Get on board with the Sydney Academy of Bartenders

Mitch Wilson
Mitch Wilson
If you’re a bartender who wants to be the best they can be, and you’re living in Sydney, then you’ll want to find out more about the Sydney Academy of Bartenders. We asked founder (and Henrietta Supper Club bar manager) Mitch Wilson, to give us the lowdown on what they’re doing. Here’s his response, which has been lightly edited for space.

What is it, and why?
Mitch Wilson: So this all started last year when I first left London and arrived in Sydney and realised that I needed to 1) get to know people in the industry here and 2) actually develop my skills and become better at what I do.

As Henrietta didn’t have a training program going on (it was too small a team to warrant it) I started asking around a lot of bars to see what trainings they had going on, as from London I knew that you could always jump in a session here and there and learn something new or taste something exciting for the first time. And pretty much time and time again here in Sydney, I kept being told that the trainings were for their staff only, even when it was a brand covering the cost of booze. The final straw was when I helped out at a bar one weekend and asked if I could go to their training next week, and they said they would get back to me.

So I started doing some open brand trainings at Henrietta, inviting ambassadors down and inviting everyone I could from neighbouring bars, and it was really popular. Then I realised that although we were learning about loads of brands, there was still this whole skills portion that was missing. Unless you were working at a great bar with a great bartender or getting awesome training at your bar, you just weren’t practicing new things. And that’s what helped me create the format for SAB: we hold sessions every two weeks, and we alternate between brand sessions by ambassadors and skills sessions from some of Sydney’s most awesome bartenders.

What’s with the name?
The name itself came about from talking to John Gakuru. I wasn’t sure what to call it and he said straight off the bat, “Sydney Academy of Bartenders”. Given John used to run LAB back in the day, he assured me that anyone who got what we were trying to do here would appreciate the sentiment — and that we could certainly do a lot worse than be associated with a bar that in its time produced some of the industry’s finest.


Where is it?
We’re starting off the sessions at my bar, Henrietta Supper Club, but then looking to move sessions around to various venues in the city. We started [last week] with Charlie Ainsbury leading a skills session and Philippe Rochez from Chartreuse visiting from France to lead the brand session. We had over 60 bartenders from 34 different bars across Sydney apply for the sessions, so we’re going to need some bigger venues!

Who can come?
One of the themes is that every invitation we send out comes with a plus 1 which we encourage them to ‘bring your BARBACK’. Obviously it can be anyone you work with or a friend from another bar, but we want people to be thinking about bringing up the next generation of bartenders as well. And every session is completely free to attend.

What’s next?
We’ve got some really exciting visits lined up to do at distilleries and breweries, and I’m hoping to make some of the events as immersive as possible for people coming along. I’ve been amazed how supportive everyone has been since we launched, from small brands and bars to some industry giants who have offered to help out with hosting venues or providing booze. My hope is that we can spread the model across other cities in Australia – and we’ve already had offers in Melboure and Brisbane to take the trainings there. What I’d really love is for international guests when they visit Australia to come and do some talks with us, to really help enrich the hospitality scene here and raise the bar even higher.

To find out more and get involved, follow them on the social media accounts below and hit up

Facebook — click here.

For Instagram — click here.

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