Updated: Mar 29
Dear young bartenders everywhere. This is a series aimed at you, to highlight careers of known bartenders in order to share a path & provide light at the end of the tunnel. So you want to have an awesome career in bartending? You want to make drinks, lead bar programs, create 'concepts' & travel the world preaching about spices, techniques & ideas. You're young but you've read through more than 10 books about distillation, rotary evaporators, the yeast used in Wild Turkey Bourbon & can tell your Gin from your Genever. Armed with a bar spoon in one hand & your pineapple in the other you're ready & set to conquer the world! Have I got news for you kid... I'm not here to try to sound like an old man(because I'm not) & neither am I here to tell you how to live your life(which is just a waste of energy). What I will do is share the last 10 years of my bartending career with you in the hopes to clarify the reality of what could happen & the road you might face ahead.
In a nutshell I've bartended full-time in Spain, Netherlands & Scotland having learned everything at the start in the city of Aberdeen & matured in the city of Amsterdam. In between we launched a project here at Cocktails For You called 'The Vagabond Project' which aimed at sending me to 12 bars in 12 countries over 12 months. The aim to explain how the hell you get from the picture on the above left (19 years old) to the picture on the above right (28 years old). Please note I do NOT own a bar called "Nevsky Bar" but that's just a hilarious coincidence in Finland.
If the aim for you is all of the above in order to broaden your horizons & achieve the a career in Hospitality there are some things you need to understand in your chosen vocation.
Be a part of your community In 2008 when I started I only met around 5 people in the industry that were in any way shape or form important in my career in the last 10 years. Each & every one of these individuals I still keep in touch with & has helped me develop as a professional in my career. The key was to become a part of the local community by attending seminars, workshops & taking part in competitions. Visiting other bars & meeting other bartenders to expands your horizons, knowledge & being inspired by others ideas.
It is also important to note that between 2008 & 2011 I literally met 3 new people that had a real impact on my hospitality career. Three new people in 3 years of cleaning ashtrays, learning recipes & making drinks for numerous guests. There was no brand trips to far away islands & no special bottles with my face on it. Just long hours & kebabs.
In 2008 the above 5 individuals had the following jobs: Daryl Haldane - Diageo Brand Ambassador Adrian Gomes - Bar Manager Ben Iravani - Bar Supervisor Mike McGinty - Bartender Martin Farmer - Bar Manager
By 2018 the above 5 individuals had become: Daryl Haldane - Global Brand Manager Adrian Gomes - Bar Owner Ben Iravani - Bar Owner & Brand Owner Mike McGinty - National Head of Advocacy Martin Farmer - Multiple Venue Operations Manager
In the years gone by I had stayed in touch with all of the above forming my relationships with them naturally & we stayed as friends. Alongside the work for Cocktails For You & progression in my own career in the Hospitality industry all of the people above has since collaborated with us or myself personally. From doing events together, guest shifts & bar shows the key is to find a way to move forward. - Success finds those who are too busy working & not looking for it -
The 'Personal' brand
There are some key aspects of how you can move forward in this industry to where you want to go. The examples used previously are simply there to show the importance of networking & being a member of the global squad. The key to move forward as a professional is to understand yourself & where you want to go: A) Appearance - How you present yourself is how people who don't know you are most likely you judge you on first appearances. Tiki guys wear Hawaii shirts & hotel bartenders tend to wear suits, you can call it a stereotype but regardless it matches the work place.
B) Behaviour - Every single thing you say or do either online or offline creates an image that can either work for or against you when you're looking to move on in the industry. Some brands love a 'Rockstar' but others don't.
C) Competencies - What are you actually good at? Maybe you have a beautiful working flair that is constantly being filmed by guests or maybe your drinks are the ones constantly being raved about. Is Bourbon your jam or are you more of a Gin freak?
D) Differentiation - There will always be someone who is similar to you in style, works in a similar bar & might even like the same things. How do you stand apart from them or the crowd?
Basic 5 steps 1 - Be a part of your community in your city, country & region. Learn about everyone & everything if you can. There is alway a hierarchy & history that you have to respect & know if you want to forge a career
2 - Explore beyond your immediate borders. Everyone has a home but if you want to step beyond travel to key cities to expand your horizons (London, New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney e.g.)
3 - Identify your weaknesses & plug the holes in your armour. Knowledge is the key but it only becomes a power when you know how to use it.
4 - Identify yourself as a brand as ABCD so you are able to create a 'need' for yourself as a professional. Everything is a basic supply/demand economy. You have to ask yourself "Why" should brands/bars/bar shows invite you or even PAY you for your services.
5 - Set a goal. Brand Ambassador? Bar Consultant? Bar owner? You won't achieve much unless you know what you're working for.
Good luck fellow bartenders!