Being a bartender today is as diverse as it is uniform, and as rewarding as it is full of new challenges. But what does it mean to be a Modern Bartender? This is the theme of our first symposium.
We asked our friends what “Modern Bartender” means to them, and in a series of essays, we will share their responses here. Alex Kratena gets the first word.
When I turned 16, I started to work in a shitty café; continuously failing in school and with very little direction as where I was heading in life, serving alcohol meant making money and first of all, it was fun. Thanks to the efforts of my mother I’ve managed to somehow pass final exams and stay away from the trouble.
When I reached 18 I started to travel as I always dreamt about and even though I’ve attempted to study hospitality I have never finished any official education till today. Instead I continued to travel & work behind bars. Learning everything hands on, making both professional and personal experiences, picking up the best out of every place I went.
I worked and worked and as time passed I realized bartenders have never been really valued in a way other jobs were. Unlike other professions, we just served drinks.
I am 34 now, I am still a bartender, the perspective of our job is changing and we are proud of what we do. Many of our friends are finding new direction outside the bar and travel the world spreading the word of cocktail. At the same time we are increasingly more facing media, TV and we are just steps away from having the first true celebrity bartender reaching beyond borders of our community. We’ve gone a really long way, yet I think, this is just a beginning.
Cocktail industry is a small and niche part of drinks business and if we really want bartending to become profession of significant influence we need to carefully re-think our next steps. There are lessons to be learned, legacies to be rescued and things to change.
Having worked in a corporate environment for a decade I often ask myself whether listing fee’s are actually ethical? Yes, no or to which extent? Do you sometimes feel you are being dictated what to do rather than choosing what do you want to do? Would you be outraged by restaurant getting paid by meat supplier for using their meat? If we really want to work with the best produce we perhaps shouldn’t hesitate to pay a fair price exactly like the restaurant pays to the farmer.
We’ve increased preparation times for set up of our bars from 1-2hours to entire shifts, yet we often overlook the bottom line implementations of that.
I ask myself why most of us work in cities we cannot afford to live, what are the ways of increasing our pay?
Why most bars around the world still doesn’t recycle? Is it because we don’t design our working spaces for recycling in the first place?
I ask myself does the world really need another fancy product when brands could be solving so many genuine problems?
There’s a new generation of bartenders that is the most environmentally and socially conscious group ever; a generation that believes that success is measured not only by financial results. We need so much more than ‘craft’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘transparency, three words abused by marketers so much that they no longer mean a lot to bartender and consumer alike.
While attractive in its simplicity short–term profits often comes at expense of sustainability and real value creation, it is total opposite of a long-term approach we need. With new materials, innovations, smart & imaginative solutions we can create viable businesses and have both profit & purpose. Future companies will treat bartenders as partners rather than talent they have to work with to drive volumes.
It is evident that the job of a bartender itself hasn’t changed. It is the produce, the environment, the way we operate, the palates that has changed and aim of a modern bartender is not to be creating a monster museum, but to make people feel great and serve delicious drinks.
Celebrity, TV, online shaming & social media bartending, marketing hidden behind education is what bartending is not. We’ve all witnessed all the positives and misfortunes of the chef community; let’s watch, listen and learn a lesson from that.
Bartenders have new opportunity and responsibility to advice others what and how to responsibly enjoy and at the same time need to so much more learn about our craft, issues, presence and the past, we need to learn so much more about how we drink.
Modern bartender is a public personality shaping culture and trends, involved in the community, working with others to create promising future of our business. Modern bartender aims to leave the industry in a better shape than we found it.