It’s a good time to be a bartender

With so much happening in the world of premium spirits, it’s a good time to be a bartender, writes Iain Meldrum

THE premium spirits market is by far the most diverse and exciting area for drinkers and drink-makers alike.
And with greater choice comes greater discernment.
What was once the playground of slickly-promoted spirits, now features a growing number of craft-made, small-batch products as people begin to favour passion and provenance.
To any passionate drinks purveyor such as myself the use of good premium spirits when making cocktails is no different from a chef demanding prime quality ingredients in his dishes.
The culinary connection doesn’t stop there, either – bartenders are sneaking into the kitchen and messing about with all the latest gadgets, such as dehydrators and vacuum cookers, in an effort to create new drinking experiences.
The chef’s essential mise en place is gaining importance behind the bar, too. Some venues are already creating house bitters, infusing spirits and aging their drinks in barrels but the practice of pre-assembling cocktails will be much more routine.

Iain Meldrum
Iain Meldrum

Food will also have an influence on flavour; not only will there be more emphasis on cocktail and food pairing but – despite several past misfires by brands releasing truffle or smoked salmon vodkas – savoury drink recipes will become more commonplace with the use of vegetable juices, herbs and spices or even meat.
The flamboyancy and flames of Tiki drinks will continue to ignite and excite but a quantum shift towards craft over theatre will mean simpler, subtler cocktails focusing on flavour and technique and, with the enduring love of interesting new microbrews, we could see a rise in beer-based concoctions too.
Drinks companies have long been aware of the importance of getting the on-trade on-side when it comes to selling their products – but now that the pub-going public are beginning to realise that ‘bartender knows best’, it seems this importance will have to become an imperative to guarantee growth. Savvy servers will have the power to influence the direction of the drinks market and, when an industry listens to its core customer base, wonderful things can happen.