How bartenders found inspiration in lockdown

Clinton Cawood

Clinton Cawood

22 July 2020

Lockdown was a challenging time for everyone but a number of bartenders have kept themselves occupied and sane developing new skills that may well prove useful even now that bars and restaurants have begun to reopen their doors.

QUARANTINE COOKING

For an industry with work hours that don’t lend themselves to much home cooking, lockdown could have proven challenging in the food department. But two bartenders in particular have been a reliable and entertaining source of video recipes which they’ve been posting on Instagram.

Freelance and FAM bartender Liam Broom’s Apocalypse Kitchen began as a website ‘to make people go to the supermarket less, with the recipes written for people who were mainly used to ordering takeaways’, he explains.

This evolved into a series of short Instagram videos with just the right tone for those unhinged times.

‘It gave me the same purpose as being behind a bar would,’ says Broom. ‘I’d have to get up and shower and teach people how I create something, just like when I would make drinks for guests.’ He already had some web-design knowledge, and has been learning video editing as required, while gaining social media management skills too. ‘Maybe we’ll even see an Apocalypse Kitchen tie-in or a video approach to future projects,’ he says.

The other bartender keeping his Instagram followers well-fed, or at least well-entertained and informed about food, is Murder Inc’s Luke Condell, aka Cook Hook. Condell’s original idea – to use his knowledge of recipes to give bespoke advice based on the contents of people’s lockdown cupboards – also transformed into a series of immensely useful Instagram videos.

‘I wanted it to be a resource, but didn’t realise people would enjoy it that much,’ he says. ‘It’s reinvigorated my passion for cooking. If I wasn’t doing this every day I’d be going insane, so as much as it’s to help other people, it’s helped me too.’

Acknowledging that he won’t always have as much time to create dishes that can take hours, not to mention the video editing, Condell’s endgame for Cook Hook is to publish a book. ‘I’ll have 80-90 recipes, which is a decent amount for a cookbook, and if the proceeds can go to charity, that’d be amazing.’

For more bartenders sharing lockdown recipes, there’s Be At One’s Mirko De Simone and Deimante Jodonyte, on their YouTube channel Mix & Match. ‘I always had basic knowledge of video editing, but never found the right way of using it,’ says De Simone. ‘Creating more videos about cocktails is something I’d like to do, merging the two skills.’

Another bartender sharing recipes of their quarantine kitchen exploits, in this case alternated with comedy performances on TikTok, is Pachamama’s Des Yatigammana. Follow him there for everything from caramelised rum bananas to a re-enactment of Eddie Izzard’s classic Star Wars Canteen sketch.

SOCIAL MEDIA STARS

A number of other bartender social media broadcasters have emerged in the past few months, providing a mix of both education and entertainment. Threeafter3 consists of weekly live interviews by FAM’s Tatjana Sendzimir, Lexa Ulijaszek from Callooh Callay and Alexandra Farrow from Silver Lining. They’ve spoken to bar industry figures including Ivy Mix, Hannah Lanfear, Rosey Mitchell and more.

We’ve learned a lot of skills that will carry over once we’re back behind the bar

TATJANA SENDZIMIR

‘We have really loved being able to give voices to different women, and underrepresented voices. That was one of the main reasons we founded Threeafter3, so we’ll try to work out how to keep that platform going,’ says Sendzimir. ‘We’ve learned a lot of skills that will carry over once we’re back behind the bar. They stem at least partially from the same place that made us interested to get behind the stick in the first place – being curious about other people and wanting to connect with them, and finding creative ways to tell stories.’

Many bartender scrollers of Facebook will remember lockdown for the infamous Biscuit Brackets championship, courtesy of Trailer Happiness’ Gergo Muráth – at the time of writing there was talk of an upcoming Chocolate Bar Cup, sure to once again simultaneously unite and divide the industry. Muráth also broadcast a number of videos as Dude Imbibes, and one half of the Booze Brothers, together with Velier Rum’s Jan Warren. ‘We’ve done five videos together, delving into topics from the serious, like the problems with rum’s perception as a colonial product, to the hilarious – best mosh pit stories, for example,’ says Muráth.

For London Cocktail Club’s Sam Boevey, lockdown has meant an opportunity to revisit music, resulting in a series of covers that he’s published on Facebook. ‘I played a lot of music before I was bartending, but priorities change,’ he says. ‘It’s just about having the time. I remember the day quarantine started, I knew I’d use the time to make some music.’

FINE ARTS & CRAFTS

While some took to social media and streaming services as their creative outlets, others have been making busy with their hands. Bartender consultant Elliot Davies found himself in Wales with access to a shed full of tools, the idea to make guitar pedal boards, and the discovery of a traditional Japanese wood-treating technique, shou-sugi-ban.

I have a newfound respect for people that work in carpentry and woodwork

ELLIOT DAVIES

‘I have a newfound respect for people that work in carpentry and woodwork – there’s been a lot of trial and error,’ he says. But after giving some pedal boards away, he’s been commissioned for more. And he’s been approached by a venue in Krakow about doing their bar top for them. Original Sin’s Ashley Sanderson, meanwhile, has been embroidering tote bags, and set up a shop on Etsy to sell them.

‘Obviously we have all struggled with being away f from work because the bars we work in become almost a second home. So to try and pass the time I started embroidering again,’ she says. It’s something she’s likely to continue post-lockdown.

‘I’m always coming up with ideas from the most random inspirations, so who knows what I could come up with when we’re allowed to be back around those who
inspire us most.’

The crew at Nightjar have been using the time to explore a sustainable way to reuse glass bottles. Bar manager Tony Pescatori has picked up a small kiln to melt and reshape broken glass to produce glassware. It’s early days, he says, but he has plans to be able to provide the bar with glassware, and potentially sell some too. ‘We’ll definitely carry on with this technique. The moulds in the kiln can be easily set up by the morning prep, and once set it literally does
the job itself,’ he says.

Meanwhile, lockdown has revealed a number of visual artists in our midst. Consultant Jamie Jones is among them.

‘I picked up a pen and brush for the first time since I was 16, and I’ve actually been selling prints and originals,’ he says. ‘It’s definitely been keeping me sane during this time.’ He’s not only sold his art to individuals as far afield as Singapore and Sydney, but to some bar owners too, so expect to see more of his work once venues reopen.

Claudia Newman of the Library Bar at The Ned is another bartender that has been wielding a paintbrush more often. ‘I’ve been painting for years, but it was always a question of having the time. I love bartending, but I also love playing with colours – it’s about balancing both,’ she says. ‘I would love to provide paintings to bars and restaurants. I did that years ago in Nice.’

For Caravan King’s Cross’ Olga Bartołowicz, this time has been about consolidating a growing interest in tattooing, as well as acquiring new skills in making linocuts. ‘I am slowly putting together a shop on Etsy, so hopefully will sell some of my prints,’ she says. ‘And tattooing is something that I want to do, but I also love working in the bar... Maybe I’ll just do both.’

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