If you were to ask us that question we’d say that the BarLifeUK & Maxxium Rookie Programme is the greatest young bartender training programme in the world.
However you’d expect us to say something like that seeing as it was us who came up with the idea in the first place. As a result we thought it might mean slightly more if we were to ask a few of the Rookie Programme alumni and previous speakers their thoughts.
Our Rookie’s have garnered great success over the last few years – heading up training programmes in their own cities/moving to new and exciting bars/winning cocktail competitions and being flown round the world as a result/managing and running venues across the country/moving into the Brand Ambassador world. In fact at this years Spirited Awards 4 of the category winners had Rookie Programme alumni working in them and earlier this year previous Rookie, Adam Day, opened his first bar in Manchester.
We are proud of each and every one of them and like to think we helped set them on these fantastical career paths they have found themselves. However what do they think?
Zoe van der Grinten – ‘As a Rookie Programme alumni I full heartedly recommend you apply and I hope for your sake you are accepted. The amount of knowledge that you reap, connections that you make, and fun that is had is almost a joke for the amount of time that you put in. Everything from learning about all spirits from the growth of their base to the distillation, how to win a cocktail competition (I sincerely thank them for winning my first ever entered), to learning how to throw (please see and laugh at this picture of my first ever time throwing) and most things in between.
The opportunities I gained from the Rookie Programme are immense, 2 years ago I had been bartending for just under a year and was forced by my manager to apply for the first ever Rookie Programme. I am now managing two bars in one of East London’s newest and most exclusive members club and hotel and nearly every day I think of something I learnt with Simon and Amanda. Don’t procrastinate, please just do it and thank me later.’
Lewis Jenkins – ‘The Rookie Programme gave me an amazing platform to learn from some of the best and most inspiring people in the industry. Equally it allowed me to meet bartenders from around the country of a similar age and experience. I have made some great friends through the course and would recommend it to anyone.’
Michal Wojtowicz – ‘Obviously there is this huge knowledge boost you get from the programme, but I think anyone can see that reading what the Rookie Programme is about. Personally for me, I think, I was a little bit in the dark before the programme about how the scene looks. Hanging out with likeminded Rookies, talking about drinks, competitions or the shit we sometimes had to deal with and meeting industry veterans who have been through all that opened my eyes a bit and gave me more of a sense as to how I can develop.’
Chris Dickson – ‘People should apply for the Rookie Programme because it is literally the best starting point you can have if you’re serious about choosing bartending as a career. You have incredible sessions from hospitality hard hitters, you’re in London which is rich with bartending history and some of the best bars in the world, you get to network and get your name out there and most importantly you have a fucking good time.’
Jack Banks – ‘Joining the Rookie Programme immersed me into a group of like minded individuals who I could share my passion amongst. The relationships and contacts I gained from the programme helped me further my personal development and move into a role in my career that didn’t seem possible before. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough to any young bartender looking to further themselves in the industry.’
Luke Riley – ‘As an alumni from the very first Rookie Programme back in 2015 I have had the time to feel the benefits of my year long course and I really believe that Simon, Amanda, Andy, the Maxxium team and all of the other professionals I met along the way gave me all the tools necessary to push my abilities to a level that I may not have been able to have achieved otherwise. As a small town bartender with less than one year behind the stick and relatively out of touch with the rest of the UK bar industry I found that the encouragement, knowledge and freedom I was given during the Rookie Programme signifies the largest period of growth in my career to date.’
Jack Sargood – ‘The Rookie Programme is a truly unique experience. It gives you the opportunity to engage with and to learn from people at the forefront of the hospitality industry. I would recommend it to any young bartender thinking of forging a career in this industry.’
Ashleigh Cilliers – ‘The Rookie Programme gave me more confidence in my own abilities, and made me push myself to get into better bars. I learned so much you’d never find out anywhere else and met some fantastic people along the way. The whole experience wasn’t just about gaining knowledge thoough; the Rookies have become a network of bar friends across the country, and we had the chance to go to some beautiful bars around London.’
So if you are a serious aspiring professional bartender, regardless of if you come from a smaller bar scene or the big smoke, I would implore you to have a go at applying for this years edition. There are currently no better opportunities within the UK to gain the knowledge, friends and contacts you need in order to help push yourself forward.
Elliot Ball, Owner, Cocktail Trading Company – ‘The Rookie Programme is an inspired move, fuelling growth and learning for those eager to take part, rather than simply reward those already at the top of their game. Their resources, including on a social level, mean that the Rookies get to interact with some of the most inspiring figures and venues in the industry.’
JJ Goodman, Owner, London Cocktail Club – ‘It’s so exciting to see the Rookie Programme genuinely raising awareness for education in the bar industry as well as changing and nurturing the next generation of bartender.’
Jesse Estes, Ocho Tequila – ‘The Rookie Programme provides an unparalleled boost for young bartenders making their start in the drinks and hospitality industry. I can’t think of a better set of activities and speakers with which to provide the participants with counsel, guidance, knowledge, and words of wisdom. The caliber of instruction and tutelage makes this, in my opinion, the best training programme of its kind.’
If you are a bartender, bar back or floor staff with less than 18 months experience making cocktails behind a bar or know of someone who qualifies then nominate them. Don’t wait, don’t think you’ll do it tomorrow, don’t doubt whether it is the right thing, NOMINATE. More details on the Rookie Programme and the nomination form can be found here