Australia’s Top Bar Training Programs

 Bartender education is crucial to running a smooth operation

This article was featured in the February edition of Bartender magazine.
By Edward Washington

Bartender education is possibly one of the most crucial elements to running a successful business. It’s no help to have the back bar primed with the best spirits and liqueurs if those making the drinks don’t know what goes with what, or the different flavour profiles available. Furthermore, bartending is not just about the ‘hear and now’ of making a drink. It’s about the past and the future, so learning about the diverse nature and history of the bar industry is key to becoming a professional in your trade.

Luckily, Australian bartending is taken very seriously by many of the major companies involved in the hospitality industry. They generously invest thousands of hours annually in helping those who mix the drinks do it with the best possible tools, the best possible knowledge and the best in support should they ever need it.

Far from simply delivering ‘brand based’ education, many of the training programs that now run Australia wide see the benefit in educating bartenders on the specific category instead – giving them the knowledge required to do their job to a standard of excellence. With the New Year underway and Australian’s bartender training programs set to once again deliver a jammed packed schedule, Bartender thought it high time to have a closer look at some of those who are helping make the Australian bar industry what it is.


CCA’s Mixxit Training Program

Everybody knows the ever affable, ever excitable team from the Mixxit training crew. In 2010 these dedicated professionals put on over 200 sessions, training a whopping 6000 bartenders nation wide. There are big plans for the future too; “In 2011 we have launched ‘Mixxit Cities’, states Julian Train CCA’s Senior Channel Manager, “this training program will explore the rich history of the globe’s key cocktail cities – New York, London, Paris and New Orleans”.

“Independent bar training is extremely costly for many bars to undertake,” Train explains, “at Mixxit we believe that suppliers can add a lot of value for their customers by backing up their great product selection with useful, engaging training and support.”

The Mixxit crew offers a no nonsense, practical understanding of how to mix drinks from all the major spirits categories and cocktail families. They also focus on the greatest bartenders and Hotels that have existed throughout history providing bartenders with a wealth of knowledge. Train states that “bartenders will leave a Mixxit session with an understanding of cocktail culture and where major drinks trends have come from.” This is essential to any great bartending career.

All of the information in our sessions is designed to help bartenders become better at mixing, better at customer service and better at consistency of serve – not marketing ‘facts’Julian Train, Mixxit Training Program

With something of a personal ‘Education Revolution’ in their sites, the Mixxit team made a supreme effort in 2010 and went out to parts of regional Australia to sell the cocktail word. The Mixxit crew trained bartenders from towns and cities such as Geelong, Bunbury, Cairns and Launceston, to name just a few, and the response the team received was nothing short of amazing.

The Mixxit team backs up their substantial knowledge with three dedicated Brand Ambassadors who deliver venue specific training on CCA’s premium spirits portfolio. Train also states that the team has the cutting edge in bar tools for all Mixxit attendees, “to help them become professional bartenders – including fancy barspoons, leather Mixxit notebooks and ice crushing mallets and bags.”

Diageo’s Alchemy Training Program

The team at Diageo’s Alchemy consider themselves to be at the forefront of bar training and they are making some pretty big impressions on bartenders Australia wide. To date they have completed nearly 5000 training sessions, training a massive 49,000 bartenders.

Diageo’s Alchemy program consists of four different module streams; Complete Bartender, is one of the most popular module streams and includes three different levels. These highly tailored training sessions focus on improving customer service, ‘perfect’ serves, speed and efficiency. The Product Knowledge module is a two hour, in-depth investigation of the whole category of spirits. Venues are able to tailor this module to their specific ‘in-house’ needs. The third module is Cocktail Solutions, a one stop cocktail menu solution. The team of Alchemy trainers will help venues choose the right drinks for their bar right down to the menu design. The fourth and final module is the Reserve Masterclass which is specific to Diageo’s luxury portfolio of brands. While this module will focus on specific brands, all of the Reserve Masterclasses take a detailed and in-depth look at the categories they are studying – so the knowledge is widely relevant.

“The Alchemy training program is unique in its sheer scale – no other training program has the same reach as Alchemy.” Sven Almenning, Diageo’s Alchemy

Education is close to the heart of Sven Almenning, Manager of the Alchemy program, and he states; “Alchemy aims to lift the standard of the Australian bar industry by providing venue relevant skills and knowledge based training”.

