The New World of Drinks
So you want to be a bartender? Really? Chapped hands from squeezing lemons; dealing with drunks all night, the world’s heaviest, drippiest trash bags and getting off work at three in the morning? Nah. You just want to be able to make drinks like one. There’s nothing that mysterious about it, to be honest, though you wouldn’t know that from the legion of young mixologists and their homemade coffee-rutabaga-carpet sweepings bitters (it’s the little bits of fabric that are the secret, ya know) and their drinks that use two dozen ingredients and take twenty minutes to make. A little harsh? Fair enough.
But drinks do not have to be this complicated. And the greatest drinks, those that have stood time’s tests (and we’re talking essay here, not multiple choice); they are often deceptively easy, even simple. Until you taste them. When that balance of flavors unfolds, a balance so perfectly calibrated because you have learned the recipe (and know how to measure too, but that’s Lesson Two), well, that’s when you realize delicious drinks are not the province of a few guys in vests with twirly moustaches. Not solely.
We BARmen definitely think that the skill and understanding of the territory have always been available, though a map like this website always comes in handy. So that’s why we created it. You’ll find a series of Lessons that will show you how to measure a jigger, how the important spirits are made, how to shake a cocktail (and when not to) and everything else you need to have in your mental hip flask to look cool and find yourself useful at the bar. At the end of each Lesson you’ll even find videos that show you precisely how to construct your cocktails and how they ought to look when you’re done. We’ve tried to provide virtually everything you need to impress your friends and family, and hell, maybe even piss off your local bartender with your mad skills. Well, maybe sometimes the professionals are on the other side of the bar for a reason. Some of these drinks are really easy, simply a function of measuring correctly and using good ingredients. Some are not. Some of these cocktails may take practice but you can always drink your mistakes, right?
Finally, someday soon we will give you the chance to show your true excellence: the title of Certified Drinks Expert. Yep, certificate and all. That’s the idea anyway. It’s up to the cocktail loving community to decide what’s next. But if you’ve chosen to go forward, cheers! Click on any of the links (but probably Lesson One) to order your first drink.
How to Use DrinkSkool
Pretty simple. Start making drinks with attention paid to ingredients technique, flavor and taste. Unless you’re already an old hand behind the stick (that’s barkeep lingo, but whatever), you’re going to need to go through each of these Lessons with a bit of seriousness, and with drink in hand. That drink part is actually recommended. However you won’t see brand recommendations here for the most part; we BARmen are catholic in our tastes, agnostic in our brand connections. That’s not to say that some brands aren’t better than others; we’re not being coy about that. But the reality is that there are many brands out there; some great ones are hard to find in some markets; some are too expensive and, most importantly, taste remains personal. So any recommendation has to be taken with a shaker of salt. Indeed, there are plenty of places that review spirits; some of us BARmen do that for a living, like our esteemed colleague Paul Pacult. But that’s not for here. DrinkSkool is all about the how to. The what and the which ones are for you figure out through extensive, gustatory research. Like the waiter says, enjoy.
Who is BAR?
BAR is an independent organization 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. Click this to read everything about each of the BAR Guys.
Lessons (Brief Descriptions)
Lesson One – Basic Mixology
You’ll learn about those shiny silver things bartenders like to wield with such aplomb, and you’ll understand what each is for and precisely how and when to use them. Then you’ll find a bit of basic info about each spirits category so you can next discover how cocktails are put together and why certain ingredients have historically been married together as well as the liquid offspring they’ve birthed.
Lesson Two – Recipes
In fact, lots of recipes, so you can put your understanding to work, or at least practice. The recipes are grouped according to their chief ingredients, and linked up historically so you can get a sense of their lineages.
Lesson Three – Distillation
Here’s where the real history lessons show up; maybe that sounds tedious to you. But, you know, somebody had to figure out how to convert all the beer and wine into something a bit stiffer before we could go the bar and order a Red Bull and Vodka. Okay, bad example.
Lesson Four – White Spirits
We’ll explain the diversity of white spirits and, most importantly, WHY they’re different. And, yes, you will be able to taste the difference. Even in a cocktail. Anybody who says otherwise is trying to sell you something like a bridge, or else they’ve just never tried these drinks next to each other. Sometimes the differences are stark and dramatic, like putting an Edvard Musch painting next to an Edwin Hopper. Or like Bach and Beethoven back to back. Or think Warhol against Wyeth. Did we lose you? Hmm. Maybe one too many Manhattans. We’re gonna go get some coffee and rewrite this section.
Lesson Five – Brown Spirits
The world of brown spirits is just as diverse, though some of you may prefer white goods. For some whiskey is too much, Bourbon too pungent, and Cognac too florid. Uhm. We think you’re nuts. Oh, I mean, we humbly ask that you keep an open mind and try a few things.
Lesson Six – Liqueurs and other modifiers
A brief profile of all the important liqueurs you’ll need to know about if you’re going to know all the major cocktails.
Lesson Seven – Tasting Spirits and Cocktails
We want you to believe in your own palate; indeed, we may be more confident in your tasting ability than you may be right now. You’ve been tasting your entire life and you know what tastes good to you. If you think you’re not so good at tasting cocktails or spirits, maybe it’s because you’ve been listening to the wrong people. Read on.
Lesson Eight – Advanced Mixology
Now we’re getting into some of the swankier cocktails. Recipes are bit more complicated; Ingredients perhaps a bit more specific. But you’re ready for that now!
Lesson Nine – How to Judge a Bar
Look, we’re not here to out anybody, but there are good bars and bad bars and we’d like to offer a few tips as to how you might sort one out from the other.