Saturday, April 3, 2010

BarSmarts, Resurrections, Vikings, and the New Imperialist Distillery of Washoregornia


Bla bla bla obligatory mutters explaining prolonged span of time between blog posts bla bla bla token vague statement attempting to instill confidence in the reader that such absences are over with and regular posts will be forthcoming (statement is possibly false and rather presumptuous in its belief that the reader's well being is somehow tied to the writer's level of productivity) bla.

With that little order of business gracefully put to rest, let us move on to today's topic...


Bla bla bla BarSmarts bla bla bl-

(editor's note: we are experiencing a temporary malfunction with this blog's "bla bla" apparatus. Our technicians are working frantically with sweat on brow and gun in back to correct this problem. Please stand by...thank you)

BarSmarts is the offspring of the celebrated Beverage Alcohol Resource, or BAR. BAR is the hallowed, New York City-based bartender training program that all the kids are so wild about these days. BAR is headed up by the Dream Team of David Wondrich, F. Paul Pacult, Dale Degroff, Andy Seymour, Steve Olson, Doug Frost, Charles Barkley, David "The Admiral" Robinson, and Larry Bird. In an ongoing effort to preach the gospel of Spirits and Cocktails, a similar training is now available via Internet (BarSmarts WIRED) or home study combined with one day intensives in select cities (BarSmarts Advanced). Here is the tale of how this came to be...

The BarSmarts Saga
by T. Mixeur

The creators of the BAR were all crucified by the Romans after a particularly wild night of Fernet shots at the Stravinskj Bar, then miraculously resurrected the following July in order to honor their contractual obligations to Tales of the Cocktail, and hosted many seminars. Some believed their haggard presence was due to hangovers, but some of us knew better.

After Tales ended, they ascended to Heaven to assume their rightful place besides Jerry Thomas, Harry Craddock, Charles Baker, and Ed McMahon. At that point it was left to their apostles to spread the good word. The BAR boys' Saint Paul is none other than Pernod Ricard, the Spirit giant known for such products as Pernod...and Ricard.

And on the first day Pernod Ricard created BarSmarts WIRED, and lo, this was good. The subscribers to WIRED, for a small fee, would receive gifts in the mail such as a kit of bar tools and a quite functional shoulder bag, not to mention access to online print materials and streaming videos from the messiahs themselves. WIRED is open for enrollment to anyone twice per year, for a two month period each time (the next time being July 1st - September 1st). Upon enrolling, you have one month to complete the work. If you do not complete the work in that time, BAR shall smite thee.

BarSmarts: An Insider's Guide, or "What The Folks at Pernod Ricard Won't Tell You."

BarSmarts Advanced is different from WIRED in many ways. For starters, WIRED is spelled in all caps whereas Advanced is not. Impressed, are we not, with the cool demeanor of Advanced? Words that spell themselves in all caps, such as WIRED, are usually compensating for deficiencies in other areas.

But the differences don't stop there...

  • WIRED - shoulder bag.
  • Advanced - backpack.
  • WIRED - read from the BarSmarts web site.
  • Advanced - your very own spiral bound book!
  • WIRED - streaming videos
  • Advanced - DVDs
  • WIRED - any bum can join
  • Advanced - invite only
  • WIRED - done in your underwear
  • Advanced - must appear publicly before the BAR team, who being from the East Coast expect formalities such as the wearing of clothes.
By the way, with a little polishing, I think the above exchange could be the basis for an excellent play. Sort of Harold Pinter meets Miranda July. I see Alan Rickman in the role of Advanced, and Mary Kate Olson as WIRED.

Back to Advanced, the materials covered are pretty much the same as WIRED, though there are some extra notes on important things specific to running a bar business. But after completing the BarSmarts WIRED program and wondering how I would find more room in my brain for all the stuff from Advanced, I was quite pleased to realize I had already learned everything there was to know.

The primary element to the Advanced that sets it apart from WIRED is obviously the one day in-person class. My day will be April 27, when the BAR boys come to Seattle. There's something unquantifiable yet unmistakable about the value of face-to-face learning, particularly when the teachers have ascended upon us from the afterlife. The mystic spirits will then wander on for ensuing classes in Washington, DC on April 29, Orlando on May 10, and New Orleans on May 12. They do not, I am told, plan to take me with them. But I will say it here: I am ready, my lords. Take me!

At the day class, the topics from our studies are reviewed and expanded upon, tastings are done, and then each student has a turn mixing a drink or two for the experts to demonstrate he or she is not a complete fraud. I am told this latter part can be nerve wracking, particularly since the BAR boys insist on wearing Viking hats and angrily claiming the student is to blame for the fall of Northumbria. I know, from personal experience, that these are difficult circumstances under which to work. But the concept is valid: they are simply attempting to simulate the typical scene at your average bar.

the BarSmarts "Dream Team" wrapping up another successful training

So What Does One Learn?

Plenty! How to distill, how to taste, the what/where/when (but rarely why) of every major type of spirit, cocktail history, cocktail tools, mixers/ice/garnishes, and finally how to make drinks.

But For Me, There Was One Thing That Really Resonated...

We learned that the Dutch and English started making gin thanks to the massive warehouses of botanicals they had stolen and horded via their respective East India "trading" companies. So in essence gin is the byproduct of looting and pillaging the world.

This is a far cry from today, when distillers in Washington State must get more than half their ingredients from Washington state growers. I mean, why don't the bureaucrats just come to our houses and disembowel us now? All good spirits are the product of imperialist aggression...that's why they taste so good! What about us? We want to pillage, loot, and perhaps plunder like our Dutch and English forefathers! We must be allowed this honor, nay this duty, before we become a nation of weak men making weak spirits. Our consumers must be given the joy of tasting a fine gin or whiskey with the satisfaction of knowing that blood was spilled for its creation.

It is time for action, I say. I am going to charter a boat, and Gwydion Stone, Marc Bernhard, and I are going to raise an army and sail down to the coast of Oregon, then California. We shall storm the beaches and move inland, killing all in our path, taking all that we think smells nice. We will assume the same quasi-governmental powers the Dutch East India company held at the height of its powers: waging war, negotiating treaties, coining money, and establishing colonies. And then we shall return to Washington and distill a spirit from our treasure that will restore all of us to our former glory. Our distillery will be called "New Imperialist Distillery of Washoregornia."

Folks, if all this doesn't make you want to sign up for the BarSmarts program, I just don't know what else to tell you.

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