Bartending as a career has really taken off, and competitions such as Protégé and World Class are providing platforms for talent to shine and helping to launch people like Julian Short, owner of Sin + Tax, into the limelight they so deserve.
Julian’s highlight for the year is being able to support not one, but two salaried professional barmen at his establishment. His eyes light up when he says, “A few years back there was no way you’d have been able to make a career out of bartending in the South African bar industry as a mixologist.”
Innovation is the key to Julian’s success, coupled with the growing range of seriously mixable, premium brands becoming available in South Africa.
Reinventing the kitsch cocktails of the seventies and eighties using fresh ingredients that subtly enhance the handcrafted base spirits is resulting in a cocktail revolution in South African bars and restaurants. Gone are the days of consumers only drinking wine with dinner.
Nowadays, every restaurant and bar worth visiting has a selection of freshly-made, delicious cocktails and everyone is ordering – men and women! So, what’s changed?
AJ Snetler, Brand Ambassador for Truman and Orange and mixologist extraordinaire, explains, “The bar industry has reinvented itself. Nowadays, visiting a bar is an experience and people order cocktails because there is so much choice. Handmade syrups, fresh juices, foam, spices – nothing is off limits and who wouldn’t want to taste a drink that has been made by a professional from the freshest ingredients and using premium spirits as the base?”
He raises a valid point: the growing middle-class wants to experiment and has a little more to spend on everyday luxuries, like cocktails, especially when ordering one involves a premium experience. Even better are the stories behind the drinks.
Says AJ, “Consumers want to know that what they are drinking is beautifully-made and authentic. Today’s drinkers want the human story, too. They want to know the story behind the brand they are drinking, and where it came from.”.
Here’s to cool, kitsch cocktails – make that another one, James!