Admin: This discussion split from the thread on Pegu Club, as it is an interesting one in its own right.

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The Pegu Club is only the latest in the new generation of connoisseur"s cocktail bars. I was fortunate enough to be in Seattle last weekend and there is a huge interest in raising the bar and elevating the cocktail experience with better trained bar chefs. And I"m confident that this trend will continue to grow around the world as consumers are drinking less, but better, spirits and cocktails.


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The Pegu Club is only the latest in the new generation of connoisseur"s cocktail bars. I was fortunate enough to be in Seattle last weekend and there is a huge interest in raising the bar and elevating the cocktail experience with better trained bar chefs. And I"m confident that this trend will continue to grow around the world as consumers are drinking less, but better, spirits and cocktails.


I began using the term "bar chefs" after spending four days with a number of cocktail-concocting persons who felt the term "bartender" doesn"t describe their contribution to mixing alcoholic beverages. This is also the term used in Tony Abu Ganim"s Fine Living television program titled Raising the Bar, America"s Best Bar Chefs. Tony used the term because he felt stongly that those people who mix the best drinks are much more than bartenders: a term that would describe anyone capable of pulling a beer tap. None of us would call a MacDonald"s line cook a chef, but if you prefer another term, please share it with us.


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Pan


Posted September 8, 2005

Pan

6294.org Society staff emeritusLocation:New York, NY
Posted September 8, 2005

I would have thought a "bar chef" was making bar food (which shows that I"m thinking of the American rather than original French sense of "chef"). I thought that people skilled at making mixed drinks were called mixologists, no?


Michael aka "Pan"

 


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chrisstearns


Posted September 9, 2005

chrisstearns

participating memberLocation:Vancouver, BC, Canada
Posted September 9, 2005
persons who felt the term "bartender" doesn"t describe their contribution to mixing alcoholic beverages. This is also the term used in Tony Abu Ganim"s Fine Living television program



With all respect to Mr. Abu Ganim (and others that use the term), we"re bartenders.

This label used to be a source of pride, and denote all the things you"ve alluded to: craft, care in mixing, knowledge of history. The fact that the term has been eroded over the past 75 years is our problem to rectify. We need to demonstrate that there is more to bartending than what they"ve seen.

Hiding behind other terms to dodge the negative connotations of what a bartender has become is the easy way out. (And frankly, I think it draws an unnecessary division across a profession that needs to grow as a group right now. Let"s not be parochial.)

Instead of telling our customers we"re not bartenders, let"s show them what it means to be a great one. We own the label for better or worse--it"s ours to rehabilitate.


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slkinsey


Posted September 9, 2005

slkinsey

6294.org Society staff emeritusLocation:New York, New York
Posted September 9, 2005

This is actually an interesting question.

Back in the day, the bartender or tavern owner was likely to be one of the most respected men in town. Top bartenders like Jerry Thomas were celebrities.

Then Prohibition happened; then the highball era began post-Prohidition; then youth rebellion in the 1960s caused several generations of young people to reject cocktails in the 1960s and 70s, and with the rise of drug culture alcohol came to be valued more for its intoxicating qualities than its gustatory gualities; etc. By the end of that cycle, the title "bartender" came to be associated with a relatively untalented old guy who pushed cheap beer and shots of watered down booze across a bar. The overall image of a bartender is still more or less the same, except that it now also includes relatively untalented but copiously endowed and scantily clad young women and men pushing expensive beer, overpriced "superpremium" vodka and the occasional sugary concoction. A long fall from the Jerry Thomas days.

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So I can understand why a true craftsman (craftsperson?) in the cocktails area wouldn"t want to be associated with the modern day image of "bartender." And, of course, there is a huge difference between the people shaking drinks at bars like Pegu Club, Milk & Honey and Flatiron Lounge and the people pouring beer and shots at the local bar or, worse yet, serving premix Margaritas at the local Bennigan"s. On the other hand, I can also understand how someone with a real appreciation for cocktail history and an understanding of the proud provenance of "bartender" (which includes just about everyone at the aforementioned establishments) might prefer to stick with the old title.

Another interesting question is what to call people like Dale DeGroff, Audrey Saunders, Julie Reiner, Dave Wondrich, Sasha Petraske, et al. -- people who design cocktails and cocktail lists, but who don"t tend to do so much shaking behind the bar any more? If the men and women shaking drinks every day are like the "line cooks" and "sous chefs" of the cocktail world, Julie, Sasha and company are like "executive chefs." I suppose the best comparison to the culinary world might be with a sushi bar like Sushi Yasuda, where Yasuda-san is the head guy who determines the style and oversees the other sushi chefs, but the various sushi chefs at Sushi Yasuda interact directly with the customers and may make some adjustments/creations tailored to a specific customer or based on a request.

For me, I"m not fond of "bar chef." I like "bartender" and sometimes "mixologist."