Why bartenders need to specialise to stay on top.

The internet has made the world a much more specialised place. Even in disciplines where you would think it would have no impact, for example, juggling, the opposite is true. Young teenagers are suddenly able to pull off routines that would have won a world championship a decade ago.

Why?

Because they can see what is possible, almost in real time.

This exponential sharing of knowledge is affecting every industry, and that includes bars.

A few years ago, to know what other bartenders were up to you’d either visit their bars in your city and talk to the bartenders, travel to other cities and do the same or buy some books. Visiting in person will limit what you learn because of the time and expense, and books have a pretty good 18 months to 2 year lead time, so keeping up is hard.

The Rise of Social Media

The early days of the internet were dominated by big businesses, but also chat rooms and bulletin boards. While these would have included a bit of bar stuff, the real change was “web 2.0”, the way the first social media sites like MySpace were known at the time.

As the internet became more open and more focused on user generated content, it became far easier for people, including bartenders to share what they’re up to along with recipes, techniques and for flair bartenders, moves. It also became increasingly trivial to see footage from mixology and flair competitions to see what the top end bartenders were doing.

As you can imagine, this lead to inspiration being taken in many places, but also allowed bartenders to know what is going on around the world, not just in bars they or a friend had visited.

While the rising tide raises all ships, and the overall standard of bartending has increased dramatically in the past few years. The level of prep work needed for many high end menus is enormous, as is the commitment to practice for bartenders performing with 4 or (way) more items.

Put in the Work

To be at the top of any discipline takes disproportionate work, but the level is so high now, a generalist would struggle to get any level of recognition.

None of this is to say that you can’t succeed as an all around bartender, not at all. Bartenders with a good balance of skills will be placed incredibly well to succeed in their own venues. Those who want to be among the best in the world however will find themselves increasingly specialised in order to stay at the cutting edge.