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Should bartenders deviate from the menu?

Ask any bartender and they’ll tell you that crafting a new cocktail menu takes creativity, patience a huge amount of effort – so should bars serve customers drinks which are not listed?

Should bartenders be willing to serve customers drinks that are not on the menu?

The majority of experienced, skilled bartenders have an excellent knowledge of how to whip up almost any classic or popular serve, however, these are not always listed on their bars’ cocktail menu.

While it doesn’t seem unreasonable for consumers to be disappointed if their favourite Martini or Mojito cocktail is not available, some are irked when bartenders refuse to cater to their desires.

Could bars lose business because of this, or would catering to the tastes of one customer set an unsustainable precedent?

The dilemma forces us to ask the question: should bars be willing to serve customers drinks that are not on the menu?

Debating the issue is Cordula Langer, bartender at Berlin’s Monkey Bar, and Nico Colic, bartender at Zurich’s Rivington and Sons.

Who do you agree with? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Cordula Langer – bartender at Monkey Bar, Berlin, Germany

Cordula-Langer‘Refusing to make a classic isn’t just bad business, it’s bad manners’

Consumers are incredibly educated about cocktails these days, but that does not mean that they don’t still enjoy drinking the old classics.

Drinks such as Mojitos and Cosmopolitans have become so iconic all over the world, and that is something that is never going to change; there are always going to be customers who want to drink these cocktails. As such, bartenders should be willing to serve them.

Being bartenders, of course we want to be able to experiment and create new, interesting cocktails. But one of our main aims is to make customers feel welcome and comfortable as soon as they walk through the door. Refusing to make a classic such as an Old Fashioned simply because it isn’t written on the menu isn’t just bad business, it’s bad manners.

If the customer is polite and friendly and asks for something that is not listed, then it really shouldn’t be a problem to cater for their preference. That’s the way I love to work – to make the customer happy. We are a service-oriented industry and customers want to be able to talk to us, relax and unwind in our bars. I don’t want to alienate someone and make him or her feel uncomfortable for asking for something they really want that doesn’t appear on a piece of paper.

Any professional bartender should have extensive knowledge about classic drinks, how to make them and how to put a spin on them, especially when we have such a wide variety of different spirits allowing us to add a slight twist.

Even if the drink was something I hadn’t come across before, I would be willing to look it up online and see if I could recreate it with the ingredients I have. It shows customers how skilled you are and that you really are a professional.

It’s a big mistake to turn customers away because something isn’t on the menu; if the customer leaves unhappy and disappointed then there is of course a big chance that they won’t be coming back.

Nico Colic – bartender at Rivington and Sons, Zurich, Switzerland

Nico-Colic‘I want to wake people up; I want to open their eyes to all these fantastic flavours’

The bar industry is rapidly changing and within that we are seeing an increase in concept bars appearing on the market.

Some focus on serving specific spirits such as vodka or gin, while others focus on creating bespoke cocktails that you cannot find elsewhere. If you run a venue with a strong vision, customers cannot always get their own way – you have to stay true to what you are trying to create.

We opened up a bar with a clear concept that doesn’t involve traditional cocktails such as Margaritas and Mojitos, in the hope that customers visiting the bar would want what we have to offer them. It’s not that I don’t like those drinks; it’s just there are already so many places where you can get those cocktails.

Shots are another thing we refuse to serve. Our focus is promoting enjoyment and appreciation of spirits, which isn’t going to happen if a customer orders a shot of cheap Tequila with salt and lime.

If they find it hard to comprehend and refuse to accept that they’re not going to get their own way, we then have to find a nice way to tell them that unfortunately, they have come to the wrong place.

After all, you would not go to an Italian restaurant and order an Indian, so why then would you go to a gin bar and order a rum and Coke?

I want to wake people up; I want to open their eyes to all these fantastic flavours, spirits brands and cocktails available to them. On a personal level as well, I want the freedom to create something individual and one-of-a-kind without being restricted by the boundaries of traditional classic serves.

By telling customers we can’t make certain well-known drinks, we are pushing them to step out of their comfort zone.

I don’t often go to a bar and order a G&T. I opt to try something new or unique that perhaps I cannot drink anywhere else. So in my bar, I also want to replicate that and get my customers sampling new things for the first time.

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