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The bartending journey has been a long one, filled with many ups and downs. Senior bartender Simon Aukett delves into the past, present and future of bartending and how it has all had a part to in the beautiful story we have seen unfold over the years.

Now & Then

Many of us will know the history of bartending goes way back to prohibition The history of bartending goes way back to prohibition and the days of Jerry Thomas who, during 19th century, was responsible for the Bon-Vivant’s Companion, a must-have for any aspiring bartender.

The early bartenders - responsible for many of today’s classics - had a significantly limited selection of products and ingredients compared to what we can get our hands on today, due to longer shipping times and slower communication methods around the world. In the US, there was then, of course, the limitations brought about by the prohibition era in the early 1920s and 30s. Across the water in London, Harry Craddock continued to sling out classics by the dozen, whilst compiling the Savoy Cocktail Book, an essential compendium of drinks from that era and a staple in many of today’s bars.

Fast forward to today’s bartender, and you will see a back bar filled with a much greater selection of spirits, liqueurs and bitters to play with, not to mention fresh produce which is readily available all year round. It’s a very different state of play.

(Re)birth of the bartender

I know from personal experience over the last decade of working in this industry that the role of a bartender has become a much more respected career choice and matured into a position of status. When I first started out everyone would ask me, “Sure you bar tend but what are you going to do after that? What’s your plan?”. They couldn’t comprehend the idea of fully committing to the hospitality industry. At the time, it was a stop gap for students and people undecided. As we know, much has changed.

Many legends have helped establish bartending as the reputable craft that it is, have encouraged and given way to new younger professionals who in turn are setting future generations up for success in hospitality. And, as we enter 2020, there is then a new wave of trends, skills and inspiration that we can look forward to.

Beyond the bartender

As the industry grows, it’s not just the role of bartenders that is evolving, bar managers now have a greater responsibility to ensure their venue is up to date with current trends, visible on social media and attracting all the right attention. Equally so, the role of servers has grown. There is much greater responsibility and higher expectations placed upon a server to know as much as the bartender when it comes to cocktail and spirit knowledge. So much so that an increasing number of establishments have members of their bar team do shifts on the floor to help ensure the very best customer experience from the get-go and/ or have monthly tests on specific spirit categories, recipe knowledge and historical facts. In my opinion, personal reading, researching or listening to a podcast every now and then will go a long way. There is never a point where you know enough about the many facets of the hospitality industry, whether its whiskey knowledge or service standards, we can all always strive to be better.

Key Takeaways