Features

Here’s what the bar industry wants left behind in 2018

Industry experts share their thoughts on trends and habits they hope won’t follow us into 2019. By Holly Graham and Elysia Bagley.

Fussy drinks

(COA, Hong Kong)
“Stop over-garnishing cocktails for aesthetic reasons and focus on garnishes that can really help enhance the experience and flavour of a drink. I have recently seen a few top bars focusing more on flavour rather than aesthetics, but there are still drinks out there garnished heavily with ingredients that don’t play an important role in the cocktail. It’s probably because of the trend of ‘Instagrammable cocktails’, and a lot of new bar owners expecting too much from their bartenders, so they encourage them to make drinks which look like showpieces. Instagrammable cocktails are definitely effective for exposure, but bartenders are like chefs – our primary focus should be the entire package, with flavour being the primary goal.”

(Seedlip Brand Ambassador for Hong Kong and China)
“Clarification. It’s unnecessary prep in my view and doesn’t change the flavour. If a drink is an ugly colour, chuck it in a vessel you can’t see through!”

(Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei)
“Complicated garnishes often feature on cocktails without an actual purpose. Less of that please!”

Bartenders getting too ahead of themselves

(#FindTheLockerRoom and Backstage, Bangkok)
“I want people to stop going too far and get back to basics first – especially the newer generation bartenders. Many people try to push themselves by using fancy ingredients and cocktails with new methods, techniques, flavours, etc; especially on trend things like re-distillation, fermentation and the like. But sometimes, when a cocktail comes out, it’s just too much, and lacks balance. It’s better to go back to basics, gaining a foundation knowledge about what you’re trying to do and knowing how to balance cocktails. I just want to say – please make sure you can make a good Martini and a Daiquiri before you go for a fancy cocktail.”

(The Curator Coffee & Cocktails and OTO, Manila)
“Personally, though ‘trends’ are important, I’d love to see more bars go back to the basics and focus on hospitality. Service is usually good all around, but nothing beats the genuine warmth and care one exudes to his or her clientele – first timer or regular, industry or not. After all, we’re bartenders – we tend to the bar and our guests.”

Shots

(Campari Group, Asia)
“Personally, I would love to cut down on drinking shots. I also want to leave behind negative vibes – every year and every day, I hope to leave them behind and I look forward to what’s coming.”

(The Barback Collective, Mumbai)
“This is a tough one, as I am sometimes the culprit of this: times when, in an effort to increase the energy in an environment, I want to show my fellow bar peeps and consumers appreciation with numerous shots in a short span of time. Though this is often in the name of camaraderie and to welcome them into a bar or city during visits and guest shifts, the shots tend to be high proof spirits like bourbon, mezal, etc. I greatly appreciate the gesture, and as a gentleman in training I am one never say no to a shot that’s been offered as a mark of respect (except when its gin! No one in the right mind should do gin shots). But, that said, in the coming year I would rather express our love with low abv shots, which may or may not be better for the system but certainly go down easier. Here are a few of my picks for great little ‘shots for everybody!’ moments: Amaro Montenegro or any other amaro; half Fernet Branca with half Mancino Rosso or any other acceptable vermouth; Masthia with dry vermouth.”

(Proof & Co)
“Never-ending shots for the guest bartender – I can’t make a good drink if I am already drunk! Shots toward the end of the shift are most welcome.”

Speakeasies

(The Bar Awards, Asia)
“This is something that I’ve been hoping would be left behind years ago… prohibition ended in the 1930s, so all of these discreet hidden entrances, hard to find locales and the general ‘speakeasy’ idea should have ended then too. I would imagine that all bar operators would prefer their customers to be in their bars enjoying its experience, rather than on the street finding it.”

Bad vibes

(Agimat Bar & Kitchen, Manila)
“I normally treasure everything in the industry – good or bad, I always learn a lot. But I want to leave behind my bad health habits, like uncontrollable cravings for coffee, even late at night just so I can stay up to do some r&d. Also, people who are not in line with my vision – for me, money is not always the reason you build concepts.”

(Proof & Co)
“Overpriced drinks and not having a time for family and dear friends.”

(IB HQ, Singapore)
“High bills, daily coffee tipples and negativity.”

Creating a bad environment – both in and out of the bar

(Asia Today and Teens of Thailand, Bangkok) “Plastic straws and single use plastics – the planet has suffered enough already.”

(Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou)
“There are basic things that everyone should leave behind – using small ice to shake drinks, plastics, leaking water taps, wasted fruit and ingredients in general.“

(Spirits Box)
“Artificially flavoured syrups and BPA plastics. It’s so simple to make syrups, and when you do them yourself you can make fresh, seasonal flavours that are high quality, far cheaper and have less environmental impact.”

(SEA Brand Ambassador for Monkey Shoulder)
“2018 has been (by all accounts) a pretty tough year for many of us, conversely one of the most interesting times to be alive. Our industry is incredibly vast and a large majority may take for granted how international politics, the economy and social affairs affect our everyday operations. Whether it be scotch whisky production and distribution being under attack from pending Brexit, or hard-hitting questions of morality within our industry, there have been many things to learn and some to be left behind.

A few things that we have already begun to ditch are single use plastics and straws, which, when I think back to my days as a full time bartender, looking down at the end of the night into a sink packed with black plastic straws that I had used for quality control checks, I shiver at the thought of what I and many others must have been doing to the environment.

Also, a mind set that we are beginning leaving behind is exclusion. We are no longer an exclusive society of industry professionals (heavily weighted towards males) that intimidate or berate those trying to follow in our footsteps. When I first started out in this industry, the way I was treated and the things that were said to me on a nightly basis as a barback or glassy weren’t exactly words of encouragement. This tone of voice that was incredibly commonplace back then saw many junior bartenders or barbacks lose interest in progressing or learning.”

Asia being left behind

(Union Group, Jakarta)
“In my opinion, bar awards in Asia’s industry should not only focus on Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. A lot of interesting bars need to grow in places like Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta and Bali – it’s all of Asia’s time now.”


Click here to see the bar industry’s wish list for 2019.

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