Every year we are waiting for the world to tell us what to do! What is cool, what are the trends, what clothes to wear, how to live our lives, according to what standards, etc.
Being caught in this wheel of life like a hamster, we often forget that we are the masters of our fate and the only ones who can decide what to do with our life and what is “cool”, are us!
When it comes to bartending, we want to get a sneak peek of what will be interesting in the following year, so that we can be in the lead, that we often forget what is our duty as bartenders.
With these things in mind, I’ve put together some “trends” that I really hope will stick with each and every one of use, because frankly we have a long road in front of us and we do really need to be fully prepared.
If this Is not your main concern regarding bartending, you just might be in the wrong field. Bartending requires mostly direct contact with our guests and if you cannot understand the importance of a guest in our bar, especially in this period, then I strongly suggest you take a time out and make a step backward. Look at the bigger picture.
The biggest mistake that you could make as a bartender is to ignore your guests and their preferences. This is not just about cocktails, it revolves around everything. It takes a great deal of effort to establish a relationship with your guest and it only takes just a few seconds to ruin it.
I think this is the best time to discuss with our guests, to be open and sincere with them. You will be surprised how far this could take you, if you just look your guests into their eyes and talk with them from the bottom of your heart.
You can always fake a smile but you cannot fake everything. Eventually, someone will notice that you are not truthful with them and you will lose everything that you’ve built to that moment.
I think it was Stanislav Vadrna that said this: bartend to express, not to impress and I couldn't agree more. We are always so focused on discovering the next big thing that we totally forget what is truly our mission.
When caught in the act, we hide behind the bar, behind our cocktail prizes and competitions, boasting all over the place, when in fact this has no standing with our guests. They are normal people that want to have a good time, they do not care about our “cocktail accomplishments”. I think that the first to say that openly is Mr. Kazuo Uyeda in his book “Cocktail Techniques”.
Last but not least, don’t be a d*ck! Plain and simple.
We’ve talked about this for a while now and despite the numerous seminars and courses, I do not think that the message has been received properly and this is me getting another crack at it.
Many people think that sustainability in bars means using the peels also from the citrus, before juicing it and tossing it into the bin.
I agree that this is a start, but it is just a small step in this very long journey that we have ahead of us.
Below I have some ideas that you might be interested in, so without further ado, in no particular order, here they are:
· Eliminate single-use packaging
Talk with your suppliers. Find solutions that are in everybody’s best interest. Develop a relationship with them that goes beyond economic gain. Maybe you could create a recycling program in your bar/community with the help of your suppliers.
· Plastic straws are a No-No
There are a lot of great alternatives on the internet, see what is best for you.
· Promote locavores
I remember going to a seminar at Athens Bar Show, where a very nice lady from a remote area in Russia was talking about honey. How important it was for her to implement programs in their bar with products that are grown in their area. Honey was just an example and we drank two different cocktails. (Bee’s Knees). One was made with commercial honey and the other one with local honey. Even though the rest of the ingredients and the specs were the same, the taste was totally different.
I am not saying now to cut off ties with major supermarkets, but maybe for some of your ingredients, you have something more flavorful, that is closer to you than you think.
· Use all the parts from your fruit
The guys from “Trash Tiki Cocktails” have a lot of great materials on this topic. I strongly suggest checking them out.
· Be smart about your energy!
Here, I am not referring just only to electricity. We have a lot of energy that often is spent on stuff that requires less or not at all. Not just physical energy, take into consideration the mental one as well.
· Stop wasting water!
If you read “Wine to Water” by Doc Hendley, who actually was/is a bartender, you would never look at water the same again. (that goes for ice as well) If you hadn’t had the chance, I strongly recommend you to read it
· Proper working conditions for your staff
If you want to have a healthy business, you must take care of your staff as well. There are so many things that need to be stated here, which is why I will make a different post, just for this subject. Keep in mind though, that your staff can make you break your business.
· Get everyone involved!
When I say everyone, I mean e-very-one! Your family, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, your guests, etc. This is a group effort and we need all hands-on deck!
This is a very delicate subject and I think I will get a lot of heat for this one, but hey! This is 2021 and we have to look at things from a different perspective. Let’s try the perspective of the one who has always been discriminated against for any reasons.
I’ve been one of those people, I never liked it and I never did it to anyone! Let’s treat people like humans for starters and let’s see where this will take us in the long run.
Equal work, equal pay, equal respect. Is there anything else that needs to be said?
2020 was a harsh year where we’ve seen the true colors from most people and I hope that this year will be one of healing, because we really do need it in our bartending community.
Speaking of the devil, here is where the cookie crumbles. We are always talking about our community but how tight are we in fact?
How much reality is in our relationships and how much is just bubbles?
When I say bubbles, I am not referring to the “Flavor Blaster”, I am referring to true, real, honest, relationships with our peers.
We are always with the “game” in our mind and I think that some of us have forgotten what is bartending all about.
My piece of advice (not that you’ve asked for it) would be to start tearing down the walls that you single handedly have built around yourself, swallow your ego and support your peers.
You might not have another chance to do it so I think that there is a sense of urgency to it. It’s like when you are in a plane and before the takeoff, you get the mini “training” from the flight attendants. Do you remember it? There is a part where they say, if the plane will land on water, first inflate your own vest, then help the others. This principle applies here as well: start fixing yourself before fixing others.
Skills pay the bills, right?
