"Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the change."

May has always been one of my favourite months. Seeing as it's still Spring in Denmark, there are zero expectations for great weather. Yet, unlike April, May almost always turns out sunny. Whether is changing, and with it, the mood and energy of the people around us.

It's also one of few months that begins with a great celebration. May 1st - International worker’s day. 

Last week saw a big celebration of workers, with the Bartender’s Choice Awards (BCA) gala gathering more than 700 industry professionals from all over the Nordics in Stockholm. This was the first award show since 2019 to take place physically. And in the case of Denmark, the first award show since changing the jury. 

In December, the admin team behind Copenhagen Cocktail Club, a Facebook group and community platform for the Danish bar industry, purposefully sent out a request to have the jury upgraded. This came after it was discovered that people who had left the industry remained on the jury, whilst some of those who had founded the Copenhagen cocktail scene weren't even on the list. Inactive members were removed, new industry peers were added, and the percentage of women doubled to 1/5. This year, the BCA finally started resembling a peer-to-peer awards show. 

It’s a small step on the long path towards a more inclusive and overall healthier industry. But this very first step has already resulted in a better representation of the current industry. 

We have to remember that change is inevitable. In order to accommodate change, people, businesses, organisations and even industries need to shape-shift. This can happen passively over time through adaptations or it can happen purposefully. Before COVID, the Danish bar industry had taken on the passive approach to such a degree that it had stagnated. Now, however, the industry is awakening. We just have to make sure that the change we bring about brings us forward rather than backwards. 

For some hints on how to ensure that, scroll down to SPOTLIGHT. After finally getting back in the habit of reading, one of the first books I had to dive into was “The Perfect Mix - Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender”, by Helen Rothberg, PhD. Drawing on her own experience as a cocktail bartender in New York, Rothberg takes us through the various aspects of successful leadership, both in organisations and also in personal life. A fun, relatable and reflective read that any hospitality professional should go through. 

Post-awards show, it may seem silly to check out the nominees when you already know the winners. But if you want to get some exclusive knowledge on what gems, nooks and silly stories are behind each nominee, don’t hesitate to listen to the latest podcast episode. To make it fun, we invited Jesper Strauss, former Bacardi Brand Ambassador, current On-Trade Account Manager for Collection Spirits and BCA Jury member to join the conversation.

Keep reading for:

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

  • Check THEM out! - an oldie returns!

  • Podcast: Behind the Danish BCA feat. Jesper Strauss

  • Droplets - industry-related content you should definitely check out.

  • Spotlight: "The Perfect Mix." 

NEWS AND EVENTS

Congratulations to all the winners at this year's BCA:

  • Best Bartender: Mia Hjort Hansen (Gedulgt)

  • Best Bar: Duck and Cover (Copenhagen)

  • Best Signature Cocktail: Bonfire Manhattan (Bird)

  • Best Cocktail Menu: Bird (Copenhagen)

  • Best Atmosphere: The Barking Dog (Copenhagen)

  • Improver of the bar industry: Carl Wrangel (The Barking Dog, Shoppen, Paloma, CCC)

  • Best new bar: Pulp (Copenhagen)

  • Best Bar People's Choice: Gedulgt (Aarhus)

  • May 10th: Liquid Matters cocktail pop-up at Bar Poldo. We've been invited to make cocktails at the cosiest wine bar in Copenhagen. The focus of the menu will be on combining local spirits with in-house wines. Pop on down when we pop up to have a sip, chat and a Hi5.

  • May 28-29: Aarhus cocktail week. The main venue is Ridehuset, but we highly recommend checking out what the local bars have in store first before finishing your night with a Fernet Branca at Le Coq.

  • May 26th: Meet the Producers, with Kester Thomas. An in-house tasting with producers from the Cognac region hosted by Denmark's most dedicated grape enthusiast. Guaranteed to be a fun deep dive for the spirit nerds. Read more & sign up.

  • May 29th: Sunday Serve. Roy Atarodi and Harry Bell of TATA cocktail bar will be popping over to frank from 11 am to serve cocktails with your breakfast. Set menu for 400 DKK, including a cocktail on arrival and chill music throughout the experience.

