While we don’t pretend to be experts at cocktail wizardry, here at Fleet Street Communications we certainly know a thing or two about what it means to be a good bartender, writes Michelle Williams.
Through our ongoing work with Diageo and the most prestigious of all global cocktail competitions – World Class – we see first-hand the level of skill, dedication and recall that a bartender has to possess.
I’ve heard it said that being a bartender is in some ways harder than being a chef. A chef works to a defined and often limited menu, but a bartender is expected to be able to make any drink the customer requests, straight off the bat without checking a recipe book. That’s quite some feat.
So it stands to reason that these talented individuals have been the focal point of the greatest cocktail bars for the past 20 years. But at the recent BITES Live conference, we were led to believe that could all be about to change. The speakeasy-style bar, which has given bartenders centre stage, is on its way out of fashion. At least that’s the view of Seb Lyall from Lollipop, an experiential hospitality company behind the ‘Breaking Bad’ ABQ bar among others.
In his opinion, the notion of sitting in a dark, underground bar spending an evening drinking great cocktails, is no longer enough. It’s a highly publicised fact that younger consumers aren’t drinking as much, and according to Lyall, that means the hospitality industry needs to give consumers another reason to go out.
Inclusive & immersive experiences
Lyall says that while bartenders have had the limelight for some time, consumers today want to feel that they themselves are the centre of their night out. They want to be making the drinks, or have drinks made especially for them, based on their own individual preferences. They want inclusive, immersive experiences that they are able to share on social media.
At his Chelsea-based bar, The Bletchley, customers are given a costume to wear and WW2 Enigma machines before being challenged to unlock codes and help their bartenders create personalised cocktails unique to them. It’s all about escapism.
I myself have been to the ABQ bar and have to say that donning those yellow suits and ‘cooking’ our own cocktails provided one of the most memorable nights out I’ve had. The photos we took were brilliant – too good not to share on Facebook. And that all helps to drive footfall and the next set of curious drinkers to the bar.
That said, I’ve also spent many a night in London’s speakeasy bars, and enjoyed that too. So while the trend for more immersive experiences continues to gain popularity, there will also be a need for operators to cater for all different consumer preferences.