May Day and MAYDAY!

Bars have finally reopened, and on the very first day back, we went out to greet the industry. What an emotional experience it was sitting at a bar again after close to five and a half months in lockdown. As Denmark goes out to celebrate International Labourer's Day here on the 10th day since bars were allowed back into our lives, let's hope the public acknowledges the unmissable change to society. Since hospitality venues have returned, people's moods have eased up and streets are bustling. There's life in practically every venue, and although lots of beards have grown big and many hairdos have changed, it seems like a somewhat return to pre-COVID normality.

Yet, on this May Day, you may still hear a distressed MAYDAY ringing across the country. There is a national demand for skilled bar staff, and with the changes to the reopening plan coming in with such short notice, it means that bars have had little time to train rookie employees. What's more, masks are still on, people are required to book a table 30 minutes before arriving at the bar, and even though bars can now close at 23:00, last orders must still be put in by 22:00, keeping a tight limit on revenue.

But it's a start. And what's more important, the public seems to finally understand that these conditions are harder on the venues than they are on them. Hopefully, this will mean less policing for bars, fewer clashes with guests who don't know the rules and more time to actually enjoy work.

FROM BARTENDER TO ASTRONAUT

During this lockdown, we discovered BBC QI’s random facts podcast show 'No Such Thing As A Fish'. Each episode takes you through four random facts from around the world in a comical, entertaining and informative manner (if Ruby ever wants to revamp the bar's toilet playlist of stand-up comedy specials, they should check out this podcast!). Episode #346 featured Major Tim Peake, the first British ESA (European Space Agency) Astronaut and the seventh UK person to be born in space. Not to mention, he’s a former flair bartender.

During the show, the conversation suddenly turned to spirits, Jerry Thomas’ Blue Flame trick and flair-bartending. As it turns out, before launching himself into space Tim used to flair-tend at the Nag’s Head Pub in his hometown Chichester in Sussex. 

Which, when you think about it, really isn’t that strange. Most of us have at some point “done time” in the hospitality industry. Just like AOC or Mark Ruffalo in the States, without a doubt, there are famous Danes who have had a stint behind the bar once. Except for politicians, clearly.  

Considering the stigma that surrounds bartending, it’s positive to know that coworkers and predecessors have both made the big screen, Parliament and even ended up in outer space. But it also presents an undeniable truth - bartending still isn't an obvious career choice. 

In fact, these days, bars across the country are crying for staff. Many of those who went into lockdown as bartenders in Denmark have emerged as something else or somewhere else. Because of the great work/life balance, Denmark is arguably one of the best places to choose a career in bartending. So how come we are lacking experienced staff and talent to train? For this month’s podcast episode, we sat down with 2x Bartender’s Choice Awards winner Harry Bell from TATA, Copenhagen, to explore exactly what went wrong for the cocktail bar industry, and what we must do in order to get it back on track.

Lastly, thanks to the fact that we are back in business, this month’s newsletter is featuring a lot more events than previous issues. We will be trying to cover them all as much as possible, and with your help, we might manage to spread all the good stories. 

Whenever you have something you want us to know about, or want to share a cocktail or bar that you’re enjoying. feel free to send it to us at [email protected], or tag us on Instagram at @trueliquidmatters.

See you at the bar!

NEWS AND EVENTS

  • 3rd May the Danish final for the DIAGEO World Class Competition will air online. From 12:00 CET and for eight hours straight, 10 bartenders from Denmark will compete to gain a spot at the Global Final. Tune in via Facebook here

  • 7th May in Aarhus, cocktails and gadgets come together in a Friday night event focusing on the future of technology. Mads Schack from Force Majeure will be guiding people through cocktails and craftsmanship whilst Jarl Fink Kondrup from Innovation Lab will talk gadgets and tech gear. If you’re in Aarhus, don’t miss out! Get tickets here.   

  • 8th May Richard Hart (Hart Bakery) and Henriette Lovell (Rare Tea Company) are doing a masterclass on tea and food pairing. Bound to be exciting and a good catalyst for those looking to explore the potential of tea and flavour pairings. Check it out here.  

  • 25th May Not Your Usual Wine Bar is hosting a wine tasting for newbies and people interested in understanding more about why their favourite wines taste the way they do. It’s open to everyone and cheaper if you pay in advance, but drop-ins are welcome too. Check it out here.

  • 27th - 28th May is Aarhus Cocktail Festival! Bars Gedulgt, St. Pauls Apothek and Herr Bartels from Denmark’s second-largest city will invite locals to sip and enjoy cocktails at Ridehuset event hall. Tickets can be purchased here.

