Some thoughts on an important topic from an essay that I wrote for the Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year competition.
Hospitality: I remember a year ago, sharing some stories for this very competition, to explain what hospitality meant to me.
My answer now remains the same: one could say that as a bartender my responsibility is production and service. However, it extends beyond that to something far greater and harder to define, which is hospitality.
Hospitality is ever-evolving. It is of the moment, dependent on time, place, and person. It is curating experiences, exceeding expectations, and above all, acting and reacting to make the person across from me feel at ease and taken care of. Hospitality is how I involve emotion in service. It is a feeling. Take hospitality out of bartending, and the drink might as well be coming out of a vending machine. Aside from the basic people and technical skills, a hospitable bartender has the ability to be in the moment. This involves shedding the stresses of the day and coming in to work with body and mind ready to take care of the guests and to support and inspire those I work with. It is being able to sense needs and empathize with others.
To be in the moment is to know when to engage and impact, and when to be invisible, yet available to any eyes that scan the bar for attention. Precision and an acute awareness of everything that is going on in every direction around me are critical; knowledge and technique are important, but empathy and creativity are what can set a bartender apart.
That is all for now, in an on-going, ever-evolving discussion of one of the most difficult to define elements of my life's work.