by Jason Bran on April 6, 2012

in Droppin' Knowledge

The work of a bartender is under constant scrutiny and eligible to be written about anywhere in any context. Writers and bloggers seemingly have more influence on this industry at times than the bartenders themselves. I appreciate and respect the professionals who perform this job with caution and care. However I feel that there are times when people say or write stupid things that need to be challenged. Here is one of them:

“In previous days we’ve described this as one of the world’s best cocktail lounges. Nowadays it’s more akin to a fun pub-style atmosphere serving up cocktails listed on a psychedelic, wipe-clean menu whipped up in next to no time, though still costing $14-15. “

This is a quote in a review about The Roger Room from a publication I respect called Difford’s Guide. Upon Mr Difford’s first visit to the Roger Room, he wrote very nice things about the place and awarded us a score of 4 or 4.5 out of a possible 5. Then over a year later, Ian Cameron of Difford’s guide visited Los Angeles and gave us a new review, which includes the above excerpt and a downgraded score of 3/5. The same as the recently defunct Tar Pit.

Perhaps it is poorly worded, but do I detect that we are being punished for preparing cocktails quickly coupled with an insinuation that the prices are too high?

Allow me to address the simpler of these issues without delay. Mr. Cameron, our cocktails are priced fairly, even competitively for what we offer in our part of Los Angeles. You are already demonstrating a serious misunderstanding of LA that should immediately disqualify you from publishing your opinion about any bar in this city anywhere other than yelp.

The other issue is much more difficult. It’s very easy to inference that the care required to make a “good” cocktail was lacking because of the speed in which it was prepared, but this is a sad misnomer that prevents innovation in this industry. I am saddened that a “professional” journalist chooses to perpetuate it. On this evening I was the bartender who prepared these cocktails “in next to no time”.

My personal bartending philosophy is that I don’t cut corners, keep people waiting, or compromise cocktail quality for speed. This is something that not many bartenders can say and it has made me one of the most respected bartenders in Los Angeles. To achieve this, it requires a mastery of bartending skills, techniques and most importantly a desire to provide guests with expedient service.

Should I make something that is easy to me appear difficult in order to increase its value?

Good cocktails start with good recipes and end in good execution. Time is important to dilution when shaking or stirring but outside of that, seconds can be shaved with preparation and strategic mis en place. Every second adds up! Let’s not forget that many bartenders neglect to work with their non-dominant hand! (Using it to hold a jigger doesn’t count.)

Bartending with an emphasis on execution is something that requires much thought and discipline. There are no books that you can read, and few people to consult when it comes to the challenges of a busy bar. Rather than innovate, many choose to adopt the belief that it can’t be done. The best bartenders in the world are innovating cocktails on several levels, so how is it that taking less time to prepare them should not be of value?

In closing Mr Cameron, Hollywood is not New York, London, or Paris. Just Like The Roger Room is not The Varnish or Providence. We are in agreement that those are great bars operated by great people. However what we do at the Roger Room is more significant and commendable than you think. We introduce cocktails to a crowd that may have previously never considered drinking anything other than vodka with soda their whole lives. We are a beacon for better drinking that you have shunned. I suggest that you innovate the way you evaluate bars before people realize what you do has little to no value.

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