Bartender takes a Collective approach

William Grant & Sons initiative equips trade with ‘invaluable tools’

Sarah Berardi is general manager at Draffens and the Blue Room

SARAH Berardi, head bartender and general manager of Dundee bars Draffens and the Blue Room, was one of the individuals chosen to take part in William Grant & Sons’ on-trade advocacy programme, the 1887 Collective, this year. Here, she shares some thoughts on her time in the trade as well as how the Collective could help shape her career in future.

How long have you worked in the trade and how did you start?

I’ve been in hospitality for eight years (does that make me sound old?) but in bars for just over four. I started serving cocktails in the French Quarter in New Orleans just to make ends meet, but fell in love with bar work.

Describe your venue and its drinks offer.

Draffens is very much a classic cocktail bar, lots of stirred and brown, very booze-forward cocktails. Blue Room is the complete opposite, it’s an amaro and aperetivo bar. The work keeps me on my toes.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

As bartenders we have the chance to make someone’s day a little better and I love that. Just chatting to people, and enhancing someone’s night is amazing. I just really like making people happy.

What’s your favourite drink and why?

My go-to is always a French 75. I just can’t think of an occasion I wouldn’t want to drink one. They remind me of super sunny summer days back home after a long bike ride, and it’s a really easy drink to twist on as well.

What’s your career highlight so far?

Being shortlisted for emerging bartender of the year at CLASS this past year was pretty insane. I think being dual venue/bar manager has been the most challenging and rewarding for me.

Honestly, I think bartending in Dundee has been the best career move I ever could have made. I have had way more opportunities here than I would have back home.

Who do you admire in the industry and why?

Phil Donaldson and AJ Mcmenemy [of Draffens and the Blue Room] are two people I will always look up to in this industry. From developing a cocktail menu, to choosing glassware, to designing a bar, to running one… I have just learned so much from the two of them and will always be grateful they have given me the opportunities I have.

To watch two people really change the pulse of a city has been really exciting.

Also Sian Buchan was one of the first women in Scotland who really invited me around, and helped me grab my footing in Edinburgh; she is such a powerhouse as well.

How do you relax outside of work?

When I have down time I tend to read a lot. I have been rereading a lot of Aldous Huxley lately, and just finished The Handmaid’s Tale. I try to travel as much as I can as well, and go to see friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow whenever possible.

If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

I would want to grab a drink with Jeff Berry, because he just seems like he would be the coolest guy on the planet, and to be called a tiki historian is pretty amazing. I would want to go to either his bar in New Orleans (I’m homesick) or Dirty Dick in Paris (best Painkiller I have ever had).

How did you get involved in the William Grant & Sons 1887 Collective?

I’m still pinching myself that I was asked to participate. I had heard about it since I moved to Dundee, and it’s always looked like such an immersive experience.

I am very fortunate to call many people at William Grant & Sons not just people I look up to, but friends as well.

I have always really respected everyone I have met in their company, and am just honoured to get an excuse to work alongside them again.

In which ways did the 1887 Collective benefit you?

The friendships I have made throughout the whole process have been ones I know will last a lifetime.

To have such a hands-on way to learn about these brands, and then being able to take that knowledge back to the team has been great. 1887 teaches you how to be a better bartender and a better person in the hospitality industry – it goes far beyond just the brands.

What was your own highlight from the 1887 Collective programme and why?

The first meet up was great, it was just the perfect way to meet everyone. We were in the middle of nowhere, camping, and put into tents with people we didn’t know.

It was amazing. To be removed from technology and just be in nature with friends was perfect.

How is the 1887 Collective going to help you in your trade career going forward?

I think the bonds made here will just grow stronger. Because of relationships made I’ve been able to travel the world and work behind bars I have only ever dreamed of.

The tools I’ve gathered because of 1887 are invaluable, and I can’t wait to see what they will allow me to do.