A modified version of the 1937 vintage menu for Chin's Wine List in New York.
~ A cocktail can win over your palate, but that same drink delivered with hospitality is a champion. ~
This summer is going to go by fast. We are coming off our largest Caffeine Crawl city yet, plus our typical client and planning work. We announced the release of the Tales of the Cocktail Top 10 list for their Annual Spirited Awards, but we didn't get to comment on it much. It got me thinking about the difference in producing a top level cocktail versus relying on customer service and having a so-so drink menu.
On our trips we try to support a city's best cocktail bars, and many we feel like should appear on the "best of" lists. Many of you might not know, but we have worked with spirit companies and cocktail bars since the beginning of The LAB. It has been a couple of years, but Jason and Michael have bartended at pretty large cocktail events in the Midwest, plus Jason created the original 25+ recipes for the award-winning Snow + Co., Paste Magazine's top frozen cocktail bar in the country. Even though our company has evolved where we have less overall client work, we are still really supportive and involved in the spirit and cocktail industry. When we officially launch craft[E+D] this fall, that will help add a layer to that.
We understand busy, and we understand keeping composed in front of crowds when you aren't at your best. This is pretty dear to our hearts, and should be rewarded more often in the beverage industry. Social media can fill up with images of latte art and artistic cocktails (and we're to blame, too), but not highlights of customer service. One reason is that it's difficult to capture good service in a photo, but certainly not by word of mouth.
When we travel and visit cocktail bars it can make all the difference if our bartender and host was pleasant or not. Do they have that "cocktail comfort", I like to say? All the bars on the James Beard list that we have been able to visit have done a nice job with us when it comes to cocktail comfort - making us feel invited, ask us what we feel like drinking, checking on us, spending a few minutes to say hi, and explaining the drinks in an unpretentious way. Some better than others. I'll never forget a bar in Oklahoma with a stellar reputation for their bar program, and recommended by an industry writer. The customer service was terrible, and some of that had to do with the server trying to make us feel not invited and judge us on our selections. I will never call out this bar in writing, but in return will steer friends away from it if they ask where to go in that area. They were missing that cocktail comfort, and for that will never receive our business, or make it on our suggested places to visit list.
Many of my friends outside the industry want to go to the coolest and best bars in their hometown, or when they travel. We always send them lists. Often we send a few a week. Once in a while I'll get a report back that the service was terrible, and they were treated poorly. They aren't bartenders, marketing directors for distilleries, or liquor reps. They want to experience a good time, have a nice drink, and be treated well. Remember a drink can glow, taste like heaven, or have the most exotic herbs, but if the cocktail comfort isn't there, who cares.
Cheers - Jason
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