SB Voices: Collaboration feeds creativityBy Owen Bellwood
Cocktail competitions, bartending conferences and symposiums all bring the brightest minds in hospitality together – and it’s precisely these opportunities to collaborate that are pushing the industry forward, says Owen Bellwood.
Collaboration can bring together different ways of thinking, new ideas and alternative ways of using the ingredients found behind a bar.
In today’s cocktail culture, a number of different events and gatherings are bringing bartenders from around the world together to share their ideas with one another. Bartenders in attendance can then travel back to their venues with an array of new skills in their arsenal that they can use to advance the cocktail making prowess of their bars and home city.
Guest bartending shifts offer one of the simplest forms of collaboration – one bartender travels to a different bar in a new location and shares their cocktails with the staff and customers. It’s a great chance for drinkers to try something new and for staff in the host venue to see how things can be done differently.
Then, there’s cocktail competitions, such as this week’s Chivas Masters, which encourage bartenders from an international spectrum to work as a team and share ideas. On top of this, events such as the P(our) Symposium in Paris provide a platform for speakers from different disciplines to share their ways of thinking.
As a result of each of these learning opportunities, trends once reserved for a niche style of bar – such as house-made distillates, infusions and home-made tinctures – as well as more sustainable and seasonal bartending practices, are spreading through the industry.
The uptake of these trends is all down to the passion of the world’s bartenders. Gone are the days of a grumpy, bearded bartender in a beanie hiding behind beer taps. Now, bartenders stand proud, excited to tell you about the processes behind making their drinks, excited for imbibers to try something new and always eager to learn more themselves.
This is what has been driving the industry forward in recent years. While the classics will always be classic, young, ambitious bartenders are at the top of their game striving to invent their own creations, drinks that could become household names over the coming years.
If a bar menu seems daunting because it includes ingredients such as tears, curried pineapple, grass, birch water or jet black soda, ask the bartender and get them talking. If you do this, you’ll be able to find out what goes on behind the scenes – and then you’ll have the ammo to put anyone in their place who says cocktails are overpriced.
With a host of trade fairs and celebrations such as Tales of the Cocktail and Bar Convent Berlin just around the corner, it’s exciting to think what these melting pots of creativity will teach our local bartenders to shake up in the months that follow.