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November 23, 2010

Bartending Academy drops out of Mix-off; Midnight Sun seeks new bartenders

PX00117_9.JPGAn 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 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

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Posted by Erik Maza at 11:08 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I still think your intentions are off the mark here.

Bartending is not about speed and taste is subjective. Good bartenders know their establishiment inside and out,

they know the menu -

they now how to multi-task (making their drinks, servers drinks and waiting tables all at the same time)

They know how to talk to read people and make them feel welcome

Lastly pointing out "meza' ? really? Pointing out typos is the cornerstone of any failed internet arguement.

"he repeated he didn't see the value in participating, because such a contest wouldn't settle any debates at all. "

Judging from the responses vomited up from both sides on the previous thread, it's hard to argue with him.

Meza and Sezza claim it is just for fun, and that it wasnt meant to settle anything.

Then why keep calling it a mix-off? If its just a get together and a little friendly competition broke out, ok. But to bill it as a mix off and then later claim it isn't, that seems disingenuous.

Be honest, you just wanted free drinks, without it seeming like you are getting free drinks.

@dr cox: *establishment *argument

you guys are way to serious, let's just have the mix off enjoy it and get out and about for the night hang out with some fun's not a serious competition its just friendly...

i'll play along i run Muggsy's down the street from Don't Know. most of our business is draft beers so it'll be nice to make some crazy cocktails for a change i will admit i was talked into taking a bar tending course when i was 19 although it didnt help me get a job and the drinks i learned were kind of lame it was interesting to learn the reasons for using different glass ware and when i began barbacking i already knew the "typical standard" for bar setup and organization. and like twice a year some old couple or a secret shopper will ask for a Singapore sling or a brandy alexander so i got that goin' for me

"... it merits a spirited fight." Really? Does it?

It seems to me that the only ones defending the "M.B.A." were its students, whose postings were very obvious shilling.

This should have been a charity event, and NOT for a Scholarship Fund to the "M.B.A." Make a cheap, corny prize out of an old bowling or Little League trophy. Put out tip jars. Let the competitors choose their charities. Promote the heck out of the thing.

Hell, I haven't stepped behind a bar in 20 years, but I may have done it for kicks and giggles. And I wasn't a great bartender back then, either, so I've got nothing to prove.

Do something with this blog other than review lame concerts.

I am Eric Meza. I am like Brad Pitt and Eric Maza is like Edward Norton.

oooops ... SPOYWER AWERT!!!

""he repeated he didn't see the value in participating, because such a contest wouldn't settle any debates at all. "

Judging from the responses vomited up from both sides on the previous thread, it's hard to argue with him."


Well then I have a question, not just for you but anybody who suddenly feels that this wouldn't prove anything... how can you promote (read: sell) your program on the premise that you will learn certain tangible skills and then turn around and say that there is no way to quantitatively measure them? That doesn't exactly inspire confidence, especially when you're asking people to shell out $500. Either the school can teach you skills you can use and therefore measure, or it doesn't and is therefore worthless.

I'll operate under the assumption that the people running the school feel that the program is not worthless, which means this is something that CAN be measured. The real issue here is sample size. Can one person represent the collective ability of the crowd? Of course not. But everything else we do in life revolves around that premise, so why should this be an exception?

So, why such a serious response? Because honestly, until this point, I thought it was all in good fun too. This very well may have been one of the better things Midnight Sun has put together in a while. But I think the people who are taking it too seriously aren't the ones who want to do it, it's the ones who suddenly don't. They're too busy worrying what it will and will not prove and how that will look. And to that I say, put your money where your mouth is.

I'm starting to think this whole thing has ben orchestrated by Maza/Meza to get a free drink at Ottobar.

I don't think Maza drinks. That's the root to all our transitional problems. To turn this blog around he should have a 4 loco chug party.

4 Loko Chug Party! Now we're getting some where. Scrap this Mix-off for a drink-off!

Maybe after the chug off we can snap a new picture of Meza to replace the Gap Kids ad he is using right now.

C'mon I like gap- that's a lil more banana republic in an androgenous way

Remember when this blog was still relevant and there was a community of people here? Ah the good old days...

@John, you mean when it wrote about Catherine's Pub, The Park Bench, Bill's Lighthouse's auction; local music like Future Islands and Mickey Free; broke news, like Virgin FreeFest's schedule or when Mario's mother dropped criminal charges or news of Rams Head's new online strategy? Yeah, the new days sure are dull.

Anyway, Im excited about the mix-off Tif, where you can buy me as many drinks, Loko'ed or not, as you'd like.

I think it's a great opportunity to meet readers, and gather tons of local talent under one roof. Props to Zink for supplying the space. Remember: Dec 13

Flabongo-ing a Four Loko would definitely up your street cred, Maza!


I'll buy you a drink for every Rye Rye mention on here. I hope you have a ride home. Lol @kateebee

nah, no excuse needed.

that's still less posts than mentions of rye rye.

You're fine.

LOL I can't believe you brought up that Mario post - wasn't that those most mocked entry of all time?!

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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