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Mixologists and Baristas: a Cocktail of new Opportunities

Drinks

Photo by Mojito Mixeriskola and Barista Academy

Mixing perfect cocktails or, as Detective Dale Cooper put it the cult-hit TV series “Twin Peaks”, “a damn fine cup of coffee” has always been an art. Now bartenders are mixologists and people who make coffee in cafés (what was the old word for them?) are called baristas.

This isn’t just a case of a profession seeking to raise its status by giving itself a new, scientific-sounding name. We’re all now far more interested in whether what we drink is as good for us as it is tasty. We’ve fallen in love with obscure ingredients from strange places.

To capitalize on this demand, new artisanal bars and coffeehouses are opening all the time. Or at least they were until C*V*D (I am now treating it as a swear word) stopped the world of socializing in its tracks.

So, v*r*us notwithstanding, train as a mixologist or barista and you could have an entrée to a career that’s gaining in status all the time and a passport to travel.

My friend Zsófi, who’s thoroughly health-conscious, loves to experiment with recipes and, most importantly, would like to take her career to a higher level, discovered a course offered by Budapest’s grand sounding Mojito Mixeriskola and Barista Academy.

She’s been raving about it, so I thought I’d better find out more. Péter Hajdu and Tivadar Biró of the school kindly answered my questions.

Mojito was founded by Biró in 1999 when he realized that there were no courses of a decent standard in Hungary preparing people to go into mixology. He studied professional schools around the world and gathered the best ideas.

Hajdu joined Biró in 2009 when they co-founded the Barista Academy. István Ludányi is also a partner and co-owner.

“We have taken advantage of a gap in the Hungarian education system at that time and drawn on our international experience to establish the school,” Biró told me.

“Our instructors are professional mixologists and baristas who teach their profession from basic to professional levels, our American Bartending and Barista Master Class courses.”

Brand Ambassadors

Ambassadors from different beverage brands regularly give lectures to introduce students to what really goes on in the industry.

“We’re fortunate to have the support of beverage companies,” Hajdu adds. “They recognize that having the right people to maintain high standards in bar and coffee culture is in everyone’s interest.”

This thinking is behind the school’s motto: You are one of the most important ingredients in the perfectly made cocktail or coffee.

Biró is one of the hands-on professionals at the school who makes sure students become that key ingredient.

He started his career in hospitality and worked his way up to being part of a team in the finest establishments, learning from the older generation as he went. In 1995, when he began to specialize in mixology, there were few like him and he was in a privileged position.

“Everyone was looking at the bar and wanted to know what I was making,” he says. “Next they wanted to try one.”

Since then, Biró has risen to the heights of mixology, receiving the title of Master Bartender from the Hungarian National Gastronomic Association and becoming its president. He’s also been a judge of professional competitions.

People sign up with the Mojito Mixeriskola and Barista Academy for many different reasons.

“Some just want to impress at home. These people might want to raise their knowledge to a professional level because they can. Others have been sent by their bosses for professional development. There are also the people who want to open a bar or coffeehouse,” Biró explains.

“What they all have in common is a thirst for new information, a curiosity about the tricks of the trade and a love of the creative side of what we do.”

Theory and Practice

Whatever level students aspire to, they benefit from intensive practical training grounded in a solid theoretical foundation.

“It’s all about quality raw materials, a sound infrastructure and constantly evolving expertise,” says Biró. “Without these there’s no cocktail, coffee or catering industry.”

The school’s relationship with students doesn’t end when a course is completed. They can take advantage of additional free training and unlimited practice on the school’s mobile bar counters.

When a student is qualified, there’s no shortage of opportunity in the catering trade and hotel industry, in Hungary or abroad.

“Our domestic and foreign partners regularly send job opportunities,” Hajdu says. “Whether it’s in Hungary or another country, hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, ocean liners and river cruises are waiting for our graduates.”

How about opportunities post-COVID?

“We see the virus as an opportunity,” Hajdu insists. “Now is the time to learn and prepare for when everything reopens. In any case, we don’t believe the virus will have a long-term effect on the domestic and foreign hospitality industries. Everything today moves at an incredibly fast pace and all the signs are that the restart will be rapid. We all want this.”

For the last word on the course, I asked my friend Zsófi.

“I like the course because it’s given me real answers to the questions I had  about mixology and being a barista,” she told me. “Although I worked in this kind of environment before, learning from all my teachers has given me the tools to rise up the career ladder and maybe to work overseas. All the teachers are highly successful professionals who have travelled to the source of modern mixology and coffee culture and brought back their knowledge to share with people like me.”

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 15, 2021.

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