This month’s gripe with the bartending community that has served us so well and is the reason why we wake up in the morning is the Trials and Tribulations that the Apathetic Bartenders of today have to go through. When we say apathetic we might be being a little bit harsh but it’s not far off the truth.
There is somewhat of a feeling going around that a lot of the bartenders in this fair City of Manchester (it may be a case that it happens everywhere, if so, let us know) only ever attend sessions and trainings that are provided by the “Big Sexy Brands” and without fail ignore anything else that is arranged by someone with a “lesser” standing in the grand scheme of things.
We get it. The big sexy brands provide the works. They provide the strippers, the cocaine, the big lunches, the free drinks, the free bottles and of course the one thing that matters the most to bartenders: The Free T-Shirts. It is understandable why they draw in such gigantic crowds of people and we are in no way slating those big sexy brands for providing reasons as to why so many bartenders attend them.
Unfortunately, it seems as if that’s the only reason why so many people show their faces.
What was the last training session that you went to where you hadn’t been forced to go to because it was being held at the place you work? When was the last time you asked someone a question about a spirit? When was the last time you decided it would be a good idea to read a book?
It’s becoming more and more obvious that bartenders just aren’t trying anymore. We’ve written before about what issues there may or may not be with bartenders in Manchester (and since learned that it’s not an issue that is solely based in Rain City) and the external factors that might be causing it as well as the personal factors that are contributing. One thing that we failed to pick up on, however, was the concept of the apathetic bartender.
We went to a training session for Hudson Whiskey last year. It was interesting. It was informative. It was attended by an ok amount of people. The large majority of the people that attended worked at the venue that was hosting it and a handle of people who didn’t work there showed up. It wasn’t exactly numbers that anyone would write home about.
Still though, it was deemed a great turnout and everyone was thanked for showing up.
It feels like if you can get just one person who doesn’t work at the venue to show up then it’s deemed a successful training session and everyone walks away with a smile. (Yes, it was open to the rest of the industry.)
If we also take for example the recent Aquavit training session that was put on by Amathus at Cottonopolis. A feeler post went out asking everyone if there was sufficient interest in it to actually put it on. Eventually the numbers and interest reached the right amount. The event was arranged. People were asked to confirm. It was looking like it was going to be a boisterous afternoon. 31 people were confirmed for this training session about a spirit that hardly anyone has an idea about.
Four people showed up.
That’s four more than none and 27 less than the confirmed 31.
As bartenders, how exactly are we going to better ourselves if the only things we turn up to are Jack Daniel’s Buffets, Absolut’s Bingo Nights, anything that Havana Club put on and just blow past everything else because “Who Cares?”
Has anyone ever met Jon Anders? Jon’s the guy who leads almost every single one of Amathus’s training sessions. He’s one of the most knowledgable people we’ve ever met. If you’ve ever been to one of his Mezcal training sessions, or his Tequila training sessions then you’ll understand what we mean.
This isn’t an Amathus propaganda article.
It’s us being an advocate of an extremely knowledgable man. If you put to one side that you’ll struggle to tell where he’s actually from, you’ll learn more than you’ll ever be able to remember spending an afternoon with this guy (Note: take pen and paper).
The problem is that he doesn’t provide strippers, cocaine, buffets, free t-shirts, cocktail parties, a lifetime’s supply of money, enough booze to drown five small donkeys and that he doesn’t work for one of the big time suppliers.
It’s unfortunate to say, but if he did work for a big sexy booze brand he’d get a bigger audience if he was just talking about his feet and how they feel on pavements as long as there was free booze, food and all the t-shirts you can carry than he gets when he tries to teach bartenders about spirits that bartenders have no idea about.
Of course there are other people that are knowledgable and know about spirits. We are in no way saying that there aren’t. That would be completely preposterous of us to even say. That’s not what we are saying.
To us, there’s a feeling that training sessions have been transformed into “Events”. You don’t go to a Jack Daniel’s training session, you go to a Jack Daniel’s event. You essentially show up to a mid afternoon party where you drink a whiskey that you normally deem as being below you but today it’s ok because it’s all free and there are ribs stacked to the ceiling. Don’t forget it’s all free. After you’re done you sheepishly tell the organisers that you don’t even stock Jack Daniel’s but it’s been a really informative day.
On the subject of events. The humble cocktail competition is something else that also needs addressing. Do you have any idea how many of these cocktail competitions take place everyday? I think it’s an old adage that “Every time you click your fingers, at least one person has just won a cocktail competition”.
“What’s your issue with cocktail comps?”
The exact same thing as our issue with training sessions. The big sexy brands and sexy “events” draw in the same old faces with the same old promises of fame and fortune and everything else just kind of… goes by the wayside.
“But there are cocktail comps that aren’t big and sexy that draw in the crowds.”
There are. Yes. We completely agree. The scene isn’t as completely dead as we might be making out, but look deep down inside and ask yourself if there was ever a possibility that an Havana Cocktail Competition would get less people showing up than a West Winds Gin Competition. Havana wins. Every. Time.
One of the major issues that arises when bartenders show little or no effort to attend training sessions or better their own knowledge is when said bartenders dip their feet into the prospect of wanting to be a brand ambassador. We’ve all seen them. We’ve all seen those six-month bartenders that have only just figured out what Fernet is and where Seven Oaks is and all of a sudden they have aspirations to be a brand ambassador.
There is nothing wrong with having these aspirations. The issue that arises is that they don’t want to put in the work or effort that is required of someone to become a brand ambassador. They’ve seen these magical people that waltz into their bars with the offerings of the gods with their own company credit card and a gateway to a thousand dreams and they instantly think: “I want me some of thats.”
Cue a Rocky-esque montage of said bartender striving to become best mates with the brand rep in a half hearted attempt to “get on the team”. They’ve bagged themselves a job representing a brand. Joy to the world. The problem is that they only know about their own brand, they don’t know anything about the spirit as a whole and their knowledge of their competitors only stretches as far as to know how much they charge.
Don’t get us wrong; there are bartenders out there that show up to almost every single tasting session and training session on offer. There are bartenders that have been around for longer than almost all of the bars in the Northern Quarter that still seek to further their knowledge and remain on top of their game. There are brand ambassadors that know the ins and outs of how every spirit works and can tell you more about someone else’s brand than the brand creator can.
It’s these bartenders whose lead we must all follow. Isn’t this a career? Aren’t we all proclaiming that it’s a proper job? Don’t we all work harder than everyone we serve? It runs deeper than just making someone a drink and cleaning up at the end of the night. If this job is for you then you need to show it more respect and stop trying to coast on through your career with a mini whiskey-tasting book in your back pocket and empty promises of wanting to learn everything stuffed into your wallet.
It’s not enough.
Follow Us: @CheapestShot
Main IMG: Kick Photo |flikr
***We must make it clear that we have no beef with Fernet Branca or its representatives. It’s an example. Jeez.