The Digital Age
Our current culture fuels the social value of likes and reblogs, rewarding immediate visual satisfaction, to the point where it’s easy to lose focus on anything except the shiniest thing with the most exorbitant flair and bartending is no exception. Our industry is being diluted by drinks that are more interested in being exhibited in an art gallery, than being served over a bar.
I myself saw the influence of this new wave of drink photography and its influence on consumers and found myself drawn to delve deeper. Becoming immersed in that world, I found myself with the intention of creating a drink that would land me on the pages of a magazine or newspaper. The thought of this motivated me as much as experimentation into flavor transmogrification (I know right, who wouldn’t want to go down the prior path). I drew on my background as an architect, to conceptualize my drinks as artistic ideas. I was very transfixed on making the drinks look amazing, without learning enough about the flavors and techniques that would further myself in an industry, built on delicious drinks and excellent service.
It’s taken me a few years to really understand the skill and knowledge needed to harmonize those qualities. I had to redirect my train of thought towards learning as much as possible about flavor and service and not on the glitz and glamour of non-sustainable drink garnishes and extravagant presentation. In saying this, I would never have the opportunity to serve any guests, if I couldn’t get them into the bar. I don’t underestimate the influence that visually stunning drinks have on the consumer and their desire to enter an establishment. In fact, it’s become such a large part of what entices so many people towards our industry as a whole, to begin with.
Attention to visual style creates excitement, even before patrons have actually ordered that first ‘clarified-nitro infused-fat washed-galactic hopped-negroni’. Bars worldwide are creating incredible concoctions, served in amazing vessels, with jaw-dropping garnishes, which are then bought and photographed, every single day. Places like Eau-de-Vie (located in both Sydney and Melbourne) have found a balance of theatre, presentation and flair, as well as serving up high quality drinks. So, it CAN be done!
I believe PS40, Sydney (Australia), is the best example of a bar that has found this balance, between unique drink design and guest service whilst boasting the closest attention to detail, that I’ve ever seen. The team has an original concept, with clear appeal on its social media pages (also seen in venue), but with the drinks and charismatic service to back all of it up.
Mostly, I feel it’s been a positive thing for the bartending industry to try and elevate what we do into a popular art form, which in the process has garnered global attention to our industry that has been, for so long, associated with dark, grubby night-clubs serving up anonymous drinks.
It will always be important that the older generation of bartenders educate the younger generation on how to create engaging guest service and what is necessary to make appetizing drinks, but they should also make room in their minds, for the existence of these ‘insta-ready’ drinks and the opportunities they may present.