The bartender of today—or the “mixologist,” if you will—has ascended to the lofty heights previously reserved for movie stars and celebrity chefs. Cocktail culture is front and center in today’s social fabric and appears, if anything, to be gathering strength. (Clearly, in hard times, people drink more, not less.)
With the spotlight firmly focused on the bar and the mixologists behind it, cutting corners or using less-than-superior ingredients has become a serious impediment to success. So much attention is being focused on the bar that there’s no place to hide inferior ingredients or work. To justify charging $9 to $16 for a cocktail, changes need to be made. Here is a list of a few fixes that can immediately elevate your bar program:
Get rid of inferior, no-name products. There is no excuse for using anything other than top premium branded alcoholic products in your cocktails. This is also true of other ingredients such as juices and mixers. This is key. Let’s say you are serving a Gin& Tonic. You definitely should use a premium gin, but if you then add an inferior tonic water, the drink is ruined. Squeeze fresh juices and cut garnishes every day before service.
BEEF UP YOUR BACK BAR
Don’t just carry two or three examples of each key category, have five or ten, if you have the space. Listen to your customers. If they are asking for brands you don’t carry, start stocking those brands; it will increase your revenues and make your customers happy.
Being at the top of your field requires continual study and total awareness of what is going on in the industry. (One way to do this is to carefully read this magazine for trends and ideas.) Know some history. If you are familiar with the history of the Martini or the Mint Julep, you are more likely to make first-rate examples when they are requested.
EXPERIMENT AND TASTE
Take the time to investigate various combinations of flavors. Not every formula will yield a satisfactory result, so careful trial and error is the only route to mixology success. Familiarize yourself with the flavor profiles of all the spirits brands you stock. A knowledgeable mixologist is a better mixologist.
All in all, respect yourself and your profession and be every bit as good as you can be.