As I write this, another class of B.A.R. (Beverage Alcohol Resource) students have finished up an intense week of studying and testing. This year PAMA pomegranate liqueur sponsored three of those students with scholarships to the program: Chad Arnholt of San Francisco, Joy Richard of Boston, and Pamela Wiznitzer of New York. These scholarships are just one part of PAMA's commitment to the mixology community, along with their Bar Star media series and "Are You Indispensable?" cocktail competition.
The five-day B.A.R. program is lead by Paul Pacult, Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, David Wondrich, Steve Olson and Andy Seymour. I attended- and passed- the program a few years ago and am still influenced by many of its lessons. The program is pretty comprehensive, both building skills and perspective. I came to the program knowing a lot of the spirit production methods and drink recipes- book learning- while other attendees had finely-tuned tasting skills and speed in drink-making. Likely everyone comes away from B.A.R. learning something different than everyone else.
Some of the takeaway information and skills I developed that week include:
- Looking at the bigger picture in spirits - not just the rules and regulations of how certain categories of spirits are made, but also why a particular spirit is made the way it is and how that came to be.
- Looking past the flavor of spirits into the quality of their base alcohol. Some liqueurs and flavored spirits are made with low-quality (less expensive) alcohol that they then cover up with flavors and sweeteners.
- Being more aware of the difference between tasting and drinking.
- Always looking at cocktail structure when reading a recipe.
- Wanting to do a good job at documenting the current cocktail renaissance and the people, places, and drinks created within it. Too much of cocktail history is unclear (probably because of the drinking).
PAMA not only supports the bartending community by awarding these three scholarships, they also have one of the best product information and education websites out there: PAMAPros.com. Check it out if you haven't done so already and/or follow @PamaPros on Twitter.