Over the last few weeks I’ve been studying for the Bar Smarts Advanced Test and have been going over the information that is included in Bar Smarts Wired in preparation. What better time to offer up a review for Bar Smarts Wired and answer the most frequently asked question regarding how our courses differ from Bar Smarts.

Preparing for Bar Smarts Advanced:

What is Bar Smarts?

Bar Smarts is a spirits and bartender education program sponsored by Pernod Ricard (one of the largest spirits owners in the world). They work with some of the biggest names in the bartending business to provide a standard level of education for everyone that passes the program.

Where is Bar Smarts Held?

Actually there are a few different course offerings within the Bar Smarts program. The first offering is the Bar Smarts Wired which is all online. All of the information is presented in both text and videos. At the end of each of the chapters there is a test that you need to pass in order to move forward. There are a total of 4 informational chapters and a 5th chapter that is a virtual bartender where you are assigned a cocktail that you have to use the correct alcohol and amounts to create the assigned cocktail.

The second offering is for Bar Smarts Wired graduates and is called Bar Smarts Advanced. This is held in multiple cities through out the United States at different times of the year. This is the course that I am currently studying for and will report back to you in a few weeks.

The final offering is the Bar Smarts 5 Day. This is held once a year in New York and looks to be a rigorous course of study that starts at 9 in the morning until 9 at night. I have not had a chance to go to the 5 day, but would be delighted to go in the future. My biggest hesitation is the $4,000 price tag for the program which does not cover air fare or hotel for 5 days. Maybe this will go on the bucket list.

What’s Covered in Bar Smarts Wired?

There are 5 main chapters to the Bar Smarts Wired program.

1. Spirits Basics

This module focuses on developing an understanding of how spirits are produced. Everything from fermentation, examines what are the differences between Pot Distillation and Continuous Distillation, the effects of barrel aging on a spirit and how to evaluate the quality of a spirit based on taste.

2. Spirits and Liqueurs

This section focuses on the history, regulations and production methods for all of the major spirits categories.

3. Cocktail History and Bar Essentials

This section covers the history of cocktails, some of the personalities that are famous in our industry, and talks about the tools that we should be familiar with behind the bar. They also cover some of the mixers and garnishes that we use behind the bar.

4. Service Management and Cocktail Recipes

This last informational chapter provides information on how to use some of the tools that were mentioned in the previous section, comments on menu design, and standard steps of service when you are bartending. They talk about a few theories on menu design, creating new cocktails and even touch on a few ideas like substitution and complex substitutions.

5. Drink Builder Final Exam

The final chapter is the equivalent of a virtual bartending exam. the ask you for a cocktail, then you must choose the correct ingredients and amounts to recreate the drink. I believe you even have to choose the correct glass and garnish as well.

My take away from the Bar Smarts Wired Program.

I am really impressed with the program and would recommend any new or even experienced bartender to take the course. They do a great job building a solid foundation of knowledge regarding spirits history, production of spirits, cocktail history and the basics of bartending. They go into great detail on all the main base spirits, cocktail history, the history of the tools, and how spirits are made.

There are a few things that I would have loved to see more of and that was the same level of detailed information on other areas of the course. For example, they will touch upon a subject, but only give a glancing look at it and leave you wanting more. For example this happened when they covered brandies and talked in great detail about Cognac and Armagnac, but only mentioned Pisco in one paragraph. This happens a lot throughout the course, but with “200” pages in the PDF already, I’m sure I’m the only person that would want more information.

So how does Bar Smarts Wired differ from our Mixology Certification Program?

The focus of these two programs is very different. While there is a bit of overlap, most of the content is very different. BarSmarts spends a great deal of time on the history of spirits and learning existing cocktail recipes. The Mixology Certification, however, is focused on learning how to create your own cocktails – and in great detail.

For example, in the Certification “Souring” section, we discuss specific details about pH levels of citrus, different varietals of all the major citrus categories and how they compare to the pH and flavor profiles of the main varietals. We also do this on the sweetening section and cover all the major types of sugar, their relative sweetening ability as it is compared to table sugar and the taste profiles of some of the different types of sweetening agents. Similarly with spirits, bitters, etc.

If you would like to learn more about bartending I highly recommend Bar Smarts. On the other hand, if you would like to learn more about the theory of making drinks and placing it a glass, I’d suggest taking a look at our online Mixology Certification Program instead – or take them both!

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.