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2017

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Tuesday, 24 October 2017 07:58

Professional bartenders or bar staff?

The two are poles apart. It takes all sorts behind the bar those that are professionals no matter how they present themselves and those that just make a point to present themselves in all tattoo designs, body deforms, fancy aprons and hairstyles or not! My point is don’t be misled!

Bartenders are found  in places where drinks probably cost more and usually are the first to say good evening to you. Any of the others are usually untrained part timers or any bar staff leftovers, with no desire to grow other than being there for some extra cash and Mickey Mouse maneuvers from holding a bottle to filling a glass.

Bartenders are respected individuals,  as trained professionals that studied their drinks and backgrounds, learned and achieved, and have probably developed professional etiquette towards dealing with the public but at the same time they are like chefs where they have egos, complex beasts and  would be difficult to be handled at busy and preassurised times, but this is out of my story!

Economies, culture and social status positioning in some economies have not been encouraging  many to invest time and effort into the bartending profession but since the vodka revolution since the 90’s more and more manpower passion is pumped in the drinks industry. Bar staff or bartenders are like djs some that play well , some that not play well but look good and plenty of both sprouting.

The drinks companies  have been on a rat race as to what to produce and be different and win an extra share of the market. They appeal to manpower and use interesting personalities to launch and promote their new stuff. In fact this race is more similar to the ones of the perfumes industry! However these promoters, so called ambassadors are setting the ways on how to look, how to do it and what to do next as the newcomer bar staff are victimized to follow the trend and feel you are in the box and upgraded in  knowing more and more.

With growing  knowledge, self esteem and with some elements of good character, hopefully deriving from the upbringing of individuals, we come across wonderful personalities behind the bench,  representing at least the labels in displays behind them. It is enough to remember the right measurements and analogies, handled the bottles and gadgets with respect and with a slight eagerness to please…voila, a correctly balanced drink placed in front of the customer all in all to give an experience or a simple pleasure.

It is simpler than what most think! No one is asking the bartenders to dive into books and on line media and get lost in words like fermentation, blending, matured or casks, degrees and acidity…. If they do get into the details of knowledge  it should be to form a base to stand on instead of some random bits of information floating in the brain and expressed here and there as weapons to impose personality issues achieving a light impression. But what is more important to the establishment they represent and to the customers approaching the bench are the social skills and the goodwill to please them. If you are a bartender you should be a natural in giving and listening.

GIVE - A good word with a genuine smile. Try be the person who walked or drove and parked the car, probably meeting someone else there or not, budgeting already what to spend on time and moneys or the lady feeling a little uncertain  as to the table she would declare presence until her company comes, they both need a red soft carpet to feel comfortable and important to be walking in and you probably  don’t have one. They could do with a greeting and a warm smile acknowledging them coming in and declaring peace, yet alone the following word reassuring ability to serve, as in  “ would you like to take a seat at my bar or at the table here?”  or ‘ ill be with you in a second’ ‘ or what can I do for you?’ and all in all, words of offering efforts and suggesting good times ahead. And  this follows many ‘encores’

LISTEN- Don’t assume just because you are thrilled by your recent ego win of a new combination of liquids so called according to you cocktail, that everyone should try it. People have different tasting buds and ideas in their heads that are not in line with everyone else, and all changing at different times. So, listen to them after you suggest ideas like cocktails, beers, wines? and then question the taste prior to trying to match that and even suggest a little tasting adventure. Also have in mind that most of the time people do not have a clue what they want to drink which bring us to the psychologist expert trying to guess what may be their need to please them.

If there is no hints then play safe and suggest an easy way out. Aim to go for adventures on the second round of drinks which is when you have the opportunity to make a new friend and your boss a new dedicated client.

There are those that are trained well with good or bad personal marketing, those that do not know what they are doing with good personal marketing, there are those who have reached the impossible and know it all (!) with the attitude of Marlon Brando where unfortunately marketing works and finally those that are not interested and are there to kill time and win money. The axe is long and everyone  behind the bar is positioned here. Respect to the bartenders!

 

p.s. Random indicative photos shown with respect to bartenders featured.

Published in Booze

We have visited the celebrated and possibly the busiest bar in Limassol, ‘Μανταμ’ Madame, where the highly trained people behind the bar are cool and modist. There was Christos Tirzlakis an upcoming charismatic bartender who just came back from visiting Ireland as he won the Jameson Cyprus Competition 2017 stating with a smile “ I have a lot to learn, I first want to become a good bartender before I become a mixologist or something like that… as a bartender I am what everyone wants me to be, a listener, a server, their lawyer ….I try my best !” .

There was the man himself behind the concept of Madame, Mr.Stephanos Athanasiou stating “ when I am looking for people to work with us I am not judging anyone’s past or career on what they can do. I allow then to drop off everyday life issues and relax with us, I’ts simple, be yourself,  a human being and forget about stirring and shaking! Just relax and be a nice person, the skills and knowledge you will build with us”.

