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Transformative Learning Experiences at 786 Bartend: Beyond the Classroom

Transformative Learning Experiences at 786 Bartend: Beyond the Classroom

At 786 Bartend, we are more than just a bartending school; we are much more like a bartending institution in Miami, dedicated to providing an unparalleled education in the art and science of bartending. Our students learn in an authentic bar environment, gaining hands-on experience that goes beyond traditional classroom settings. For over 15 years, we have enriched the lives of our students through immersive experiences and global industry exposure. Our mission is to cultivate a community of well-rounded, knowledgeable, and passionate bartenders who stand out in the industry.

A Global Journey of Learning

Our commitment to excellence takes us far beyond our local bartending school in Miami. We travel extensively, exploring new trends, gaining additional certifications, and expanding our knowledge base. These experiences allow us to stay at the forefront of the bartending world, bringing back fresh insights and innovative techniques to share with our students.

International Distillery Tours and Industry Events

Our journeys have taken us across the globe, visiting renowned distilleries, attending prestigious industry events, iconic cocktail bars and participating in educational seminars. In Scotland, we have explored distilleries from Speyside to the Highlands back down to the Lowlands and Campbelton, including Glenlivet, Macallan, Dalwhinnie, Aberfeldy, Glenturret, and Girvan, home to the William Grant and Sons distillery. We spent valuable time inside the Hendrick’s Gin distillery, gaining firsthand insight into the production process and assessing the various distillates that make up Hendrick’s Gin. We even had the privilege of spending the day with Lesley Gracie, the inventor of Hendrick’s Gin. We also visited the Whisky Experience in Edinburgh and earned Whisky Ambassador certifications. Additionally, we toured the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, gaining insights into the production of this premium gin. In England, we visited gin distilleries such as Beefeater in London.

In Ireland, we visited notable locations like the Guinness Brewery in Dublin and the Midleton Distillery, where Jameson and many other iconic Irish whiskeys are crafted.

French and Italian Wine and Spirit Adventures

We have ventured into the heart of France, from the vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy to the historic distilleries of Cognac and Armagnac. Our travels include visits to iconic places like Voiron, wheres the home of the Carthusian monks that have been producing the famous Chartreuse liqueur for centuries. The Carthusian order, founded in 1084, is known for its strict monastic traditions and dedication to producing this unique liqueur. The recipe for Chartreuse is a closely guarded secret, known only to two monks at any given time, and its production process is steeped in history and tradition.

In Cognac, we visited renowned houses such as Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell, Camus, Ecomusée du Cognac, and Maison Ferrand. At Maison Ferrand, we had an amazing tour provided by Jacques Blanc, and we are deeply grateful to the Owner and Master Blender Alexandre Gabriel, who opened his doors to his distillery for us.

We also spent time amidst the Armagnac region in Gascogne, touring distilleries throughout the region and making an impromptu stop in Lannipax. There, we toured the distilleries of Jean Cave and Delord, having an incredible experience led by the father-and-son owners of Delord, as well as the staff of Jean Cave. The hospitality and in-depth knowledge shared during these visits were truly remarkable.

Our journey included visits to châteaux in Amboise and walkthroughs through vineyards, where we gained a deeper appreciation for the art of winemaking. We visited the Cloître des Cordeliers in Saint-Émilion, France, which offered an enriching historical perspective.

We spent a half day at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux and could have easily spent the entire day exploring its extensive exhibits on wine culture. In the evenings, we visited downtown Bordeaux, soaking in the nightlife and the scenes while visiting the area’s craft cocktail bars.

During our visit to various châteaux in Reims, we had the opportunity to visit Veuve Clicquot, a captivating story that lingers in your thoughts long after you’ve heard it. The tale of the Grande Dame of Champagne, Madame Clicquot, left a lasting impression on me. Her story is not widely known, yet it is one that should be told to many.

In Italy, we explored amaro houses and distilleries, immersing ourselves in the rich traditions of Italian spirits. These experiences not only enhance our expertise but also offer our students unparalleled learning opportunities.

