A new wave of ‘activist’ bartenders is aspiring to create a more socially conscious spirits industry. SB explores some of the leading initiatives shaping the on-trade’s more inclusive, sustainable and healthier future.
*This feature was originally published in the August 2018 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.
The interests and responsibilities of bartenders have evolved beyond simply making drinks as the industry becomes more socially, environmentally and politically conscious. Indeed, a new phenomenon has arrived, championing progressive change and bringing the on-trade into a thoroughly modern era: the activist bartender.
The movement comes as bartending assumes an exalted image. The profession is no longer a ‘day job’ for those looking to pursue other dreams and has matured into a calling with real and exciting prospects.
There are many more opportunities for today’s bartenders than for previous generations. They can decide to stay behind the bar for decades, open up their own place, become a brand ambassador or launch new brands. With the rise of the cocktail ‘celebrity’ and industry role models, bartending has become a truly respected profession.
Avant-garde thinkers and shakers are now striving to shape the industry and the wider world in which it operates to create a more promising future for all.
Central to this aim is to promote messages of responsible drinking. “Bartenders have a new opportunity to advise about how to responsibly enjoy alcohol,” says famed bartender Alex Kratena. “At the same time that we need to learn much more about our craft, we need to learn so much more about how we drink.”
Kratena launched the not-for-profit bartender collective P(our) in 2016 with fellow bartending luminaries Monica Berg, Simone Caporale, Ryan Chetiyawardana and Jim Meehan. The organisation and its annual symposium seek to “build a holistic community for the global drinks industry” and explore important issues such as gender and the role of the modern bartender.
The latest seminar programme for the Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC) festival in New Orleans also demonstrated the on-trade’s social awakening, covering discrimination, mental health and harassment.
Other initiatives advocating progressive change can be found throughout the industry, covering a number of important issues – some of which are profiled over the following pages.