Opinion: The importance of hospitality

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My life is pretty damn good if the truth be told. In the last 3 months I have set up and run a luxury hotel bar and worked 6 shifts a week making and serving drinks to an appreciative crowd. I have visited Athens and Thessaloniki, London, Dubai, Dublin, Amsterdam, Belfast and talked to over 600 bartenders about “The University of Bartending” and high level juniper related matters. But despite my high falutin’ lifestyle I still have the same simple test of a bartender’s skill. I ask for a Gin and Tonic.

Now if the bartender reaches for his favourite gin and pours with great aplomb into a fine glass with decent Hoshizaki ice and delivers it in a stylish manner I am not impressed. What I see before me is not a great bartender but a great vending machine. A good bartender will ask what gin I like or will tell me what gin they are going to pour me. That way they show me they know Gin is not all the same and also they show me some love/respect/care so that I may have a more pleasant G&T than one cobbled together, however skilfully, by them.

We must remember that as bartenders are in the Hospitality industry and not the Bartending industry and for that reason I urge mixologists, bar chefs, cocktailians, intoxicologists and spirit technicians alike to reconsider the four main ways we can make a guest feel they have been given good service: make them feel comfortable, make them feel welcome, make them feel important and make them feel understood. Ask questions or make suggestions. Talk to your guest and try and understand them. We serve guests more than we serve drinks. I know very few people who grew up wanting to be bartenders but I bet all my frequent flyer miles not one grew up wanting to be a vending machine.

About Author

Angus Winchester has 20 years’ experience in the bar trade and has consulted on bar projects and educated bartenders around the world. He co-founded IP Bartenders, set up Tiki destination Trailer Happiness in London and is a global ambassador for Tanqueray gin. ‘My key books are really David Embury, Harry Johnson, Jerry Thomas, Imbibe by David Wondrich, Charles H Baker, Paul Harrington’s Cocktail – The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century (1998) and The Bartender’s Guide by Jack Townsend and Tom Moore McBride (1951). ‘I bought most of my books through www.abebooks.com, having identified them through reading the bibliographies in other books. When I started it was easy, and a number of people sneered, but my feeling was that books never lose their value and that information is key. I bought cheap and now the books and the information are more valuable.’

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