Bartending Academy drops out of Mix-off; Midnight Sun seeks new bartenders
An update on the Midnight Sun Mix-off: Mark Russell, the owner of Maryland Bartending Academy, has decided to pull out of the contest.
But the mix-off will still happen. It is scheduled for December 13* at Don't Know Tavern.
A week after I wrote about the bartending academy, a debate erupted in the comments over the value of a $540 bartending course. Some said the class would just teach students to pour and memorize the recipes of corny cocktails.
Russell -- and the students I interviewed -- said the course provides a solid foundation for budding bartenders.
Russell was so confident in his school, he took the challenge proposed by commenters: a face-off pitting bartenders who had taken his course and those who hadn't ever stepped foot in a bartending classroom.
Last week, he was still on board. But, on Monday, he commented on the blog (under the handle M.B.A.) to say he was pulling out because an "Erik Meza" wasn't a good judge of skill. Whoever that guy is, it must be said, he is probably a better judge than me.
Over the phone, he later said he thought the rules were too vague. But when I laid out the rules again for him, like I had last week, he repeated he didn't see the value in participating because such a contest wouldn't settle any debates at all.
OK! That's a shame. I'd still like the academy involved, but, we'll pick up the pieces and move on.
This is still a debate with two very passionate points of view, and it merits a spirited fight. Midnight Sun is now seeking bartenders with school training and those with just real life experience to participate in the contest.
Just for clarity, here are the ground rules, as originally laid out:
Contestants will face off in individual speed and mixing contests to be judged in a blind taste test by three impartial judges. Participants, three per team, will all have the same ingredients and they will all make the same cocktails, to be decided by the judges. (Jason Zink has said none of his bartenders will participate)
Possible addition: Contestants might also have to make cocktails from their own recipes as a tiebreaker.
Who are the judges? Brendan Dorr has volunteered to participate in some fashion, and Sam Sessa has stepped forward to be a judge. (I will update as other plans come into place).I will merely be taking notes for a column and timing along with someone else.
If you would like to participate in either team, comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your e-mail address, and some background.
*We originally scheduled the mix-off for December 16, but it was suggested that a Monday rather than a Thursday might encourage more participation from bartenders. So, we've scheduled it for Monday, December 13.
Photo: Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun