A Bartender’s Style—Necessary Skill or Overrated Technique
Manager at Nightjar Bar London, Marian Beke, asks an all-important question—should bartenders spend as much time perfecting their style or should the focus shift to the quality of their serves?
It’s become more important than ever that we exercise our imaginations.
With the vast amount of information available online, on TV and through advertising, we have a tendency to go with the status-quo and forget to explore our own creativity.
So I have gone back to basics and asked myself, as a bar manager, do my customers want to see all the flair and skill that comes with cocktail making or would they prefer for me to get down to business and perfect the taste of the cocktails I serve?
The Big Screen
When I started to work behind the bar as a cocktail bartender, my inspiration was the movies. I had seen the legends of our time preparing cocktails shaken and stirred, on and off the rocks and everything else in between.
I thought to myself—I’ll emulate the movies, who wouldn’t want to be like the Hollywood celebs…right??
It seemed to go over my head that someone actually had to drink my concoctions, those concoctions that I’d dreamt up from the other side of the bar.
I had overlooked the importance of my own style and the uniqueness of my bartending skills—following the status-quo caught up with me.
The Customer’s Always Right
We have to look at the demands of today’s guests—after all, they are the ones footing the bill.
Nowadays people are more educated and informed about quality, especially when it comes to their drinks.
They want a unique experience while getting value for their money at the same time. The bartender has the ability to create this experience for them and the chance to begin a lifelong relationship with his or her customers.
It's a simple fact—the customer now has a better idea of what they like and what they don't. A healthy mix of a bartender’s flair combined with quality cocktail building makes for the perfect marriage.
Back to Basics
The next question to ask yourself is how much flair is too much?
For me, I found it was best to go back to basics, as sometimes we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve and where our inspiration for cocktail serves actually came from.
Ask yourself, what does style actually mean to you?
Do you define it as a bartender dedicating time to flair like it’s some kind of sport, similar to a dance where there are routines and technique that work together in perfect harmony? Where you learn the "choreography" of the dance from the experts who’ve been serving behind the bar for years?
Or is it craftsmanship built up over time, working long shifts in street bars serving the same drinks all night long to perfect your technique?
Perhaps style to you is neither of the above, but more about entertainment and performance behind the bar over and above quality and speed of the serve.
What’s most important is to work out what you define as the style that works for you, your bar and your customers and taking the time to perfect it.
Picture an old gentleman in a white suit, stirring a Martini while listening to live piano. He has his own style, right? Just like the back street bartender who is unkempt in his hipster style yet he’s winning awards for his skill.
I think it’s important to note that everyone has their ideas, their own charisma, made in their own way.
We are all different and certainly our imaginations are what define us.
At the end of the day, as bartenders we are selling experiences—special moments for our guests to remember for a lifetime. It’s important that these are unique from one bartender to the next; if we were all the same, what would differentiate us?
Just remember that style is something you will acquire with time. A good bartender will pace himself and know that with experience and knowledge comes a uniqueness that can only be achieved once you take the time.
Whether you’re a fast mover, your strengths lie in flairtending of if you are a stickler for taste, just remember that without your own style and ability to serve high-quality drinks you can’t stand out from the crowd.
To keep up-to-date with Marian and the goings on at the Nightjar Bar follow him on Twitter @marianbeke and Facebook.