The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2010

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Page 28 of 100

INNOVATORS Back Bar Back-to-School KENT BEARDEN’S MGM GRAND SPIRITS ACADEMY by Richard Carleton Hacker I n a fi tting toast to higher academia, Kent Bearden, Master Mixologist for MGM Grand in Las Vegas, has established the MGM Spirits Academy for employees, with a curriculum that encompasses everything on the back bar. Graduates receive certifi cates attesting to their expertise. “Basically, this is a tool available to our line-level staff,” says Bearden. “If you want to know more about scotch or bourbon or vodka or gin, we’re going to provide the class time and mate- rials for you to learn more. The Spirits Academy is also great for service well bartenders who’d like to get into a steakhouse, but need an understanding of, among other things, single malt scotch in order to do that. These classes provide them with the opportunity not only to better themselves within their craft, but to move up within MGM Grand.” The one-hour weekly classes are structured according to skill levels. “For example,” say Bearden, “we’ll start with entry level Vodka 101. What is vodka? Why is it called vodka? And so on. Then we progress to Vodka 201. What is the importance of distillation? What does it mean when a bottle says seven-times distilled? Why is that important? Why is that not important? Because by learning, you develop a comfort level with that spirit, and you become more willing to engage your guests and help guide them through the cocktail experience, making their visit here more memorable.” The bottom line, according to the Master Mixologist: “Education elevates the experience.” Kent Bearden, Master Mixologist for MGM Grand Las Vegas. PHOTO: RONDA CHURCHILL 28 / the tasting panel / june 2010

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