Educating Bartenders Worldwide.
By Beverage Trade Network
We recently interviewed Kristofer van Zanten, Beverage Director at British Bankers Club, California, to hear his story and get to know him better. Read on as he shares bartending tips, his opinions and preferences on drinks trends and ingredients, and how he evolved himself to move through Covid.
My name is Kristofer van Zanten; gastronome, sommelier, mixologist, bonsai enthusiast, amateur herpetologist, rare book collector, painter, musician, bon vivant and Bay Area native.
After having a project canceled 15yrs ago, I, being in my early 20's, needed to find something to pay rent. After having lucked my way into a pub bartending gig, I soon realized that I was NOT meant to project manage in the basement of a library and instead was supposed to be face to face with my fellow humans. I have yet to look for another office job after having found the wonders that are working a bar.
Now more than ever is it important for bartenders to have, not just a well rounded knowledge of the bar and products therein, but a rather extensive knowledge of every product that is behind the bar, and even the ones that are not; the days of a bartender not knowing how to make a WIKI WAKI WOO are over. It is increasingly important to have an in-depth knowledge of all products including their makeup, their origin, their history, their producers, etc.
Mixology is becoming quite difficult because of Covid. Fewer people are venturing out and experiencing new things, rightly so, but it is having additional, unintended consequences. Fewer people are venturing out, and that means they are also much less likely to try new things. They are more hesitant to try a new spot, and that small number of potential walk-ins for a bar or restaurant can very well be their profit margin.
Patience, the ability to try and learn new things, but most importantly the ability to unlearn and relearn old things. It is too often I see an older bartender shaking a Manhattan with the response "That's how I learned to do it." Be able to accept that maybe you were taught incorrectly, or that times have changed and so have preferences.
First, it would be wonderful for all rep's reading this to understand that I am purchasing something for my bar, it is out of necessity, not recommendation. Most importantly when I am purchasing something for my bar I NEED it. If I do not need a specific brand/product, I am of course open to learning more about what is available...within reason. The vendors I have gained a solid rapport with and the ones I continue to work with, regardless of my working location, are the ones that understand my personality and my needs.
Secondly, I have to be getting a good price on it. If I cannot sell something for a reasonable price I will not add it to my list. If I cannot obtain a BTG that allows me to maintain my pour cost within the parameters I need to operate I will not consider it... Unless it is amazing...
Lastly, it has to be good. Of course, if something is amazing... price it for those that will appreciate it.
Availability and reliability are my primary focus. I am uninterested in free branded mugs, nor do I want a free bottle with the purchase of a case. Please refer back to the previous question to better understand how I approach benefit programs from suppliers.
I see more and more Build-at-Home or Bar Kits being popular in 2021. As we are able to go out and socialize less and less we are able to fill the need for an interesting cocktail we are unable to create ourselves. No matter how talented the mixologist, there is always something to someone else's beverages; a touch we do not possess.
Pre-mixed beverages in the bottle or can are becoming increasingly popular and more readily available. A wonderful change in this trend is now there are a number of cocktails that have a true distillate as their base, instead of flavored malt beverages that flooded the market in the past.
Additionally, I see mixologists and bars being able to provide their mixing expertise for those that are able to supply the items themselves. Batching for parties and/or individuals could be a good way for one to utilize their talents.
Believe it or not, what I enjoy most about my job is the 30% chaos any day will bring you. I am normally very meticulous and methodical with at least one contingency plan. No matter how a day is planned and even if you leave no stone unturned, 30% of your day cannot be planned. The only ones that can survive long-term in our industry are those that, not only can problem solve very quickly over and over, but live for it. I love that my job is not boring.
I couldn't answer that. All spirits are created equally with the exception of Vodka, which should not be created at all. If I had to choose one thing alone, it would be Champagne.
Stay away from popular bar books; most of them are full of a ton of nonsensical rigmarole and if you are just starting out you won't know the difference between good advice and bad. Go to lots of pubs, bars, dives, posh hipster places that smell like an armpit, hit up those restaurant bars and lounges and read every page of all of their menus. Learn popular styles. Read wine lists; learn how to read them and understand them; learn why that is important.
Try things. Ask for a taste of those wines that sounds interesting, or strange, or simply completely unknown. Ask for a taste of that new local beer you have never heard of. With that in mind, learn what you should and should not ask for a taste of.
Learn the industry and the people in it, not just what that Purple Book says. Gain their respect and there is nothing that they will be unwilling to teach you.
And don't forget, do NOT say "This is how I was taught..."
I do fear that the industry will be hurting for a while. Not only is small business all over closing, restaurants with minimal profit margins to begin with don't stand much of a chance. I fear that in the near future the only places to eat for some time to come will be larger corporate run locations are those that are started by those with a lot of money, but no knowledge of the industry and what it requires; how much work is put in to get so little in return. The industry will bounce back and return to everything that it once was... but that won't be for some time to come.
I don't think that there will be many permanent negative effects. I hope that more and more locations are realizing the importance of a proper takeout program and, frankly, how easy it actually is to implement. That and I also hope we don't go smashing the tables together again just to fit in an extra 4 people.