
Beverage Alcohol Resource program
(better known as BAR) in partnership
with Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Ste-
ven Olson, Andy Seymour and David
Wondrich, notes that when the program
started in 2005, no specific form of pro-
fessional certification existed, something
the culinary world offers in most disci-
plines—pastry, kitchen management
and other aspects. Says Pacult: “A first
sector of professionals had already been
working as bartenders long before we
started BAR, but they still looked to per-
fect their craft. I believe that we are now
attracting what I think of as a ‘second
wave’ of young women and men who in
the last five years have become intrigued
with the bartending profession.”
BAR is an intensive five-day course fo-
cusing not only on mixology but also the
history of spirits through a broad range of
categories and traditions. BarSmarts—also
created by BAR, in conjunction with Per-
nod Ricard—focuses on bartenders, drink-
making and service issues in a shorter
course that can be taken online or live. As
Pacult puts it, “Think of BarSmarts as bar-
tending high school while the BAR 5-Day
is more akin to major university studies.”
Francesco Lafranconi, the executive
director of mixology and spirits educa-
tion for Southern Wine and Spirits Ne-
vada, says that these days hotels and
restaurants are seeking to provide better
quality cocktails when they turn to him
for training and menu development, and
therefore more skilled bartenders. “Guests
have much higher expectations now,” he
says. “They have a better understanding
of what makes a good drink, and opera-
tors need help trying to cope with what
their guests demand.”
Even union bartenders in his market, a
group not usually considered open to new
training requirements, are more receptive
now, especially in sophisticated technique
areas, like handling egg whites and fresh
products, Lafranconi says.
Balancing the Skill Set
The efforts of Pernod Ricard and other sup-
pliers, and distributors including Southern,
Glazer’s and Wirtz, may have helped in-
crease bartender knowledge dramatically
over the past ten years. However, it’s com-
monly agreed that the general rules of hos-
pitality haven’t received the same sort of
focus, which bugs trainers like Tanqueray
Brand Ambassador Angus Winchester.
“When you get bartenders who say, ‘I
got into this because I don’t like talking
to guests, and craft cocktails take so much
time that I don’t have to,’ it’s hard to know
what to say,” says Winchester.
“There’s a generation of bartenders
now that are the most knowledgeable and
creative that has ever existed on the plan-
et. They can tell you the mash bills of all
their whiskies and talk about the botani-
Left: Paul Pacult leads the Beverage Alcohol Resource program.
Above: Gaz Regan speaking at a seminar.
The overall skill level expected among
new employees at craft cocktail bars today
far exceeds that of any previous era.
bartender training
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