  • 28th May Nordic Spirits are opening up their bottleshop to a Friday evening of vermouth roulette! For 100 DKK you get three turns, which corresponds to three serves of vermouth and a chance to win bottles to take home. Nordic Spirits opened their bottleshop right around the time of lockdown and are focusing on locally produced spirits, liqueurs and more. Even if you can’t make it Friday, you should definitely pay them a visit and see what’s on their shelves. For the event, click here

  • 28th - 29th May is Copenhagen Sake Festival! Due to COVID, it was unsure whether the event would take place, but we’re pleased to hear that our fellow sake and umeshu enthusiasts will be able to get their tastebuds tingling! Entry is only 195,- and there will be special Sake Festival discounts! For tickets and time, click here.

  • From 26th May until 4th July, Bar DECO will be bringing a little slice of Italy to Denmark with their Aperitivo Hour. Great drinks, bite-size snacks, and if the weather wants it, sunshine, music and outdoors seatings.

  • LASTLY... A little bird told us that two famous bartenders from Copenhagen are setting up a new venue together in Nørrebro soon! Look out for the dude with the big white earrings, if you wanna know more…

CHECK THEM OUT

  • To get geared for the Copenhagen sake festival, head on over to Kita Sake. They’ve got so much more on show than what you can normally find in Asian shops or INCO.  

  • Ruby has joined its siblings Brønnum and Lidkoeb in adding a courtyard to the venue, which means even if they’re fully booked you can show up and sip their reopening menu anyway. 

  • Empirical Dock House is back this year and looking for people to join. We had a blast there in Summer 2020 when they also launched their non-alcoholic beverages, not to mention the crazy number of pop-ups and collaborations with restaurants and bars. They got their own Instagram going this year, so check it out. 

  • The Barking Dog has returned with a pretty awesome Margarita menu that we’re excited to check out! Vegan fat-washing and avocado has been mentioned - stay tuned!

  • With the 30-minute booking requirement still in place, it’s a challenge to keep customers who forgot to book happy whilst they wait for a table to open up. Mikkeller Aarhus has hacked it, giving away one free beer per customer waiting. Nice one guys!

PODCAST: Harry Bell (TATA) on Waking up in Lockdown

The state of our industry is appalling - but is it all COVID’s fault? Harry Bell, two-times winner of the BCA Award “Best Bartender - Denmark” believes not. During the last lockdown, Harry aired his thoughts on service and hospitality, but we never made it below the surface. A year and an even longer, more excruciating lockdown later, Harry came to realise something. 

We met up with the man himself to hear his thoughts on where we as bartenders went wrong, what needs to change, and why it’s not all doom and gloom.

DROPLETS

We mentioned the No such Thing as a Fish podcast episode, and so naturally we have to throw it in here. There’s a lot of other stuff than just bartending, but the show, in general, is hilarious and provides enough random knowledge to earn you the nickname Walking Wikipedia - we know from experience. 

  • An exciting Kickstarter: KURT is a countertop indoor garden made from recycled ocean plastic (Seaspiracy should have made you aware of that issue) and recycled oak wood from Denmark. It uses a softer light, which in our opinion makes it perfect for growing garnishes on the bar top without blinding guests (and bartenders...yikes!). Right now it’s sold in MUJI, but you can also check it out and learn more online.

SPOTLIGHT: A Game-changing Rum Book.

This month's Spotlight is a recommendation by Liquid Matters Founder Miriam Gradel.

"In September last year, I did a 24-hour layover in Paris at my friend's flat whilst on my way to Italy. She was stuck in Cognac, so I had her library and collection of rum to myself (what are friends for?!)

A slim, green book with the word RUM written across it caught my attention. After flipping through a few of the pages, I was hooked and ended up swallowing most of it (and most of the actual rum) that night.

"Carribbean Rum: A Social and Economic History" takes you on a journey through rum that is much more than simply sugar-sweet. Looking at the colonial history of America, the history and development of rum in the region, and the impact the rum trade and consumption had on local traditions and culture, this book unravels a social aspect of the spirits industry that every bartender should be familiar with.

Transparency has long been lacking in the spirits industry, and even we as professionals often risk being swoon away by corporate tell-tale and marketing propaganda. This book not only provides background knowledge and perspective on Caribbean rum but also forces a new understanding of economic and diplomatic powers within and beyond the spirits industry upon you. If you really want to know what you are pouring - and why - then this book is a good place to begin."

Support Liquid Matters - invite your friends to follow along.