Stories / Drinks

Bar Wisdom: Beverage Classes Around the Country

Anna Mowry

Anna Mowry

April 16, 2012


James Beard Foundation senior editor Anna Mowry reports on beverage classes around the country

Bars have always been dependable places to unwind, enjoy a drink, and get some therapy (or even plot a revolution). But lately some watering holes, including the below semifinalists for our new Outstanding Bar Program award, are also offering their customers an education. Here's what you can learn at the following spots.

Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston (
Located in a remodeled, half-century-old tire store, this establishment is owned and operated by a trio of professed “cocktail freaks.” You can sense their enthusiasm through the generous offerings at the bar’s monthly classes: guests typically get to taste up to eight spirits and three cocktails per session.

Rivera, Los Angeles (
Chef John Sedlar’s passion for tequila spills into this downtown Latin restaurant’s classes, led by instructors Erik Lund and Julian Cox. On one Thursday night a month, participants sample premium and artisanal tequilas, including products that are distilled exclusively for Rivera in Arandas, Mexico.

The Columbia Room, Washington, D.C. (
There’s a class for everyone at this speakeasy-esque spot that’s tucked within a larger bar called the Passenger. Amateur mixologists can enroll in the Bar Basics series (the Columbia Room throws in a free bar kit if you attend at least three sessions), while more advanced barflies can soak up subjects like vinegars, honey, and wine-based cocktails.       

Beretta, San Francisco (
Taught by bar manager Ryan Fitzgerald, the intimate and interactive classes at this Mission District pizzeria provide each attendee with his or her own workstation, snacks, a welcome cocktail, and enough booze to shake up three different drinks. Recent sessions have focused on a single ingredient, such as mezcal, vermouth, or American whiskey.

The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta (
Brew fans can get a dose of schooling every month from co-owner Molly Gunn or the occasional guest speaker. Recent topics have included Imperial Stouts, Trappist-style brewing, Italian beers, and vintage pours, which the bar ages in its own cellar.