We have news on this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, Punch looks at a hyperlocal cocktail bar, we get advice on how to manage bar staff, bourbon is apparently booming, and Imbibe takes a look at advocates for mental health in the bar industry. Cheers!
You know how red wine is said to be healthy because all of those great-for-you anti oxidants? Well, here’s one more reason to drink. “A new study finds that regular social drinking is for your health.” Yay! According to Vinepair, researchers from Oxford University say that “social networks provide us with the single most important buffer against mental and physical illness…Regularly hitting the same neighborhood bar is a human bonding ritual on the same level as dancing, singing, and storytelling.” So go ahead, hit the bar!
Introducing the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation
Last year the Tales caught some heat for the director’s racist antics and subsequently the organization underwent through some structural changes. The new organizers have broken their silence on what to expect this year, and our friends over at NeatPour have the lowdown: “Tales of the Cocktail is now officially Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. TOTC is now TOTCF. In case readers missed the change, the roughly 750 word letter made certain to employ the new moniker and initials a total of 15 times combined.”
Key topics such as diversity, sexual misconduct, addiction and substance abuse, as well as sustainability will be addressed throughout this year’s Tales. “These are leading issues in our industry, and we are developing platforms for them to be diligently addressed as well as offering significant resources across these areas. It is important to us that you know that we are passionate about working with you to generate best practices in these areas.” The TOTCF will give away $250,000 in grants this year. A good start, it remains to be seen if they can live up to this promise.
The Trouble with the “Hyper-Local” Cocktail
Words like ‘local,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘zero waste policy’ are hot topics right now. But what does it look like when you actually put those into action? A Rake’s Bar in Washington D.C. did and Punch took a look. Owner Corey Polyoka is one of the leading voices when it comes to using local ingredients and minimizing waste. “Don’t look for any Cognac or tequila or Scotch, because they don’t make those things in Maryland or Virginia. Likewise, lemons and limes—the brick and mortar of most cocktail bars—are a rarity here. Stepping in to provide acidity are verjus, made by local vineyards, and vinegar. As for sugar and simple syrup, there is none. Instead, maple syrup, honey and sorghum are employed.”
What remains though, is lacklustre. Author Robert Simonson found his drinks unbalanced and starved for sweetness. He writes, “Moreover, the over-reliance on verjus and vinegar lent a certain pinched sameness to the menu. Even the Peach Julep tasted anemic. And a julep should never be that.” It’s a difficult task, to make a bar hyper-local. The author finishes on this note: “Local sourcing and sustainability are issues all modern bars will have to address in the years to come. But crossing that long bridge will be a journey of a thousand steps.”
How to Manage Your Bar Staff
How to manage. A question that shouldn’t raise as many questions as it does, particularly from people who are already in the position and simply learning by doing. Australian Bartender is doing a series on the business of bars, and this month’s column focuses on Sydney and Melbourne bar veteran Sven Almenning’s experiences managing staff across his many venues. His first piece of advice? Hire the best people possible. After you’ve done that, trust the people you’ve hired to make decisions – don’t micromanage them. His final and most important advice is to praise your staff in public, and only punish them in private. Also, take this with a grain of salt but advice nevertheless, don’t be a dick. Simple as that, really.
Bourbon is Booming
Bourbon’s on everyone’s lips these days and Clair McLafferty is here to investigate. McLafferty is from the South herself and explains the monumental educational effort by distilleries and bartenders it took to turn people’s attention to new whiskey. She says, “bourbon’s recent popularity has come with a distinctive downside. Some makers claim there is a bourbon shortage, and have taken the opportunity to raise prices, remove the age statements from the bottles, and increase their production capabilities.” Jeremy Johnson, Louisville-based owner of META is excited for all that’s to come, though. “Dramatic growth can push that really experimental phase, but it can also stall it. I’m cautiously optimistic.” A little bit of caution never hurt.
Bartenders Rallying for Mental Health
Imbibe magazine recently ran a piece on Sother Teague, a known figure in New York City’s cocktail community. Teague had long struggled with anxiety and depression and used work, and more work, to help him cope. After a broken arm left him at home with “80 extra hours to kill” he decided to deal with it head-on and shared his story on Facebook. His story is a common one. “Bars and restaurants are largely staffed by people seeking an alternative work option to the standard 9-to-5. That can both attract a wide range of personality styles (and sometimes, mental issues), as well as create an environment where such issues can incubate—particularly in the bar.” The article mentions some Facebook groups formed to help hospitality workers dealing with mental health challenges. Including Chefs with Issues and Ben’s Friends – a group composed of industry professionals in recovery which was started in Charleston by three chefs who came together after a friend relapsed and died.