Previously on the alchemist says, we caused a stir in stirred…not shaken. An article where this much debated subject has become more of a broad concept than a specific recipe with many variables than a fixed constant. For those that have no inclination as to what I am referring to, I suggest you dust off those Ian Fleming novels placed high above that rich mahogany bookshelf of yours. I recommend using a wooden spoon for reaching purposes.
While I am on the topic of stirring, I wanted to educate bartenders, consumers and venue owners within South Africa about an ingredient / products found within venues / establishments across the country. South African venue owners and consumers tend to deviate towards anything “sugar coated” #read between the hundreds and thousands as opposed to the lines.
Once upon a time…
Gomme syrup, an ingredient used dating before Prohibition. Interestingly, gum arabic, an emulsifying ingredient was added to sugar syrup to prevent the sugar from crystallizing, adding another dimension in terms of taste and texture to the once then timeless classics. Depending on the type of drink, not all drinks would call for sugar syrup, the addition of bitters, even a dash of lime / lemon juice can heighten and balance flavour to the overall taste profile of a particular drink. I am not inclining that it should not be present, realistically speaking, through experience all drinks will contain a sugar content, that is a given, majority of all alcohols will contain a sugar content regardless if none is present.
Society is constantly evolving to supplement supply and demand, especially within the service and hospitality industry. It is a constant evolving entity. We are living in an environment where technology plays an integral role within our daily lives. Information is literally within our grasps, various social media platforms are now educating consumers which have a direct influence on how businesses operate today. In most cases high expectations and standards have to be met within the service industry due to the current economic situation that is affecting the majority within South Africa. Does one need to compromise quality over quantity? What attributes towards this? The role of bartenders has a direct influence within the segment of the service industry as bartenders lack the technical ability and knowledge based on:
- An undervaluing profession / stigma attached within the service industry
- Training methods that have been conducted by venue owners / companies that implement these menu driven programmes.
- Social economic and Climatic reasons
- Working conditions
While every product has its place within the industry, different venues cater for different markets. Has the very essence of this once noble craft been lost due to the introduction of these “products” that have beleaguered the industry? The authenticity of the craft has evolved to either a 2 part process involving a spirit base and product that essentially contains all of the “essential” ingredients to manufacture the “perfect” Cosmopolitan / Margarita to reduce overall operating costs and increase profit margins within venues. Syrups, coulis (pureed fruit / vegetable) which contain excessive volumes of sugar, have compensated fresh produce / liqueurs due to cost, shelf life and simplicity of the product.
What happened to the “bartender”, a proud and honourable profession guided by a rigid code of ethics? The bartender handling the finest and freshest of ingredients with such precision and understanding. The bartender who would construct a drink with such style, finesse and elegance. The bartender who would give an unforgettable drinking experience, ensuring that you had left the bar exultant when you had first arrived. The bartender who connected and built strong relations with his clientele. The bartender who exuded passion and enthusiasm. Do you know this bartender? For some of those seasoned within the South African industry, it seems almost like a distant memory.
Valid points have been raised for debate within this article, you, the reader may view this negatively. With every negative aspect there are many positives that can be drawn. Many influential figures within the industry are striving to better the development of the industry. With the introduction of many grass root initiative programmes that have been implemented by these companies, let us all strive to inspire and educate the bartender of today to be the bartender of tomorrow, maybe then it won’t be such a task even though there is syrup involved.
…the alchemist says