A Whole New World
When I arrived in Barcelona, it instantly hit me that this vibrant city was different from anywhere else I had been in the world. The sun, blazing heat and delicious smells of Barcelona made everything simply come alive. I was suddenly inspired to cease every opportunity thrown my way.
From the get-go, the course wasn’t what I expected. I went into it thinking that the lion’s share of my fellow students would already have a great deal of expertise in bar tending, however I quickly found that the majority were fresh out of school. Our goals all seemed to predominantly feature finding true love, finding the ultimate places to party and, above all, becoming truly skilled in the trade. From my two years’ experience in the industry I have found that finding the parties is easy, but finding true love is the difficult part.
From Zero to Hero
Our first day of school started early on a fresh Monday morning. All of a sudden I felt a massive surge of nerves – not from the fear of the unexpected, nor panic at the unknown, but simply from a longing to make the most of my experience at the school. When we arrived at the classroom we were introduced to our teachers who told us to strive for “an A and nothing less”. Perhaps it was naivety, or just plain arrogance, but in that moment I told myself that I would achieve that ‘A’, and nothing less. At this point I hadn’t anticipated the amount of effort and dedication I would need to put into my course in order to achieve my goals. In less than a month my fellow students and I would go from zero to hero, from student to professional barman, able to hold his own in world-class bars such as the bars of the Savoy in London.
Up My Game
Even with 2 years’ experience as a pro bartender, I still felt less than relaxed. This course was on a whole other level. My slick skills quickly became quite useless on this course. New techniques, processes and ideas were thrown at me at lightning speed, things that I had never contemplated doing before. I knew I had to up my game. In the first few days we learnt to make 15 different cocktails, perfectly, with advanced flare moves and free-pour techniques. The art of cocktail-making requires memory, technique and practice. Flair moves and free-pouring further require coordination, and take practice – lots of practice!
And the written exams…they were strict, with ruthless markers. If the recipe stated “Fresh Lime Juice” and I instead wrote “Lime Juice” then the whole question was incorrect. If you want to do well on this course your answers have to be nothing short of perfect. This is why such a course may seem to an outsider to be just one giant party, however the reality is that there is so much to learn and to remember that you do not have time to party every night – although I couldn’t help but try!
The hardest part of the course had to be the practical exams. We began with an exam on free pour techniques – an essential skill to any bartender worth his salt. The exam involves precision, speed and high levels of concentration. It aims to make the bar a more efficient place, introducing speed to the cocktail making process, as well as being a total crowd-pleaser. I, struggling with intense nerves at the time, was unable to take the exam on my first two attempts. When I finally pushed myself to do the exam I was shaking. If you are even a second off, then the technique is wrong. At the time I was sure I had failed, with my A firmly out of sight…
Living the Dream
Well you must be asking yourself “Well did he fail?” Luckily, I passed the hardest and most dreaded free pour exam with just enough credit to push me through to the next set of exams. I am glad to say I passed them with flying colours and I am so proud of what I have achieved at the school. I am now back home in Canada, following my dream. Watch this space – It could be me making your drink in the best bars in the world.