Educational Program Review: BarSmarts Wired
I’m always looking to up my game behind the stick, but as an amateur bartender, opportunities to do so are usually of my own making. I read a lot, follow all of my cocktail heroes on Twitter and Facebook, attend events, and do a whole lot of experimenting in my well-stocked home bar. I’ve considered taking time off to attend bartending school, but programs of that ilk have been almost universally panned by people I respect as a waste of time for folks interested in the fine art of the drink. So it appeared as though I would have to continue this journey alone until I learned of an online bartender education program through an advertisement on ShakeStir.com.
The program—BarSmarts Wired—is a collaborative effort between Pernod-Ricard and Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR, LLC). BAR’s staff listing reads like a who’s who of mixology rock stars: Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steve Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour and David Wondrich. I figured if these guys were behind the program, then I could probably learn something, so I dropped the $29 and signed up.
The program is comprised of four modules:
- Spirit Basics
- Knowing the Spirits
- Mixology Basics
- Mixology Practical
The educational materials include both text and video—they recommend reading first and watching the video second, but the order is of little consequence in practice, as both contain valuable information. After you complete your studies for that module, you can take the test. The tests are all 25 question multiple choice format, and you have one minute to answer each question. You need to pass each test with a minimum score of 80% in order to unlock the material for the next module—if you fail a test, you’re given a second chance to take it.
The first thing that struck me about the written materials was how well-written they were. (Having sat through a lot of trainings in other areas, I can tell you that well-written materials of this type are rare.) Perfect grammar and interesting information covered the pages—it made me want to read more.
Each module had something interesting to offer. Although a lot of the information was not entirely new to me, there were new details or twists in each section that I didn’t know or had not considered before. The videos were well-produced, and offered a chance to have a virtual seat at the table with some of the best mixologists in the world.
The BarSmarts Wired program is designed to be completed over four weeks, but I was so engrossed in it, I finished in one. The tests were challenging, but I felt well-prepared for each, and averaged a score of 94% over the four. The final test was a virtual drink making application called DrinkBuilder in which I had to virtually make four drinks correctly from memory—clicking on the correct ingredients and then the corresponding jiggers and bar tools. I’m happy to say I passed this round as well.
After successfully completing the DrinkBuilder test, I received a pdf copy of my BarSmarts Wired certification, which is now proudly displayed in my home bar.
Summing up, I would say that if you’re an advanced amateur bartender or even a pro looking to up your game, you should consider BarSmarts Wired. For $29, it’s a pretty great value, and when you’re done you have a legitimate certification that shows people you’re serious about your craft.
Have you taken this or any other bartending education programs in person or online? Please share your experiences in the comments below.