The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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40  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 Mara Marski is The Tasting Panel's Spirits Editor and resident bartender. PHOTO: DUSTIN DOWNING W hen it comes to the topic of bar tools, I generally think of the physical equipment that helps me do my job: tins, strainers, mixing glasses, spoons. There's something comforting and easy about the weight of these objects in my hands, and after so many hours spent handling them, I inherently know how to best engage them as I work. This changed in early April when I attended Pernod Ricard USA's Bartender Advocacy Convention at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. One segment that resonated par- ticularly strongly concerned the less-obvious tools of our trade and was led by Brian Bartels, Bar Director of Happy Cooking Hospitality and author of The Bloody Mary: The Lore and Legend of a Cocktail Classic, with Recipes for Brunch and Beyond. While the day-long event included thoughtful discussions spanning many aspects of the industry, from the chemical interplay of acid and sugar to managing high-volume bars, Bartels' recur- ring theme was that these so-called tools bartenders regularly overlook are often rooted in our own humanity. There are many reasons to bartend, be it a love of the industry or the spirits themselves, but as our interactions increasingly unfold online, Bartels said bars have become a last resort for what he calls "social protein": leaving it up to bartenders to "take some heart and soul and give it back to the world." While it's a moving sentiment, it would have felt abstract if Bartels hadn't broken down the concept into several small actions we can easily perform to manifest that "heart and soul" behind the bar. Some of these actions are simple and concrete, like mak- ing more eye contact with guests and enthusiastically welcoming newcomers into your space. Bartels elaborated on other skills like active listening, clear communication—including nonverbal cues like body posture— and anticipating the needs of guests and coworkers alike. These behaviors are more subjective and require practice to engage as skillfully as we would our tins or shakers, but just like our tools on the bar, they help us to do our job more effectively while making a lasting impression. While the seminar was far from what I had expected, it ended up being a much-needed reminder of my favorite aspect of our indus- try. Every day, we get the opportunity to connect with strangers and show them a little bit of warmth. Like Bartels says, "Kindness is a garnish that is guaranteed fresh and always in season." Brian Bartels, author and Bar Director of Happy Cooking Hospitality, led a discussion aimed toward helping bartenders connect and engage while on the job at Pernod Ricard's Bartender Advocacy Convention in Los Angeles. Tools of the Trade BRIAN BARTELS REMINDS US THAT OUR GREATEST TOOL BEHIND THE BAR IS OUR OWN HUMANITY by Mara Marski PHOTO COURTESY OF PERNOD RICARD

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