So, I'll admit straight off the bat, I've attended one of those bartending courses. I didn't know much back then. The course taught me dozens of old recipes that I had to memorize and how to free pour. They used colored water, though, and I never got to taste what I "made". In the end I knew all kinds of party drinks and shooter recipes, just not what they tasted like.
Two of the top bartenders in LA, Joseph Brooke and Martin Cole, set out to change all that and create a school that would teach to-be bartenders how to make real drinks and train you the basics correctly (including developing your palate), because it's harder to beat out bad habits once you've picked them up.