P(our) Symposium explores modern bartending

16th August, 2016 by admin

p(our)Another hard-hitting talk came from PDT’s Jim Meehan, who issued what he called a ‘call to the mirror for bartenders’ seduced by the excessive lifestyle of the bar world. “This is an industry that celebrates heroic appetites,” he said, “but we need to realise it’s not a sprint any more, it’s a long race.”

Bartenders wanting to emulate the careers of veterans such as Peter Dorelli or Salvatore Calabrese needed to go from regarding themselves as “tortured artists, needing to blowing off steam, to craftspeople”, he said, urging the industry to go to greater lengths to “take care of each other”.

Nick Strangeway of Strangehill consultancy also rattled the cage with a talk drawing comparisons between the bar industry of the late 80s, when he was just starting out under the tutelage of the late Dick Bradsell, and the bar scene of the 21st century, an era of restaurant-grade bar set-ups, world-class ingredients and online resources on-tap. The 1980s bartender may have used sour-mix, he argued, but they brought other things to the table, unlike many careerist bartenders today.

“The industry’s in danger of disappearing up its ass,” he told the packed crowd. “If we spent less time on Facebook talking about cocktails and more time in the theatre, in restaurants and in art galleries we’d be better bartenders.”

The rise of bartender-as-entrepreneur was also a hot topic, with several experts sharing insights from their own experiences setting up premises, launching products and creating brands. The recently-launched Edinburgh Food Studio, a Scottish collective of chefs, food writers and academics with the strapline ‘Keep Food Interesting’, gave a candid talk about the challenges of launching their own restaurant and test-kitchen, which now offers communal dining to the public three nights a week, as well as regular industry workshops, chef exchanges and consultancy services for big brands and institutions.

Corrado Bogni, head concierge at the Connaught since 2008, reminisced about the night he had to deliver a £350,000 diamond to a client in Hong Kong against all odds, before sharing his philosophy on what it takes to create a successful team and his faith in the ‘power of intention’.

The role that good design can play in branding, product development and customer experience was highlighted by graphic designer Alec Doherty, who made a call for more dynamic, close-knit partnerships between the art and drinks worlds by showcasing a series of seasonal labels he’d created for Partizan, a Bermondsey craft brewery specialising in seasonal and special-edition brews.

He heralded the demise of the long-life “concept menu” in favour of lists and products that were “more seasonal and responsive”. Award-winning product designer Martin Kastner of US agency Crucial Detail also spoke about his pioneering collaboration with Chicago’s three Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea.

In between each talk, there were also bite-sized presentations and tastings from small-scale, artisan drinks companies including the ethically-sourced Rare Tea Company, Hackney soda company Square Root, France’s first grain-to-glass craft whisky distillery Vulson and Workshop Coffee, which had all produced limited edition drinks specially for the occasion.

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