Additionally, our journey includes visits to award-winning cocktail bars, where we gain insights into the latest trends and techniques from some of the world’s best bartenders. These visits further enrich our understanding of the craft and inspire our students to strive for excellence in their bartending careers.

During another excursion, we went to Fecamp to visit Le Palais de Benedictine. The fascinating tale of Bénédictine dates back to 1510 at the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, France, where the Benedictine monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli concocted a mysterious elixir that would gain renowned status over the years.

Dutch and Belgian Discoveries

In the Netherlands, we visited Schiedam, home to the Genever Museum, and spent half a day learning about the rich history of spirits. We also visited the renowned Ketel One distillery, where they gave us a warm private tour that exceeded our expectations.

In Belgium, we toured breweries like Bruges Zot in Bruges and experienced the rich beer culture that the country is famous for. Additionally, we visited the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam, gaining insights into one of the world’s most iconic beer brands.

Domestic Discoveries

Closer to home, we organize trips to key locations in the United States. Our students have had the chance to visit numerous distilleries in Kentucky, exploring the rich history of bourbon in cities like Louisville, Bardstown, and Frankfurt. We’ve toured well-known distilleries such as Angel’s Envy, Willet, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit and others. Every year since we opened in 2009, we have traveled to New Orleans for the renowned Tales of the Cocktail conference with our students. Through a partnership with Tales, our students have had the opportunity to volunteer and gain firsthand experience at this premier cocktail conference.

We’ve also explored the wineries and breweries of California, from Napa and Sonoma to Healdsburg and San Jose, broadening our understanding of American wine and craft beer.

Opening Doors for Our Students

What sets 786 Bartend apart is our commitment to including our students in these incredible experiences. We believe that learning extends beyond the classroom, and by inviting our students to join us on these journeys, we provide them with unique, real-world insights that elevate their skills and knowledge. These trips are more than just educational; they are transformative experiences that inspire and ignite a passion for the craft.

Leading the Way in Bartending Education

Under the leadership of Isaac Ergas, our director and head of education and training, we continue to innovate and expand our offerings. Isaac’s vision and dedication have been instrumental in organizing these events and ensuring that our curriculum remains cutting-edge. His expertise and passion for the industry are evident in every aspect of our program.

Join the 786 Bartend Community

We invite aspiring bartenders to join us and become part of a community that values excellence, innovation, and continuous learning. At 786 Bartend, we are not just teaching a profession; we are nurturing a lifelong journey of discovery and mastery in the world of bartending. Our unique approach and extensive travel opportunities make us the ultimate destination for those who are serious about their craft.

What Inspired You to Start Offering These International and Domestic Trips to Your Students?

I have always believed in the importance of continuous learning. With 31 years in the bartending business, this belief has become a core part of my philosophy. If we are mentoring students and prospective bartenders who have entrusted us with their initial training, why not open the doors to further training and learning opportunities?

My inspiration comes from the profound impact we can have on people’s lives by guiding them in the right direction. After decades of working as a bartender and understanding the varying demands of different establishments, I have gained insights into the do’s and don’ts, the wins and losses. By sharing this knowledge, we can help others start strong in the bar business.

There is a tremendous sense of gratitude in being able to shape and mold others, much like I did behind the bar. It is rewarding to be selfless and to guide others, ensuring they have a solid foundation to build their careers. As we grow and learn within the industry, it becomes essential to instill this knowledge in the next generation of bartenders. Offering these international and domestic trips is a way to continue this legacy, providing our students with unparalleled learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom.

Are There Any New Destinations or Events You Are Planning to Explore in the Future?

Yes, we have some exciting plans for the future. This year, we have already booked a trip to New Orleans for the renowned Tales of the Cocktail conference. Some of our students are joining us, and many others have shown great interest in this unique opportunity to learn and network at one of the industry’s premier events. We have been attending this event with our students for approximately eight years. This will be our ninth.

