Earlier this year, we at Cheers took the Year of the Cocktail one step further by also declaring 2006 it the Year of the Bartender. And what a year it has been.
In February, Francesco Lafranconi picked up the Raising the Bar Award at the Cheers Beverage Conference for elevating professionalism in bartending. He went on to mix cocktails on “The Martha Stewart Show” and appear at culinary and cocktail events nationwide. Mixology maven David Wondrich’s Q&A with New York Magazine in May spotlighted the Museum of the American Cocktail’s 200th anniversary of the cocktail celebration; the numerous anniversary events drew more press attention. Dale DeGroff’s ambassadorship of all things cocktails continued, with King Cocktail spreading the good word everywhere.
Top bartenders are edging toward the celebrity status now enjoyed by some chefs. In this issue, we report that a bar chef table now wows guests at Café Adelaide in New Orleans—a first for the industry.
In our April issue, Cheers highlighted some top working bartenders in the nation. Turn to page 30 of this issue to meet seven “Bar Stars”--mixologists-in-the-making who will influence drink trends and techniques for years to come, and likely garner center-stage attention as well.
We’ve also reported an increase in investment in bar and beverage staff: from Borgata to Bennigan’s, large hospitality organizations are recruiting, training and developing beverage talent like never before. Independent bars, restaurants and lounges are also vying for beverage talent, recognizing that a great bartender delivering a great beverage program is a recipe for success. Suppliers have come to the proverbial bar with ample opportunities to train and celebrate beverage experts, from curriculums to contests.
So, at the stroke of midnight on December 31, does it all end? Do we shift our focus to another aspect of the business as the cause celebre in 2007? Surely other issues are emerging—changes in the three-tier system, evolving alcohol regulations. Even as we at Cheers give them the ink necessary to keep you informed and foster dialogue, we will continue celebrating the bar stars who create and deliver great beverages to the guest every day. We hope you do, too.
We wish you a prosperous, healthy and joyous holiday season.