Why Should You Apply For The 2016 Rookie Programme?

Applications are open for the Mixxit & BarLifeUK Rookie Programme 2016, we asked some people who have been through the programme what they thought.

Each year the Rookie Programme takes 12 bartenders from around the country with 18 months or less experience behind a cocktail bar and gives them a once in a lifetime year long training programme with some of the biggest names in our industry (more details on the programme can be found here).

Most of the 2015 Rookies
Most of the 2015 Rookies

We think everyone should apply, but then we would, so we asked some of the 2015 Rookies their thoughts on the year of trainings they have been through.

The Rookies you are about to hear from are:

  • Luke Riley, Popolo, Newcastle
  • Jack Banks, Jake’s Bar, Leeds
  • Zoe van der Grinten, White Lyon, London
  • Callum Shankland, The Ox, Bristol
  • Laura Volkaite, formally Beagle, London

Why did you apply to be part of the 2015 Rookie Programme?

Luke: When I read up on it I honestly didn’t believe I would have much of a chance of securing a place as I come from a city that’s not really regarded as one of the UK hospitality powerhouses. However it was an opportunity I couldn’t let slip so I applied, and the rest is history.
Zoe: Iain Griffiths made me do it! In all seriousness I’ve never ‘actually’ bartended before, working at a place with no ice, fresh fruit, brands… seemed like a missed opportunity if I didn’t apply.

BLUK: What have been some of the highlights of the Rookie Programme for you?

Laura: The main highlights have to be meeting the industry greats. Honestly 90% of the sessions I felt like a little girl getting the chance to see and meet her favourite famous people. I still can’t believe I’ve had the chance to meet such influential and amazing people from the bar industry which I adore.
Callum: The whole year has been outstanding, of course one of the best aspects is the overall ‘experience’ of hanging out with great people and going to some of the best bars in London. However the sheer quality of the speakers and scope of the subjects we discussed was remarkable and a really well put together programme.
Zoe: Having sessions with some amazing faces, from looking into Alex Kratena’s crazy mind to Chris Edwardes doing his magic on the bar.

Some of those industry greats....
Some of those industry greats….

BLUK: If you could pick just one thing you have learnt above all else this year what would it be?

Zoe: Categorical knowledge of spirits – having people who devote their life to a spirit or brand, coming and talking about their passion is a lot more interesting than just reading a book (but do that too).
Luke: Bartend how you want to bartend, some techniques and skills are necessities, but there are many drinks that can be served with your own personal flair.
Callum: Don’t be arrogant or snooty to customers, they’re what you are there for.

BLUK: How has the Rookie Programme helped your advancement in our industry?

Jack: It has helped me branch out to other cities that I had less experience with, and allowed me to meet new like-minded friends at a similar stage in their career, allowing us to share various ideas, techniques, and trends for our personal development.
Luke: The Rookie Programme has developed my contacts tremendously, I have met many people from a wide variety of sectors. Not only that but the programme has given me even more inspiration to move forward and strive to become a more prominent figure within the UK bartending scene.

BLUK: Describe what the Rookie Programme has meant to you.

Laura: It has been a wonderful adventure which has opened up new horizons for me that I will be eternally thankful for.
Callum: It’s kept my head up, given my confidence a huge boost and allowed me to progress almost immediately without any drawbacks.
Jack: The Rookie Programme has boosted my passion for the industry no end, this being the vital foundation for any bartenders future development.

BLUK: Why should bartenders apply for the 2016 Rookie Programme?

Zoe: Because you’d be stupid not to!
Callum: If you have any intention of making this your career there’s no reason not to apply.
Jack: Looking at the success and progression of the bartenders on last years programme shows the significancy of being involved.
Luke: The people you will meet, the conversations you will have with people that have ‘been there and done that’ will change the way you think about bartending forever.

So there you are. Sounds pretty good right? For more information and to apply head to

A couple of final words from two of the 2015 speakers:

Jake F. Burger, Portobello Road Gin & The Ginstitute
‘The Rookie Programme was an inspirational scheme to be involved in, I wish there had been something like this in my early career. Passing on the collective wisdom of the industries leading lights, and myself, is a laudable activity, the boys from BarLife and the Mixxit team should be applauded, I hope to further mine and The Ginstitutes involvement this year and for as long as the programme runs. I’m sure this years graduates will be making a splash in this wonderful trade in the months ahead.’

Jesse Estes, Ocho Tequila & El Nivel
‘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.’