Later in the year, we are considering a trip to Mexico. We are exploring the possibility of visiting Tequila and Guadalajara, or perhaps Oaxaca to explore the mezcal distilleries. I personally lived in Mexico for over a year. Firsthand, I know that these destinations offer rich cultural and educational experiences that are integral to understanding the history and production of these iconic spirits. We believe these trips will provide invaluable insights and deepen our students’ appreciation and knowledge of the craft.

How Do These Travel Experiences Enhance the Learning Process Compared to Traditional Classroom Settings?

It’s simple: these experiences make our students better bartenders. When working in niche bars that offer high-end, super, and ultra-premium offerings, there is an expectation that bartenders are well-versed and can communicate their knowledge effectively. This expertise is crucial for suggestive selling and creating memorable experiences for bar guests who are enthusiasts.

Traveling to distilleries, vineyards, and industry events allows our students to see firsthand how premium spirits and wines are made. They gain a deeper understanding of the history, culture, and techniques behind each product, which cannot be replicated in a traditional classroom setting. This firsthand experience translates into a richer knowledge base, enabling our students to confidently share stories and insights with their customers.

Additionally, these trips provide opportunities to network with industry professionals, attend exclusive seminars, and participate in tastings that broaden their palate and enhance their sensory evaluation skills. The practical knowledge and confidence gained from these experiences are invaluable, setting our students apart in the competitive bartending industry.

Can You Share a Memorable Experience from One of These Trips That Had a Significant Impact on You or Your Students?

One of the most memorable experiences happened during our trip to Armagnac, France. We stopped for a quick coffee at a café called Le Dodo in a very small, quaint town called Lannepax. The town was so small that it seemed most of the locals were at the café, including Jean Cave, the owner of an Armagnac distillery, and the owner of Delord, another nearby distiller. What began as a quick coffee break turned into an extraordinary two-day fiesta with the town locals and distillery owners.

The hospitality we experienced was incredible. The owner of Le Dodo went out of their way to make us feel welcome, turning our brief visit into an unforgettable event. We shared many laughs and enjoyed a five-star experience at each distillery. The highlight of our visit was how we were welcomed with open arms. We stopped in for coffee and were invited to breakfast coupled with Armagnac. Afterwards, we set foot to Jean Cave’s distillery, then returned to Le Dodo where lunch was waiting for us, followed by an endless supply of Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne. We were allowed to tend the bar, cook with the locals and serve ourselves, providing our students with an authentic, experience with locals and French Brandy distillers that they will never forget.

As the day went by, we enjoyed additional Armagnacs from our first distillery visit in Lannepax. Before we knew it, one of the locals offered their spare house for us to stay the evening. Mind you, we were just stopping in for coffee, planning to visit the distillers and then head off to Montpellier. Instead, we stayed for dinner, celebrated into the wee hours, and enjoyed music played by the locals using pots, silverware, and almost anything that would make a sound, along with one guitar and a tambourine. This impromptu celebration and the warm welcome from the locals and distillery owners left a lasting impact on all of us, showcasing the power of community and the shared passion for the craft of French distilling.

How Do You Ensure That the Knowledge Gained from These Trips Is Effectively Integrated into Your Curriculum?

We take great responsibility in shaping our curriculum to reflect the latest industry insights and practices. Our lead educators and bartending instructors also participate in these trips, which allows them to directly integrate their firsthand experiences into our training programs.

We employ various methods to instill our learnings in new prospective bartenders, ensuring that every bit of knowledge we acquire enhances the training we offer. Inside the bar, during training sessions, we share the stories, techniques, and cultural insights gained from our travels. This real-world application helps our students understand the broader context of their craft and equips them with the skills and confidence needed to excel in high-end, niche bars.

By continually updating our curriculum with the latest industry trends and practices, we ensure that our current and future students benefit from the cutting-edge knowledge and experiences our educators bring back from these trips.

We wish we could include more images of all our travels, but there would simply be too many. P.S. Some images may be out of order, but who’s got time to organize all these when we have bartenders to mentor!

Interview with Isaac Ergas, Director and Lead Instructor

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