Back in 2019, I wrote a little piece about how liquor companies could be better about supporting the next generation of working bartenders. It was really well-received by both the bartending community and by the brands who truly care about the people who are on the front lines, selling their products. Dozens of brands reached out to me personally asking how they could support people like the ones who worked with me behind the bar, and I got to witness firsthand the positive effects that support had on their lives.
But now we’re back here again, sadly.
A couple of months ago I was alerted, yet again, to another massive liquor company using one of my recipes to promote their brand. This normally wouldn’t bother me, as I’m generally honored to have quite a few cocktails in the modern classic canon. But this one was unattributed, uncredited, and the drink name had been modified to further obscure its origin.
Making a big stink on social media and calling out brands by name is something plenty of others in my position are comfortable doing, but I’m not that guy. So I quietly reached out to some people I know at the company in question and asked them to either take the post down, or simply credit me, link to me, and not rename the drink – as outlined in the copyright agreement that has been listed at the footer of this website since its’ beginning.
The way I explained it to their on-premise trade relations manager was this: Creating cocktails and working with brands is something I do for a living. Any brand in the world has an incredible opportunity to work with me, rather than just taking from me. I asked her to imagine a scenario where her company could hire me as a consultant, gets some amazing cocktails (and my full endorsement) – and I would receive a modest consultation fee and a whole lot of goodwill towards the brand moving forward.
But, rather than taking the opportunity to work with me, yet another bartender who has been devastated by the pandemic, this $16-billion dollar company has continued to use my hard to work to sell even more of their products – even after agreeing to cease doing so.
I know that so many of you working bartenders have been in the same position, time and time again. In fact, one person I spoke to at the company acknowledged that “it’s an industry-wide problem”, and yet it continues. What feels so, so scummy to me is that working-class bartenders like us don’t have the resources to protect our hard work. We create, they take – and the companies get richer while we continue to work our asses off to make ends meet at a time when things have never been harder on service industry workers. Those of us who have dedicated their lives to sharing their knowledge with the world to make the whole industry a better place are being taken advantage of by the only people in this industry of our who are thriving during this pandemic.
So once again, if you’re a brand who would like to work with me, please feel free to reach out. I absolutely love working with companies who value hard work and creativity, two things I have a massive surplus of. Both of my award-winning bars have closed for good, and I’m working hard to reach even more people with delicious drinks than ever before – by consulting with brands, or with bars, restaurants, and hotel groups.
I’m currently consulting on several new bars and I will continue to stock them full of the brands who support working bartenders. And as for the brands who knowingly steal from working bartenders, none of their products will ever see the light of day on back bars or wells where I have any influence. I know it isn’t going to make a massive dent in their billions of dollars, but I suspect that collectively, bartenders have more power than they’re aware of.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully this is the last rant I’ll feel compelled to go on. More drinks and techniques are coming soon.