20 May Bartending Trends and Developments in 2019
What do I think will happen in bartending in 2019?
Looking at cocktail trends is looking at social developments. What is happening in the world and how does this affect our drinking behaviour. In this article I try not to look in my crystal ball, but I try to look at social and political developments to predict what will happen in the cocktail scene. I am not looking at which spirits will be trending or which cocktail we will be drinking, but more on broader changes in the industry.
Bartending Trends 2019
The proto- professionalization of sustainability
Sustainability is big, and there are a lot of bars that have a great sustainability program. When marketing takes over though, sustainability becomes more of a PR thing than an actual commitment to be sustainable. After all, often our guest come to the bar by car or motorcycle, we get our spirits from all over the world and our bartenders fly all over the world for guest shifts and bar convents. Re-using your lime shells and not using plastic straws seems more like a symbolic compensation.
You will see this happen more and more. Sustainability as a marketing tool for bars and restaurants. Part of the reason this will grow is the proto-professionalization of the sustainability concept. People want to be sustainable, yet don’t really know what it means and what the concept comprehends. It has become such a popular and established term, that the actual meaning gets twisted and lost.
Once the big companies start calling their products sustainable, consumers will follow. And this is often when the concept starts to become blurry.
Will we still have bartending/cocktail competitions in 10 years?
Bartending competitions have been around for many years. The IBA organized its first international cocktail competition in 1955. The past decade we have seen more and more brands organize competitions. The early winner of these competitions are well known names in the industry.
Especially in the years before internet was big in the bartending industry (mind you, internet was there 10 years ago, but facebook and Instagram wasn’t. Having a website of blog was only for the early adventurers, winners of the cocktail competitions were almost mitycal figures. When you were told, they were coming to visit town, all bartenders gathered to see them do a guestshift.
Brands also noticed and saw potential in this. Winners of the competitions were offered a contract to represent the company, often for a year till there was a new winner. This was a very good possibility for the bartender. The downside is that you will be affiliated with this brand for the larger part of your career.
Besides that, the question arose weather you are a good bartender when you win a competition, or you are more a good marketeer and performer. The ‘startenders’ of nowadays are the bartenders that run a good cocktail program in their bars. Internet has partly taken away the relevance of winning a competition to get become a well-known name in the industry.
This is the bartender point of view. There has been a large discussion weather bartenders need brands, of brands need bartenders. This is a difficult discussion, not to be answered easily. Brands will evaluate the effectiveness of the competitions and will weigh the costs of organizing a competition versus the money spend. This might tilt towards not organizing the competition in the coming years.
Will we see the same happening to cocktail competitions as we have seen to televised talent shows? Competing in Idols or the X-factor is not necessarily good for your career. It an give you a short and intense publicity boost and give you fame for a couple of months, but in the long run most of these talents careers are not sustainable.
What the future brings for bartending competitions is not a 100% clear to me. But that something is going to change is sure. I put my biggest bet on a serious cut in the amount of cocktail competitions.
The use of science in a non-scientific way
Why do we like science so much in bartending? In a lot of seminars and on a lot of bartending related websites I see references to scientific research or people claiming they have done scientific research. Understand me correctly, I too value science in a lot of aspects of life. But often I see bartenders using it in a way that is not scientific.
Recently I heard a guy stating in a seminar that alcohol is healthy for us. He revered to a research done and published in a magazine. This research was a scientific research indeed, yet his conclusion and use of this research was not scientific.
First of all, you can’t only read the conclusions and use them in your seminar. It is quite rare that scientific studies actually proof something. The design of the study and the methodology are very important factors. All studies must be evaluated in the context of all other related studies. We are very tempted to have an opinion and look for research that supports that. We look and look for that one research, we don’t read the research but only the conclusion and use that to our benefit.
In science we falsify, we don’t verify. This means that if we have an hypothesis, we do everything to prove that our hypothesis is not true. Only if we can’t prove it is not true, we can say it’s true. You will often see that there are many sides to a hypothesis.
Globalisation vs Patriotism
Society has seen some changes the past decades. Internet has had an enormous impact. The world has become ‘smaller’ and globalised. Europe has become one, and more and more countries have opened their trade boarders.
When things change quickly, you often see a counter reaction. The counter reaction to globalization is a new kind of patriotism and populism.
Together with the many negative effects of this development, you see positive movement in the form of a new gained pride of local products. Dutch people being proud of Genever, Scandinavian bartenders using aquavit and the rise of Mezcal and Tequila in Mexico.
Many bars are using local products or even distill at home. Native in Singapore is a good example of this, using only products from the region. In the coming years, you will see this development growing. Together with this regained pride in local products, we are more aware of where products come from and the footprint the shipping of these products leaves on our planet.
The internet is an open source that can ‘change history’
The internet is an open source where anybody can place things. With a good SEO (search engine optimalisation) program, your website can even be the first result in google. Where we used to have a few reliable cocktail writers and historians, now any blogger can post a story on his or her blog.
Blogs like tipsy bartender have a lot of followers. Their recipes are not always correct. Unfortunately, people take this as the truth, because what is on the internet is true. Educated bartenders form just a small segment of the people making cocktails, and before we know it an Old Fashioned is made by muddling two maraschino cherries and adding a splash of coke.
This is a well know process in storytelling and in history. When stories are transferred, they change over time and sometimes the truth gets lost. You have probably played a game called the story carousel. You sit in a circle and whisper a small story in the ear of the person next to you. At the end of the circle, the story has changed drastically.
And we have only seen the beginning of this. Maybe we should develop a quality mark for cocktail writers and cocktail blogs. A Wikipedia for cocktails, where all entries are being double or triple checked by ‘certified’ bartenders or cocktail historians.
There is no such thing as gender difference
Twenty years ago, things were simple. Men drank beer, and women drank wine and cocktails. Since we entered the second golden age of the cocktail (in my opinion this started with the books of Dale DeGroff, Gary Regan and especially David Wondrich) we have seen these differences slowly disappear. Men drink wine, and even cocktails.
In the Netherlands, we are becoming more and more emancipated. In Dutch trains for instance, the announcements don’t say ladies and gentlemen anymore, but dear travellers. A gender neutral announcement. On official documents you can be male, female or transgender and more and more public restrooms are gender neutral. Globally you see comparable changes, and in the bar scene these changes become more and more evident.
When I started bartending, you had clear boy and girl drinks. Nowadays women can drink an old fashioned and men can drink a cosmopolitan. We design drinks for a mood, for a moment of the day, for a celebration, for a concept but no longer for gender. The coming years this development will continue to grow.
Bartenders can be male and female. The coming years gender will be less and less of a subject I hope. We won’t talk about male or female bartenders anymore but about bartenders. Everybody will be treated and paid equally!