Well, if we are in a pandemic and your bar is closed, your bartending skills are worth s**t! Not because you are not good, just for the simple reason that you cannot practice it anymore.
If there is something that 2020 has taught us is that not everything revolves around bartending and there could be another life after bartending.
We focused so hard (myself included) on being the best, that we have missed the whole picture. We did not think even for a second to have an exit plan, for these types of situations, like this one. Until now.
2021 will be the year where hopefully we will shift our perspective, take a step back and watch the whole picture.
What else can you do besides bartending?
Nothing? Well, what better time to start learning something new that is totally independent and has no connection with the bar world whatsoever.
For me it was easy. I always liked to edit my own videos for my vlogs but I never considered that I could do this full time. The great thing about this pandemic is that I had a lot of free time to learn new things and lo and behold, now I am getting the hang of it. Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, come to papa! 🙂
After you find something that you want to do, I would strongly suggest looking for someone who is really good in that particular field and try to pick his/her brain. Pay him/her if necessary but try to do your best in learning that particular skill or trait. You never know when you might need it. (Until recently, I would pay a designer to do all my stuff, now I am doing everything by myself. I don’t make money out of it per se, but I am not spending also, which is a win for me)
Last but not least, put in the hours! There are no shortcuts when coming to real, honest work. You cannot skip some steps and I wish that the younger generation would understand this more rapidly. (not that I am old or anything)
So, roll up your sleeves and do the work! You cannot simply climb a ladder with your hands in your pocket!
When talking about spirits, we are always on the lookout for something new, something different, something exciting and again, we are unable to see what is in front of us.
There are a lot of great small companies who deliver great products and I think that we need to establish a relationship with them first, since they do not have the same resources like big companies. Reach out to them, test their products, check out their philosophy and if everything checks out, give them a chance to be a part of your back bar. Stop hiding behind “contracts” and incentives and give credit where credit is due.
There are a lot of big brands that are doing a lot of shady stuff. If you have confirmation about illegal or unethical activities you should fire them right away. If you are bound with a contract, just simply do not recommend them anymore. Bartenders often forget that we have a great power in our hands, since we are the ones who are maneuvering the spirits behind us, but make no mistake, with great power comes great responsibility. This is why you should tread carefully and keep an open mind.
Make your research before doing every action and please try not to act on impulse. I’ve seen a lot of cases where brand products were delisted from the menu just because there was a person within that company which was not professional.
I think if you look at the spirits program with your guests in your mind, you will make great decisions.
Technology is here and we cannot ignore it anymore. It is here to stay and I think that we could greatly benefit from it. If we think about it for a little, there is a lot of time that we are wasting by doing nothing.
If you are going for a jog, or you are stuck in traffic in your car, you can rely on the almighty internet to show you “the way”. There are a lot of great podcasts, vlogs and audio books that you could learn from. It just requires you to press “play”.
If you want to learn new things, there are a lot of platforms who deliver video content at your fingertips, you just have to find the proper one for you.
Last but not least, we will get to talk a bit about learning.
We are so focused on learning new techniques and recipes, that I think we miss the bigger picture, again, and it is not just us. We have this cultivated for us by other bartenders, the older generation, and some of the brands, of course.
I think we should shift our perspective a bit and try not to be just better bartenders, but also better human beings. After all, we are people first, then bartenders and not the other way around.
Below I have some short ideas of what you can do, so that you can improve yourself. These are just some ideas, you do not have to think of it like standard things to learn. Whatever floats your boat.
Business & finance (don't keep all your eggs into one basket)
· How to save & invest money
· How to negotiate everything
· How to run a bar
· How to build a brand
There are a lot of educational platforms from where you can learn all of the above.
· First aid
· How to extinguish a fire
· How to evacuate your building
· How to face an earthquake
Here if I may, I can recommend this book which will give you a better idea of a better way to navigate your everyday activities.
· Get out of "the Matrix" once in a while.
· Don't get yourself too seriously!
· “Mens sana in corpore sano”!
Here I might add the great work that is done by organizations like Healthy Hospo. Do please check it out because they are in this for the whole purpose of helping our kin.
· Instagram/Tik Tok
Learn how all these platforms work. The biggest mistake that we can do is to underestimate the power of social media. Learn these by heart, because all these platforms are there to stay and who knows? Maybe you will open a new bar in the future and you would need to sort out this kind of things.
• Chain of command
• How to lead
• People skills
• Organizational skills
This is such a big topic, which is why I will make a separate post for it because it needs a lot of covering and frankly we could use a bit of scolding from now and then.
Be in service to others!
· Dedicate your time by helping those in need!
· Adopt a pet (at least long distance)
· Donate (whatever you have extra)
Being in service to others should be the main reason why you would want to be a bartender, because you have the unique opportunity to make people happy. If you forgot why you are doing this, maybe it is time for a bit of refresh and you can start from here.
These are my main ideas for the beginning of this year. Technically, they are not mine, because I did not invent them, think of me like a rolodex.
I just sorted them out and presented them to you in an appealing fashion.
These are things that we came across every day and let’s hope that from now on, we will look with different eyes at us and everything that surrounds us, without taking things for granted.
All the best,
Hi! My name is Mihai Fetcu and I am a bartender from Romania. If you cannot find me here, just take a look on my YouTube channel or my Instagram, Tik Tok & Twitter accounts. I deliver new bar related content every week.
For other inquiries, drop me a line: email@example.com