Few know of the achievements of Louisville native Tom Bullock, but Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. hopes to change that. Bullock was the first African-American to write a cocktail book, “The Ideal Bartender,” in 1917, having worked his way up at various bars, restaurants and country clubs in the region.
Bullock was so well respected and knowledgeable about his craft, he eventually landed in St. Louis and worked at the St. Louis Country Club, where he served the rich and famous. In fact, George Herbert Walker, grandfather of George W. Bush, wrote the introduction for Bullock’s book.
“I have known the author for many years, and it is a privilege to be permitted to testify to his qualifications,” Walker wrote. “In all that time, I doubt if he has erred in even one of his concoctions.”
Copper & Kings celebrates Bullock this month with an event free and open to the public on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and also the launch of The Ideal Bartender School, an initiative that aims to provide credentialed bartending skills to those who can’t afford the training.
The 14-week course will be completely free for 20 selected applicants and will feature both hands-on skill development and theoretical instruction from experts in the industry.
“Louisville sits at the cusp of greatness, a city of great charm and personality. We have an opportunity to bring more people along for the ride,” said Copper & Kings president and CEO Joe Heron in a press release. “We can provide and create deeper, more diverse opportunity. Our mutual success will be built on the pillars of creativity, competency and community. We are proud to be doing something, if perhaps small. If everyone just does a little something, the snowball effect to leadership could be enormous.”
Insider reached out to educator and course director Jennifer Desjardins, who also works as the events director at the distillery, to learn more about The Ideal Bartender School. She says the idea came from Heron after he had an informal conversation with Mayor Greg Fischer in an airport a while back. The topic of economic disparity in the city arose, and Heron wanted to come up with a way to help close the gap.
Desjardins says the rigorous course is designed to teach people the craft of bartending and serving, but it also will provide the necessary skills for any career.
“It’s not just for the purpose of placing someone in the hospitality industry in Louisville, but giving people the tangible skill sets needed in any job,” she explains. “It’ll teach teamwork, the importance of showing up on time, practicing your craft at home and so many more career fundamentals.”
Copper & Kings has reached out to the city’s career services as well as other career centers around town to help spread the word. Applications will be taken between Feb. 22 and March 31, and then a committee will interview those interested and pare them down to 20. They’re also partnering with companies like Brown-Forman and Moonshine University to help with the curriculum and guest instructors.
Desjardins says the program was inspired by Tom Bullock’s legacy — a man from a disadvantaged neighborhood who developed a craft and skill set to advance himself through society.
“Bullock’s recipes still have influence on bartenders working today, and the book came out exactly 100 years ago this year,” she says. “A lot of people are going back to these original recipes. Bullock’s ability to create these beautiful cocktails allowed him to move toward better opportunities.”
Anyone interested in applying for The Ideal Bartender School can apply online through March 31.
Wednesday evening’s event, which runs from 6-9 p.m., includes a presentation on Bullock by writer and historian Michael L. Jones, as well as a few drinks from Bullock’s book and food by Chef Lawrence Weeks. It’s free and open to anyone 21 and over.