On board with Stephanos approach which is chaneled throughout the bar’s energy we met another persona, Laura Meilunaite, being there with him since stones and wood and participates quietly behind the creations and the dealings prior to surfacing a new cocktail and not only. We reccon that such a lady on board the team, probably keeps balances and handles a lot more on back scenes of what customers see in a bar! Here is what we hacked out of her! 

 

 

. Coming from Lithuania and having finished your studies in Office management you trained for an ambitious high end bar. What personal qualities of yours were important to achieve your positioning behind the bar?

First of all coming from other country gives me this different approach to everything what is going on behind the bar. I have studied Office management so I say now that  “Madame” is my office. My colleagues already know that I am super punctual and believe me it is very difficult to be punctual in Cyprus. While I am always in time, everybody are just always late. So I have to be very patient and I am trying my best to adapt to this Mediterranean life style. I always choose  a compromise than an argument, that is a very useful working in the bar. I like to socialize, meet new people, interact with customers. I am very active person in general - roller blades, stand up paddling , windsurfing, bicycle- I am a big fan of action and dynamic activities so working behind the bar fits this category perfectly!

 

 

. What would be your advise as the most important points for women thinking to approach this profession seriously?

In any hospitality business the most important thing is to be passionate about your job, this is a key point in every business actually. If you like what you do it will make things easier, so just go for it! I believe that bartenders profession is for people who are extroverts because you are always surrounded by people, it is so essential to channel good energy and create positive vibes. Also be able to work in the team is one more crucial point. You can be great as a individual but bar is a team work playing field. Don't be afraid of challenges and be creative! (More like unisex advises).

 

 

. What happens when a new bottle/label appears on the bar?

After the first look at the bottle/label I always judge the style and design. Is it interesting? Is it something you notice in the bar shelf? After that follows tasting and  deeper research of the product.

 

 . As a woman bartender in service and being a multi task persona you probably fit in the following category. Mothering starting bartenders, customers being everything from patients to intellectuals, from flirters to ‘arrogant’ men, young ladies feeling insecure or super confident, frustrated and happy and all those circumstantial people approaching you at the bar. What is the mechanism that you as a woman try to apply in order to deal with all that?

I treat all customers the same, always being polite and caring. Bartender is like a psychologist some times, so as a very good listener I think I am doing a very good job on this part. People come to the bar for many different reason, but the most important one is to relax, have a good time and have fun. As a person behind the bar I can offer them their favorite drink, serve some snacks, have a chit chat. I believe that me and my colleagues have created a very nice and friendly connection with all customers so everybody can find what they are looking for.

I could describe myself as a multitasking person, yes! It’s a perfect quality for this dynamic work in the bar. Also being a part of a very good team helps this mechanism to work.

 

. What is Madame for you?

Madame is the place where I fell happy and I can express myself. I love vibrant weekends and casual weekdays in the bar. Everyday has its own charms here.  I saw how Madame opened its doors for the first time and it is always a big pleasure to see satisfied customers, people who come and spend their time here. This bar is constantly evolving and developing its own unique style. Madame is like a real Lady changing her clothes occasionally, but the most important thing stays the same: She is welcoming, flirty and full of positive energy! I am very proud to be a member of Madame family.

 

 

. Can you pair a cocktail with the following food? 

a. Fresh oysters – glass of champagne or French 75

b. Smoked Haddock- pint of Czech pilsner

c. Basil Pesto pasta- Mexican Garden served in Madame :) Keep it herbal!

d. Coconut curry- pint of wheat beer for citrusy and fruity mix of flavours

e. Salmon and avocado rolls- why not to try with Martini?

 

 

. How would you begin to examine a new cocktail presented to you?

First of all is how it is presented -  garnish, glassware,  colours. Next step is aromas and only then tasting – is it balanced , drinks texture and flavour layers?

 

. What is the ideal bartender for you?

The ideal bartender is this person who helps you to  choose your drink using his/hers skills and experience. It doesn't need to be a cocktail, it can be beer, wine or any other drink. I believe that there is a perfect drink for everyone. Ideal bartender - polite, organized, tidy, good communicative skills, creative, original but never arrogant!

 

. In which direction will mixology develop in the future?

We are in this age when bars became like big laboratories. Number of techniques and pieces of equipment are used to create cocktails, infusions and mixtures. Trends are changing so quickly. I am fan of simplicity so whatever changes will come in the future I hope that quality of the drink, fresh ingredients and cocktail taste will stay essential aspects.

 

. Do you have mentors and why?

When I arrived to Cyprus and started to work in the bar I had no previous experience. I was lucky to have Stephanos Athanasiou as my colleague so I count him as my mentor. Concept of hospitality and overall understanding about bar business came through his point of view. It is really rewarding to have him as a friend and a boss. 7 years working together with different catering projects and now Madame, I think  it says it all :) The best team!

Also while working in Madame I had opportunity to meet Julio Bermejo, the creator of Tommy's Margarita, and Tomas Estes, ambassador of tequila in Europe, both of them showed me how important is to be passionate about what you do! 

 

Published in Booze

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