After sharing what they want left behind in 2018, industry experts share their hopes for 2019. By Holly Graham and Elysia Bagley.

Sustainability, community, health and wellbeing

(East Imperial China brand ambassador)
“I hope the industry will focus more on personal health, and pay more attention toward environmental protection. We need more industry exchanges to make the whole industry better, and then more people will join and value the environment.”

(Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou)
“I want is to see more craft spirits made in China and more bartenders joining masterclasses – especially when they’re done by passionate and talented people. But that also means these events need to be more meaningful, as it has to be win-win for the brands and the bar teams.”

(Proof & Co)
“We need more bars looking into sustainability programs and more brands involved in community building – and not just in Beijing and Shanghai – and more collaborations between brands. I’d also like to see people respecting and understanding the classics, but not be afraid to tap into new, unknown territory. Also, stop posting irresponsible information on WeChat – education starts from the basics, so people should stop passing the wrong information to young bartenders. Drink smart, learn well, stay healthy, be happy.”

(SEA brand ambassador for Monkey Shoulder)
“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.”

Service, hospitality and getting back to basics

(The Union Trading Company, Shanghai)
“How many bars in China have you seen that have a 200k bottle of whisky, or the whole collection of Chichibu, but the staff are undertrained and overworked and Jack Daniels is listed under American bourbon? I hope to see more well-trained staff, a higher level of professionalism and for people to stop with the ‘my whisky bottle is more expensive than yours’ dick-measuring contest. Plus, stop asking what the ‘cocktail trends’ are – trends are exactly that, trends. They come and go, but classics never die, good old-fashioned hospitality never dies, hard work never dies – clarified drinks do.”

(Spirits Box, China)
“I’d like to see a focus on hospitality and service – we are in the industry of hospitality. Making sure every guest feels welcome, engaging in what they’re drinking and the overall atmosphere of your bar. Perfecting the basics goes such a long way – build a strong foundation of classics, techniques and service. Learn from different styles and mentors, and learn to adapt!”

(JungleBird, Kuala Lumpur)
“This is massively generic, but I’d like to see better general customer service in 2019. I had a nose turned up at me for ordering a Mojito the other week. I like a Mojito. When made well, it’s a good drink. Let’s not pretend that because we’re more informed that we’re better than our guests.”

Education and the next generation 

(EQUIS, Beijing)
“We need to see more and more diversity at the upper echelons of our industry – it is getting better and better, but are we really doing enough? Also, social media is a blessing and also problematic – yes, we are the most connected generation thatʼs ever been, but also the most disconnected. Industry personnel need to be aware of what content is going out, especially for young and coming talent, because I feel education, teaching and learning are getting lost in translation, and some of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes gets lost to the glamorous edited product.”

(Asia Today and Teens of Thailand, Bangkok)
We need more contributions from industry veterans; the passing of knowledge to younger generations. – less YouTube, more human connection.”

(SEA Brand Ambassador for Monkey Shoulder)
“My hopes for 2019 are also to see a wider range of dedicated education programs or outreach programs to not only encourage more people to join our industry, but also to slow the pace at which someone is expected to learn. More often than not bars are in need of staff that can jump straight on to the bar – at the rate of growth we are currently experiencing across Asia, there will be more bars than there are bartenders. The brand ambassadors and companies like Proof & Company have fantastic programs like JERRY and soon to come Collectif that are able to help, however, I would love to see more bars and individuals get involved with education.”

(Caffe Fernet, Singapore)
“I hope to see more young bartenders who are truly passionate about the industry and work hard for their goals and dreams, while still staying grounded and humble. And more exciting bars that will raise the bar of the industry we all love!”

(The Barback Collective, Mumbai)
“I want to see more young bartenders talking about financially sustainable business models and drink/food costing for new bars, without trying to impress on people with drink concepts, expensive spirit heavy back bars and making awards lists.”

(JungleBird, Kuala Lumpur)
“I think everyone should do a WSET course in spirits. There are currently two levels, with the third being introduced soon. Anyone who works in wine will have to do a WSET at one point, so why can’t that be the industry standard for bartenders?”

Bartenders getting outside of their comfort zones

(The Old Man, Hong Kong)
“I hope to try lots of new flavours, as many bar goers are changing their taste. I hope to see more local flavours and culinary cocktails that require intense preparation behind the scenes. I want to see more rebellious bartenders when it comes to creating cocktails – no more playing in the safe zone. Push the limit and create crazy cocktails with crazy ingredients, but present them in a simple way, without fancy garnishes.”

(The Curator Coffee & Cocktails and OTO, Manila)
“A little biased, but having traveled quite a bit around Asia in 2018, I wish that a lot more industry folks would travel to the likes of Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City. Seriously, there’s so much going on with a lot of things to share and learn from each other. The food is amazing, too!”

(Pussyfoot Saloon, Seoul)
“In 2019, I’d like to see bartenders having more fun, forgetting about awards and focussing on learning the basics. Remember, we are doing this to serve and host people, to make them feel special. This is not about us. Eventually awards and recognition will come along the way but don’t think about it, just enjoy yourself!”