Expert Talk

Bartending – Ain’t just a profession, it’s a lifestyle!!

Mr Olson Pereira

A lot could be learnt about a place by spending just few hours at their neighbourhood bar. Bars are communal places which have existed for hundreds of years and evolved from their predecessors dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times which we know as inns and taverns.This short writeup would end up into a book if we keep discussing history.Hence, let’s talk about the star behind the bar and the life behind the stick. I personally believe that ‘bartending ain’t just a profession, it’s a lifestyle’ and as my best friend ‘Walid Merhi’ who owns ‘Ferdinand – Gastropub’, an acclaimed bar in ‘Lebanon’ always says “it’s not you who choose bartending, its bartending that chooses you.”

The grass always seems greener on the other side and every profession has its ups and downs. However, I have been privileged to have plentiful good times and fond memories onto my plate for the past 14 years. This profession demands long working hours, extreme dedication and constant upgradation of your skills and knowledge but pays off great recognition for the loyalty provided.

Ever stepped into a busy bar and have been captivated with the rattling sound of the cocktail shaker? That’s the spell a bartender can put on you. A bartender can transform someone’s rough day into a blissful evening. He is the strongest connect with all the elements in the place and he makes things happen in the ‘moment’ which needs immense presence of mind, compassion and ability to anticipate needs. He must be a true gentleman and as we defined a ‘gentleman’ at my last workplace called HOOCH – Boutique and Drinkery, Lebanon. “A true gentleman is the person who makes everyone around him feel comfortable.”

As I mentioned earlier, this profession choses you. With that I mean that this profession demands a certain skillset and however cool it looks on the other end, many have attempted and realized that it ain’t as easy as the bartender shows off and maintains his cool even in rush situations. It takes years of practice and repetitive working moves along with continuous upgradation of skills and knowledge. Well, that was still the easy part. The most key thing you need is a ‘personality’ and that’s what takes time to build up and it’s something you can’t fake. Also, to build a personality you need to be loyal to yourself and be prepared to admit your flaws and constructively work on them to be a better version of yourself with every passing day.

With time this profession has evolved and the era we are currently living in is the ‘second golden age for cocktails’ the prior one being before prohibition started in the US in 1920. The past 20 years have been the most transformational because of social media. Well ‘social media’ is a coin with two sides and it’s important to realize the pros and cons it came up with. On the brighter side the worldwide bartending community came in closer with lots of knowledge, skills and innovation being shared on various platforms which led to the evolution of this craft and bartending started to be considered as a serious profession and no longer a tuition fee source during university days.

The darker side is extremely critical. The social media bug has bitten most bartenders and we have a majority of them trying to promote themselves on these platforms. Wherein a lot of cocktail menus are rolled out to show fellow bartenders what you are capable of innovating and not really caring for your guest preferences and understanding about drinks. Also came in the urge to grow faster up the career ladder because of profile comparisons and this led to frequent jump over from one organisation to another. I would request everyone to take it slow. “Bartending is an ongoing journey, so enjoy the ride.”

The past few years even gave birth to ‘drink influencers’ and many share no links with the beverage industry and would go around bragging as drink experts. All it takes is to buy followers, likes and comments and you have liquor brands approaching them for endorsements and bars owners inviting them for new menu launches. A few even call them spirit experts and would spread incorrect information. Why can’t we respect truebartending legends and hand them over the charge to direct the beverage industry? Do fake numbers matter?

Apart from all these ugly scenes the bartending community has always managed to stay united and connected. It’s the beauty of this profession wherein you step in and become a part of the worldwide fraternity. Bartending ain’t just a profession, it’s a lifestyle. You live with it every moment and carry it with you as a badge. Like the old saying goes, “Once a bartender, always a bartender.”

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