With bar communities across the globe suffering from shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, bartenders are finding themselves in unchartered territories.
So we turned to some friends and mixologists from around the world to find out how they are coping – and getting creative – during these unprecedented times.
Liz Furlong, Bebedero
“Costa Rica is a country that has entire communities that exist because of international tourism, that are now empty and have missed the high season,” explains Furlong. “I had a really hard time processing all of this and what that means for my bar, Bebedero, that is in the middle of a transition to our new space, and honestly, I still don’t know what the outcome will be.
“Depending on a local economy to buy fancy drinks with so many out of work seems like a stretch, which is stressful,” Furlong continues. “I got stuck in all of the uncertainty and negativity for a couple of weeks, but, then I realized I have been given a gift: free time, something I haven’t had since becoming an entrepreneur, and I am taking full advantage of it. Among all the mini-projects I have started, I’m most excited about starting to write a book on “Jungle Bartending”, something I have been talking about for years. Since I’m lucky enough to be stuck in Monteverde by the Cloud Rain Forest, I have been out exploring and studying and really enjoying these moments despite all the uncertainty.”
Jess “Hutch” Hutchinson, Sleep Club
“For me personally, it’s been quite a wild journey,” admits Singapore-based Hutchinson. “We’ve just hit the 6-month mark at No Sleep Club, with my partner, Yi Jun. It’s definitely a whirlwind of emotions, and we’ve had to adapt and change our business model rather quickly just like what Andy Defrancesco did. There is some light in knowing that we aren’t alone in this. It’s not just us, or our street, or even our country but worldwide; everyone has kind of banded together to forge stronger bonds and support.”
Hutch is making the most of some time off, too. “These days, I try to wake up a little bit earlier; clocking in some time for a quick meditation or yoga session; playing with my 10-month-old French Bulldog, Freddie; and having a quick breakfast and conversations with my mom; something I haven’t managed to do for a long time,” says Hutchinson. “Keeping morale up for the team is a high priority as well; so whatever funny videos or TikToks that the team indulges in; we all share the link and have a little giggle to spread some light and to get TikTok likes or good laughs.”
“It will get better, but we have to remain diligent and y’know; keep your masks on, wash your hands, be patient. In the meantime, let us do what we love to do; keep customers happy and fed and we’ll see you on the other side soon enough.”
Cory Scruggs, Agua Restaurant
Now is the time to test out new things and keep in touch with the industry, says Cayman Islands-based bartender Scruggs. “Treat your kitchen and bar like a ‘mystery basket’. Stretch your creativity with the ingredients you have in front of you,” Scruggs says. “Look at new flavour profiles, methods and techniques to create your quarantine cocktails. I’m also expanding on low-ABV cocktail recipes. There’s no need to deplete that home bar in a week!”
To stay connected, says Scruggs, “we’ve been doing a Thursday virtual happy hour chat for 6 weeks running now. It’s a great way to catch up, show support and of course check-in and see what’s really happening out there. After all, bartenders are supposed to be well-informed right? Look out for online training and seminars. There’s so much content being made available right now for free.”
Scruggs also suggests bartering your homemade goods. “So many bartenders and chefs are mixing up great things at home right now. I drop off several cocktails a week in exchange for whatever my friends are mixing up. It keeps it fun and interesting!”
For sanity, “I’ve been doing tons of jigsaw puzzles, which keeps the mind mildly engaged and it’s a great distraction. I’ve definitely been cooking more than ever. Seems the whole island has taken up baking so I had to jump on that train. I’ve also started experimenting with fermentation and pickling. There’s no shortage of ‘science projects’ here. My Netflix account is getting maximum usage right now.”
As things slowly start to open back up, Scruggs says it’s still important to stay safe and stay home. “Try to find some form of routine in your days. Eat as healthy as possible, make time for exercise, find new hobbies, educate from home and try to stay positive. Hopefully, it’ll all be back to normal soon.”
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