I had the privilege this week to complete the BarSmarts Live course – a training program geared toward the new generation of bartenders. The course was put together by spirits giant Pernod Ricard, but I found that, while many of the examples obviously cited Pernod Ricard brands, the course was very comprehensive and conveyed a wide range of industry information.

The course is broken up into five parts: four self-paced modules completed at home with a book, DVDs, and online quizzes, and a one-day live session which includes seminars, a written exam, and a practical exam.

The four self-paced modules included:

  • 1. Spirits Basics

    How fermented liquids become the “spirits” that we love How to taste and evaluate spirits like a professional.

  • 2. Spirits Categories

    Using your tasting skills to understand how fine brandies, whiskeys, liqueurs and white spirits should best be enjoyed in all service applications

  • 3. Cocktails and Mixology

    History of mixology and of the seminal cocktails that influence mixology today, knowing the mandatory bar tools and their uses and knowing the fundamental ingredients, glassware, garnishes and their usages.

  • 4. Practical Application and Service

    The 25 classic drinks every bartender should know, creating new cocktails, creating cocktail menus, preparation, service basics, ordering, inventory, customer relations and cash handling.

The content delivered through the book, DVDs, and the live session was exemplary, particularly due to the fact that it was presented by the folks behind BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource). If you have cocktail books in your collection at home, chances are they were written by the BAR crew: Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson, Doug Frost, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the practical exam (in which each student is asked to prepare 3 drinks from a list of “25 essential cocktails”) was judged by the countries leading mixologists: the members of the BAR crew, as well as folks like Jim Meehan and Don Lee of PDT (my favorite NYC bar) and bartenders from famous institutions around the country.

The exams, I’ll admit, were not easy. The written exam was comprised of 100 questions, 85 of which focused on details from the BarSmarts text and DVDs. The remaining 15 were based on a blind tasting of three different spirits. For my practical exam, I was asked to prepare a Manhattan (using bourbon – I asked), a Margarita, and a Caprioska (a Caipirinha made with vodka instead of cachaca). I received some wonderful input and feedback from my judge – a very talented bartender name Alex, who traveled all the way from Cure in New Orleans.

My understanding is that an online version of the program (called BarSmarts Wired) will open to the public early next year. From my experience, I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in learning more about the preparation of classic cocktails (as well as the foundations of how spirits are made, etc.) to keep an eye out for that opportunity.

In the meantime (while I anxiously await the results of my exams!) here’s the complete list of the “25 essential cocktails every bartender should know.” I’d suggest you get to work on learning the recipes now :-)


25 Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know

  • Aviation Cocktail
  • Bellini
  • Blood & Sand
  • Bloody Mary
  • Caipirinha
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Collins (Tom, John or Vodka)
  • Daiquiri
  • Gimlet
  • Gin Fizz
  • Irish Coffee
  • Mai Thai
  • Manhattan
  • Margarita
  • Martini (Dry or Extra Dry)
  • Mint Julep
  • Mojito
  • Negroni
  • Old Fashioned (Classic or Muddled)
  • Pisco Sour
  • Rob Roy
  • Sazerac
  • Stinger
  • Whiskey Sour

3 Responses to “BarSmarts”

  1. Terry Says:

    For the gimlet, what’s the practical effect of substituting fresh lime juice for Rose’s lime juice?

  2. Josh Says:

    Interestingly, the Gimlet is the one cocktail (that I know of, anyway) where Rose’s Lime Juice really is called for over fresh lime juice. Rose’s is a sweetened lime juice, which is what you want in a Gimlet (plus, it helps prevent scurvey!) One of the masters of the trade, Gary Regan, in discussing the Gimlet, refers to Rose’s Lime Juice as “…the ingredient that really invented the drink.”

    The other options I’ve heard of, though, for people really wanting to avoid the preservatives, etc., is making a lime syrup (creating a simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water, infused with the zest of 3-4 limes), or using equal parts lime juice and simple syrup (2oz gin, 1/2oz lime juice, 1/2oz simple syrup). If you try either of those options, I’d be very curious to hear what you think (especially if you compare it to a Gimlet made with Rose’s.)


  3. PS – I Passed BarSmarts | Spirited Cocktails Says:

    [...] a quick postscript to my post about BarSmarts last week: the official word came this weekend that I passed. I’ve got to admit, I was a [...]

Leave a Reply