As the second lockdown hits and many in hospitality find themselves furloughed once again, now is the perfect time to further educate yourself
That doesn’t mean that we all have to keep our noses buried in books, however. Podcasts are an excellent alternative medium, with plenty of breadth and depth available for the avid listener keen to expand their drinks and service knowledge.
‘Besides being a form of content that can be consumed at anytime, anywhere (and hands-free!) podcasts offer a longer form of conversation than that which can be found on social media or through traditional media like, well... magazines,’ opines Tristan Stephenson, host of Diageo Bar Academy’s Bar Chat podcast. (Easy on the magazines there, Tristan!…)
‘This allows for not only a deeper dive into the subject matter itself, but also provides a more natural feeling platform for the [guests] to convey their opinion and get their ideas across.’
So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of the podcasts to explore as part of your lockdown listening.
This series, hosted by Tristan Stephenson for Diageo Bar Academy, rounds up some of the best in the business for panel discussions on a series of topics, all delivered in Stephenson’s own inimitably dry, cynical style. The first season mainly features dedicated explorations of drinks categories, with the episode on rum seeing guests Ian Burrell and Peter Holland dropping knowledge bombs all over the place.
The second and current season has switched to a more topical bent, with the early episodes exploring subjects tied to the pandemic. The first looked at operating under the new Covid restrictions, with insight from Camden Hauge about the situation in Shanghai, and Jack Stein discussing how his father’s restaurants have been affected. This series is a must for the hospitality professional who wants to up their game.
Bartender at Large
San Diego-based bartender Erick Castro is the Bartender at Large. He hosts a weekly show, speaking at machine-gun speed to his guests, which could be anyone from Jim Meehan and Ago Perrone to Julio Bermejo.
As well as shooting the breeze with guests, Castro gets down to business tackling subjects such as ‘building a bar while building a family’ and ‘creativity and burnout’. Some episodes feel very US-specific, however for the most part Castro pulls in his international contacts, giving listeners global insight viewed through an American lens.
Life Behind Bars
Hosted by Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich, the laidback raconteurs host this delightful podcast that feels as if you’ve pulled up a bar stool and are sat listening to them chewing the fat with some big-name guests, including Dale DeGroff, Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Ivy Mix.
Drawing on their decades-long knowledge and experience of the drinks industry, the duo cover everything from DeGroff’s influence on the modern cocktail scene, to a miniseries exploring the pandemic and its effects on bars. Life Behind Bars is informative, fun and seriously witty.
Well, it would be churlish for us not to recommend Imbibe’s own podcast. Launched earlier this year, the team host episodes exploring current affairs in the world of hospitality and drinks. Alongside these, they also produce special episodes dedicated to a particular subject, such as new-make spirit or natural wine, exploring all angles with a bevy of brand and hospitality experts.
An exploration of natural wine and France’s decision to codify its production pulls in experts on all sides of the debate; while the new make spirit episode features Hannah Lanfear exploring what it is and its current market position; Kyro CEO Miika Lipiainen about their experiences in selling the product, and Simo Simpson and Chris Tanner of Milroy's about its place behind the bar.
Mark Gillespie hosts this long-running whisky podcast in his signature thick American drawl. Structured like a bona fide radio programme, he includes sections for news and tasting notes of products on top of a main feature for each recording.
He’s not afraid to get geeky, speaking to a biochemist about yeast’s impact on whisky, or covering the practice of malting barley by recording a guided tour around a family-owned maltings in New Zealand. There are focused programmes on specific brands, and panel discussions on issues such as sexism within the industry. A worthwhile listen.
Wine Blast with Susie & Peter
Married couple and broadcasters Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW (the latter of which is an Imbibe contributor) are as bright and breezy as breakfast TV anchors in their bubbly, slick wine podcast. It may be aimed at consumers, with plenty of mention of bottles found on the supermarket shelves, however there’s plenty of education to be had for drinks industry professionals who want to build on their basic wine knowledge.
They record episodes focusing on particular grape varieties, interviewing key producers and holding tastings of wines, and exploring food and wine pairings too. Perfect inspiration for some lockdown banquets.
The Three Drinkers are back with series two of their popular podcast, sponsored by whisky heavyweights Glenmorangie and Ardberg.
Hosts Colin Hampden-White, Helena Nicklin and Aidy Smith will take a deep dive into the history of famous cocktails with Mixologies; introduce new products they’ve found in Drinker Discoveries; talk wine and spirits investments with Hampden-White; answer listeners' drinks questions in Mailbag; and regale their audience with their own stories in their own irreverent way.
There'll even be guest appearances from some of the trio's closest drinks-industry cohorts. Just don't forget to bring a bottle.