“Without brand funded training programs there’s very little opportunity for bartenders to enroll in industry relevant training,” Almenning says. “Supplier based training programs provide insight into brands as well as a diverse range of bar skills. Diageo’s Alchemy Program gives bartenders from all levels of the trade the opportunity to learn from some of the best industry professionals in the country” For Almenning and the team, winning the award for Training Program of the Year at the Australian Bar Awards for four consecutive years has been one of their many highlights and reassures them that they are on the right track.

Almenning enjoys the idea that the Alchemy program can be an enriching learning experience; “I hope that people walk away (from a session) having had a fun and informative experience and developed a greater appreciation for the craft of profession bartending”.

Bacardi Lion’s Sensology Program

The recently launched Sensology program is taking a new look at how you can make your best impression on those you are training. “The goal of Sensology is to be Australia’s most respected drinks educator, by offering a memorable and enjoyable sensory experience to everyone we engage with,” says Bacardi’s National on-premise manager Paul Broadbent.

The whole basis of the Sensology program is about quality not quantity. The team of five highly educated Brand Ambassadors take their time when introducing staff to new concepts or experiences, maximizing learning potential. To date they have reached over 1000 bartenders across 90 Australian venues.

The Sensology training program taps into your senses using them to capture your imagination, delivering a memorable experience and reaching bartenders on a deeper level. Broadbent and the team acknowledge that there is a real thirst for knowledge developing throughout Australia when it comes to the cocktail and drinks world, and their program is not wholly directed for the trade. The Sensology program works across 2 different channels. The first is based around the liquor industry, while the other focuses on the consumer.

“The goal of Sensology is to be Australia’s most respected drinks educator.” Paul Broadbent, Bacardi Lion

The program consists of a range of learning modules from; ‘Brand Experiences’ that cover the history, production and flavour profile of Bacardi’s premium brands, to bartending and cocktail making workshops. Broadbent considers the ‘Bar Experience’ module to be Sensology’s flag ship offering. The module focuses on an in-depth development of ‘staff capabilities’ in order to drive business profits and the personal performance of bartenders. “There is a real demand for skills based training in the industry,” states Broadbent, “the Sensology modules deliver this.”

Keeping the heritage of the cocktail world at the fore is also one of the aims of the Sensology program. “There is a great deal of heritage and history around many of the brands commonly found on back bars and on cocktail lists in Australian bars,” Broadbent states. “Bartenders act as storytellers and keep the colourful history of drinks moving from one bartender to the next.”

With bartending now often being a career path that can lead to numerous destinations, the more skills and information you gather along the way means you can become more attractive to a potential employer. “Gaining knowledge around the rich heritage of our brands and having an understanding of our classic drinks, such as the Original Bacardi Mojito, Original Bacardi Daiquiri and the Pina Colada, gives bartenders great social currency in the bar situation.”

Club Suntory

Club Suntory have been around the cocktail block a lot longer than you might think (25 years) and it’s not just a training program. Club Suntory is a “bartending fraternity that offers the opportunity for keen bartenders to connect with other like minded individuals and learn more about their chosen craft,” according to Nigel Weisbaum, who heads up the program. The Club’s aim is to foster a ‘superior drink and cocktail culture within Australia’ and by using custom made training bars, fully hands on training sessions and expert trainers the team is well set to fulfill their goal. Weisbaum says that as well as interactive educational sessions available to its members, “we host events, parties and bartending competitions.”

The team says that they receive amazing feedback from their members and they take a collaborative approach to their sessions, taking advice and suggestions from attendees about how they could improve, tweak or refine their training sessions to better serve, those that they are aimed at. Club Suntory completed 26 Cocktail Classes around the nation in 2010 to often an overfilled capacity, and they also completed over 200 Ultrapour Sessions which Weisbaum says; “are focused and intimate training sessions held in venues for their staff with anywhere from 5 to 30 people attending.” Of the impact that Club Suntory has on the wider bartending community Weisbaum states; “we like to think that Club Suntory is entertaining, educational and rewarding for our members.”

Who to contact in the Bar Training World

CCA’s Mixxit Training Program
Phone 02 9259 6761

Diageo’s Alchemy Training Program
Please speak to your Diageo representative.
Or phone Behind Bars on 9011 7182

Bacardi Lion’s Sensology Program
Phone: 13 15 13

Club Suntory
Phone 02 9663 1877

Pernod Ricard

Think Rewards

1 Comment
  1. Hey hi there,

    I would like to get trained in the program and I’m from India. Can you share the course fee and other respective details to enroll for the same.

    Thank you

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