During my younger days in the beverage profession, I was very lucky to be surrounded by good people who wanted me to do well in my career and make a name for myself in conjunction with the bar that I was working at.In the UK, as well most parts of the world other than the US, cocktail competitions are a huge part of career progression in terms of the PR involved for those who are lucky enough to win, with an additional prize also bringing everything from financially lucrative events to priceless networking opportunities.
And so as I blinded by the lights of big brands dangling the carrot that were bottles of booze and financial incentives for coming up the next drink that has that wow factor, I was very lucky to be awarded one thing by my bosses and piers; the luxury of indulgence.
When I look back on those competitions from a decade ago, I wonder what it would have been like for my bosses to help curb my enthusiasm and help keep me grounded. After all, as a young, rough and ready 22 year-old bartender there were aspects that I needed to polish up on and get better. Competitions were the last thing I should have focused on, regardless of how well I succeeded in them.
In an ironic and semi-hypocritical turn of events, I was given the huge honour of being invited out to San Diego the other week to speak with Erick Castro, aka The Hungry Bartender, on his awesome podcast ‘Bartender at Large’ to talk about industry related matters that we thought were important.
The timing was great, if not for one main reason; several weeks earlier, Australian bartender Tim Philips had penned an opinion piece of Australian Bartender Magazine that focused on the ‘state’ of cocktails in todays environment, asking why we have so many crap drinks in what is otherwise known as the Second Golden Age of Bartending. And its with this subject in mind that we kicked off our 26 minute podcast.
The show, which is basically me talking at Erick and edited in such a way that makes me sound way more intelligent than my accent suggests, talk about the importance of the the basics within bartending and hospitality, which basically revolves around being nice to people, learning the basics and paying your respects to the people who have been doing it for longer than you.
That’s not to suggest that there’s a strict hierarchy that should be adhered to, although I’m hoping that the podcast is a timely reminder for us as creative individuals in the beverage industry, and in the wider hospitality profession, with regards to how we see ourselves in our profession on a day-to-day basis.
The beverage profession is in an infinitely better place than it was 40 years ago, especially in terms of the sheer amount of bartenders that are taking this up as a serious career and put out quality drinks over the bar night after night.
But in a day and age in which sometimes creativity trumps logic and ego overwhelms rationale, it’s important to remember that the decisions we make today will have an effect on how the general republic perceive our profession and cocktail culture on a broader scale.
The last thing we need these days is a culture of egotistical mixologists.