CHECK THEM OUT

  • Atze Peng has reopened, and this time for good! After closing its doors in 2020 due to the pandemic, the bar had a brief reopening last year in November. Since then, not much has happened, until last month when it suddenly became possible to have a seat at the concrete bar yet once again.

  • SiWu Gin recently relaunched as EtOH Nordic. Two former chefs are behind and Emil Vang, former proprietor of Vang & Bar has joined the team too. Their product range is solid with three gins, two akvavits and a fresh and less-sweet take on a Campari-style bitter. It's kept out of retail for now, but you might get a bottle if you ask nicely.

PODCAST: Behind the Danish BCA ft. Jesper Strauss

What makes a great atmosphere? And why is a cocktail signature of a venue? We tried to find out. For this episode, Jesper Strauss, On-trade manager for Collection Spirits and former Brand Ambassador for Bacardi, joins the conversation and brings thoughtful, knowledgeable and fun anecdotes and insights from his years in the industry.

DROPLETS

  • Mojito season is coming up and with it a depressingly high wastage of mint. What you need is this article on how to use leftover mint stems from the Sustainable Bartender.

  • Self-promotion is yuck. However, whilst researching this piece on Malling Living for Scan Magazine, I learned a lot about the active role design has played in changing Danish restaurants - and eventually, bars too. NOTE: Try not to cringe too much over the headline.

  • Sarah Miller has written an informative piece for Burum Collective about greenwashing in the spirits industry. Lots of insights all bartenders should be aware of when trying to sift brand lingo from facts.

SPOTLIGHT: The Perfect Mix - Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender.

This month's SPOTLIGHT is brought to you from the personal book club of me, Miriam Gradel.

Good managers and good leaders aren't always the same thing. So, how do we become good leaders? It's a question that is on the mind of every CEO, manager and front figure from here to Timbuktu.

I've always known that there are several skills I have learnt in bartending that cannot be taught anywhere else. Even within hospitality, the role of the bartender requires a type of interaction, rapid decision making and crisis management to a degree chefs would never understand. Simply because it takes place with an audience. "The Swan Theory" was a term my old trainer often used to describe how bartenders must carry themselves behind the bar. Even when you are caught in the "weeds", i.e. in a stressful or troublesome situation, you must remain elegant like a swan and never lose your cool. Years later, I've had an angry swan near the lakes of Christiania try and eat my shoes, and so, I have come to doubt the title somewhat. Nonetheless, the theory itself speaks of something important: Our ability to lead ourselves out of trouble.

In her book, Helen Rothberg magnificently takes us through personal anecdotes and examples from her life as a bartender and professional career as a business consultant, drawing conclusions on what makes a good leader based on episodes throughout her time as a bartender. Her recipe for leadership, the so-called ADVICE - Action, Determination, Vision, Integrity, Communication and Empathy - puts a spin on incidents, types of customers and power structures that anyone who has ever worked in a bar will recognise.

Reading this book gave me a lot of perspective on my own skills, professionalism and personal priorities. Over the years, I've worked with many great managers who were also excellent leaders. I've also worked with great managers who were absolutely horrible leaders. Through ADVICE and seemingly obvious statements (fx. Chapter 6: Love Your Barback) Rothberg managed to confirm what had made the difference between the two. The book is a delightful, less than 200 pages and empowering read for anyone working in a bar regardless of their experience and role.

Leadership and management are not the same things. And whereas it only takes one manager to run a bar, it takes leadership to make it shine. If we all become personal leaders of our own success and joy in the work we do, we suddenly have the power to change unsustainable practices and bring new perspectives into play. As Rothberg puts it,

"In leading yourself down the pathway to be the fullest expression of the person you want to be, you won't need to be led by others."

"The Perfect Mix - Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender" can be bought as a book or e-book via SAXO and downloaded as an audiobook via Amazon.

Got a tip or recommendation to share? Help Liquid Matters to shine a light where it really matters. Drop an email at [email protected] to get in touch.

Support Liquid Matters - invite your friends to follow along for free.