We are living in the renaissance of the cocktail scene, where ingredients from our back garden meet with old dusty recipe books and state of the art chef's equipment is our best friend. The information, knowledge and overall experience that we can share with our customers is endless, and as a result the cocktail industry is becoming more creative than ever before. And although I love experimenting and coming up with new infusions as much as the next bartender, sometimes I can’t help but worry we are losing the plot a little bit – and the whole point of creating cocktails, too.
No matter how many sous vides, smoking guns or rotary evaporators we’ve got behind the bar, let’s not forget that our main aim as bartenders is to be hospitable and to try and create unique and enjoyable experiences for our guests. Whilst on the one hand all of this nonstop research, study and experimentation is of course making us better and our drinks more creative, sometimes you’ve got to wonder, might it actually be a bit annoying as well?
Today’s customers are becoming more and more aware of the whole cocktail movement which is truly wonderful. There really is nothing better than your customers sharing the same passions and enthusiasm as you. Today, our customers are more than willing to be our guinea pigs and happy to listen to, taste and experience all the amazing infusions, fat washes and nitro chilled stuff we come up with – but sometimes, some days, we really need to just press the pause button when it comes to our enthusiasm.
When, you might ask? In situations where guests are starting to feel judged by their bartender for their choice of drink if it isn’t a quirky fermented cocktail but an uncouth Mojito or even worse, a spirit and mixer without half a herb garden garnishing it. In situations where customers start feeling that they don't deserve the attention of their bartender because their choice of tipple is too common. And ultimately, in situations where the customer winds up feeling uncomfortable asking for something that at the end of the day they will pay for with their own money.
So, what’s the solution? Well that’s down to us. We as bartenders have to be aware when we are supposed to share and be even more aware when we are supposed to just shut up. There's a time and a place for everything, and an experienced bartender really should know this. Yes, it’s our job to serve and educate our guests, but we have to do so with respect for their choices. Trying to offer an alternative or introducing something new is acceptable, but trying to intrude and impose our opinion is just not cool.
I’m not saying we should stop learning, researching and creating – that’s the worst thing we could possibly do. What I’m saying is, let’s keep learning and developing and growing, but try and not ram it down people’s throats all of the time. So next time someone sits at your bar and asks for something that isn’t in your ‘acceptable’ list, make sure you think about what I’ve said here today. Otherwise, you should be more than prepared to hear something like: