Times they are a-changing

Earlier this month, all COVID restrictions disappeared removing the last legislative shackles from the bars, bodegas and nightclubs of Denmark. Sadly, that very first weekend of freedom didn't end on a high note. In the northern city of Aalborg, two youths disappeared in the early hours of Sunday 6th after a night out drinking. One, a young man, fell in the water and drowned. The other, a young woman, was picked up by strangers, driven to the woods, and murdered.

Whilst the cause of both tragedies are vastly different, the steps leading to them share an undeniable common denominator. Both were out drinking heavily until the early morning.

Denmark doesn't have a challenge 18, 21, 25 like the UK, and bartenders aren't legally required to cut off intoxicated guests or serve them water. These incidents made me wonder: How aware are we as an industry in Denmark of the responsibility we hold towards our guest's safety before and after they leave the venue?

But first...

You may have noticed the pace slowing on these newsletters and the change to the title. The matter of fact is that many occurrences within the industry over the past year have left me in a dilemma. The intention of Liquid Matters is to share the good stories from the Danish bar and beverage industry. But quite frankly, with recurring accounts of sexism, harassment, workers exploitation and more seeing the light of day, these stories have been hard to find. At the same time, the original intention of keeping a monthly newsletter quickly proved to be less of a brilliant idea and more of a stress factor. So, I've decided to slow it down and focus on quality over quantity.

Liquid Matters won't cease to be published, but it will change. The intention of the content will still be to share the news and stories of the industry. But onwards, the content will be shaped to reflect the change our industry needs, drawing first and foremost on my own experiences and knowledge acquired during my time in and outside of the industry. With this, Liquid Matters will seek to not just inform, but also inspire, provoke new thoughts and fuel the conversations this industry so desperately needs.

Can I offer you a glass of water?

The tragic murder of 22-year-old Mia Skadhauge Steven has led to a wider societal discussion around violence towards women. What does that have to do with bars? you may ask. Naturally, a bar and its staff can not be blamed for a tragedy occurring outside of opening hours and geographical reach. But everything from the moment someone enters the venue to they leave again is under our influence. Whether they leave earlier or later from the venue depends on the vibe we create, the quality (and strength) of the drinks we serve, and lastly, but less spoken of, our ability to educate our guests and influence the course of action they take throughout the night.

Shortly after Mia's and Oliver's deaths, I visited a bar here in Copenhagen that I hadn't been to for a while. I assume the bartenders were happy to see me, 'cus they kept pouring me rare bottles and serving me off-menu tipples. It was a joyous experience, but it also made me realize something. For one, I am extremely talented at disguising how hammered I actually am. Second, the bartenders never stopped. Even after my fifth glass of water and devouring a bowl of nuts like a Dyson vacuum cleaner, my glass of whisky kept being refilled. The gesture was given out of kindness from a fellow whisky enthusiast, but the consequence could have been devastating. I left the venue and biked home as it is common here. The next morning I was in my bed without any recollection of what happened after I had closed the door to the bar behind me - without any recollection of how I got home.

During my time in London, I also had to deal with intoxicated guests. Luckily, British legislation has provided UK bartenders with a golden weapon: A glass of water. More precisely, as part of the alcohol licensing act in the UK, bartenders are required to know their role in ensuring the safety of guests and the prevention of violence, which can be put into effect via the bartender's right to refuse service (we actually had to remember the five licensing rules by heart). When you would '86' someone, by loudly calling out the number and gesturing in the person's direction, all other staff would know not to serve them any more alcohol (and the guest wouldn't know you were cutting them off publicly). The right to refuse service, or alternatively encourage guests to drink water, is implemented top-down; managers will encourage their staff to use it simply because if an intoxicated guest present at the venue, whether he or she has been drinking there or not, ends up in an altercation afterwards, then it's a swift adios to said venue's liquor license. The moment they step foot in your venue, their actions on the premise and the results it may lead to are on you.

In Denmark, we are much more liberal, and so, it's up to the individual bar or bartender to consider means and ways of dealing with intoxicated guests. Sadly, this aspect of the profession is very rarely implemented as part of the bar training. And if not provided, the individual staff member will make up their own solutions, potentially to the detriment of service and drinks quality.

The elephant in the room is this: Part of our job is to provide intoxicating substances to human beings that may or may not cause them to lose the sense of time and place. The safety of our guests is compromised because of this. Ask for Angela or 'Angel Shot' are two great examples of the global industry implementing systems that can aid workers in their job to keep guests safe. But it is not implemented as a standard in Denmark, nor have we invented our own version for it.

Perhaps it's time we acknowledge the elephant and have an industry-wide conversation about what kind of professionals we want the future generation of Danish cocktail bartenders to be. So that we may be able to look the next Oliver and Mia in the eye and not hesitate to ask them how they are planning to get home tonight.

Keep reading for:

  • News and events - things you need to know about.

  • Check THEM out! 👀

  • Podcast: All that funk: Composing flavour with Christian Tang

NEWS AND EVENTS

  • A rising number of non-EU hospitality staff are getting into trouble due to the stringent immigration laws in Denmark. This has sadly caused the manager at Paloma, Logan Flatte, to be out of work for the next couple of months whilst the Danish Agency for Recruitment and Integration sort their sh*t out. Fortunately, he'll be stopping by Paloma for a Flavour of the Month pop-up on the 24th.

  • Whiskeymessen, Denmark's largest whisk(e)y fair is taking place on March 5th in Kolding. They promise plenty of overseas guests and brands, as well as one hall dedicated entirely to Danish producers.

  • Copenhagen Gin Fest is back on 26th February, once again filling up Lokomotivværkstedet in Copenhagen.

CHECK THEM OUT

  • Blaaregn Taverna is a hidden little gem with the most intimate bar and wine selection. The cocktails won't wow you, but the food and range of corked bottles in combo with the kind staff and the decorative interior is the perfect setting for a chilled out and flavourful weeknight.

  • After almost two years, Sukaiba and the accompanying bar at Hotel Bella Sky have finally reopened. Infamous bartender Michael Olsson is part of the gang rebuilding the menu, so definitely something to check out.

PODCAST: All that funk: Composing flavours with Christian Tang (Kyros & Co/A Verre)

What are the rules for flavour when there's no alcohol involved? According to Christian Tang, co-owner of Kyros & Co and Averre botanical brewery and distillery, very few. And that's where all the fun begins.

From his no-menu cocktail Kyros & Co to producing non-alcoholic beverages for fine dining, Christian Tang knows a thing or two about flavour. Liquid Matters sat down with him at his production facilities, amidst the copper tubes and steel tanks to learn more.

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