Baltimore Sun

Announcing the Midnight Sun Mix-off

When I wrote about Maryland Bartending Academy last week, a big debate erupted in the comments over who's better, a bartender with school training, or someone who's had real-life experience.

Some commenters said bartending is all about attitude and character, and training counts for diddly squat.

While Mark Russell, who runs the bartending academy, argued the school gives budding bartenders a primer on the trade.


So who's right? To settle the debate, Jason Zink, manager of No Idea and Don't Know taverns, proposed a contest, a mix-off.

Well, after calling Russell up, I'm happy to announce: It. Is. On.


The mix-off will consist of both a speed and a taste test to be judged by three impartial judges. Zink will volunteer Don't Know tavern, and agreed none of his bartenders would participate. All contestants will have the same ingredients and will make the same drinks.

Russell will pick three contestants from all his graduates.

And for the "School Sux" team (tentative name!), Midnight Sun is now officially recruiting participants.

Anyone is invited to throw their hat in the ring just as long as they don't have any school training. Though, remember, it is my prerogative to choose who the three final contestants will be.

We haven't settled on a date yet, though it will probably be after Thanksgiving or in early December.

Why is this worthwhile? Well, for starters, that primer Russell talks about costs $540, and it doesn't guarantee a license (there isn't such a thing as a bartending license) or a job (though the school promises to help students finding employment).

The mix-off won't just settle once and for all the debate, but it might also help budding bartenders figure out if going to school is better than just training in the real world.

Photo: Jed Kirschbaum/Baltimore Sun