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Imagen Barman vs Sommelier - 1st part

Barman vs Sommelier - 1st part

Jorge Balbontín

Jorge Balbontín is Cocktail Manager of Global Premium Brands, manufacturer and distributor company of premium spirits. Jorge has worked in bars in Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, also he has been very closed working or presenting seminars in Brazil, Mexico, United States, China, Singapore, Australia, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain. And he is also specialist in Tequila, having the recognition as Master in the category for the Mexican government and the CRT (Tequila Regulatory Council).

According to my friend the sommelier (or the smell-glasses), bartenders (or juice-mixers) are a subspecies from his race, that it suffers from illiteracy when talking in a well-done speech to define specific aromas, complexity levels and stages between nose and mouth. Quite a strong comment, isn't it? Well, actually this is a joke between a sommelier friend and myself. But the truth is that there are some likelihood angle.
One of the fundamental flaws of contemporary bartender is the impoverished vocabulary we have when we want to define the aromas and flavors of a cocktail or spirits. "Sweet", "Vanilla", "Wood" or simply (pathetically) cataloging an element as "Great taste" are the most common meanings that the client usually hear from the average bartender. Touché, we have to train more the smell, the dictionary and the memory.
It is mandatory that those who work with excellent raw materials and moreover are committed to the creation of mixing supreme potions, know how to speak coherently and without pretension the elements of their work. But what my friend sommelier has not evaluated is that a juice-mixer is an alchemist (clichés aside) who is able to correct errors or remove flaws with just a flick of his wrist.

A practical example
During a dinner at my home, my friend sommelier and I wanted to enjoy a wine that for the money it costed, it promised to be great. A 100% 2007 Malbec perfect for our BBQ Wagyu. The point is that wine it turned to be bad with an short aftertaste, rudimentary failures such as the thickness of the tannins or the sweetness.
For the surprise of the sommelier, the bartender took immediately a black chocolate bitter  (Mozart brand) and with an unison flick of the wrist, applied a drop in each glass. The result was a delicate note of cocoa and warm spices on the nose, a balance of acidity and sweetness in the mouth and even more important, a depth in mouth worthy of a wine that had to be at the level of a meat massaged by Japaneses for a gold price.

This story is not intended to be exaggerated or insulting to the opposing guild, but is revealing when speaking of empirical experience and intuition.

Today's bartender, who has access to a lot of information, must be a traveled and multidisciplinary person. Knowledge is not taught in books or pamphlets. It's almost harder to find at a bartending school than a in the networking that we can create. But let's take a step back before we get too specific on this subject.
There is no doubt that our fellow juice-mixers (in general), are guilty of ignorance when they have to be accurate evaluating their own cocktails. I am the first one. That is the reason why we must give some attention to the sommelier and listen to him so he can slap us with challenges and give us relevant information. Nothing fancy, just a couple of series of aromas, some structure in primary, secondary and tertiary, a few tricks for detecting fails in a quiet drink and a better understanding of the meaning of "Umami".

But not for that we are a kind of missing links of the Sommelier ... Now, if we are talking about basea, I strongly believe that we are the link (not lost, but rather found) of the well-known and valued Chef. And with certain advantages. Considering 30 (or more) basic recipes, experimenters and curious by nature, our working desk is the nearest point, romantic and rich (from the perspective of the theater and surprise) that a potential customer can enjoy in a bar or restaurant. Full of energy, and necessarily worthy in speed and accuracy, today's bartender must be able to deal with the expectations of the guest in question. In front of him, live and direct, being aware and absolutely sure that the star is not him, nor his cocktail, but the person on the other side of the bar.

Unfortunately, there are times when the so-called "industry" distorts us as individuals and affects us as professionals. It is a world (or underworld) of egos and trophies, with meaningless agreements with brands and patriotism; in a crowded social media time and poorer BBQ real-time, I consider myself to be lucky.
Not only because I have the opportunity to work in what I love and more or less I do relatively well, but also I have the joy of knowing that some of my personal friends are the very best in the sector. That's why I will now try to round all this apology of comments, criticisms and anecdotes with a particular example. In the 2nd part of this note.

To be continued... Read the 2nd part of this article here.

© Photo courtesy Global Premium Brands.

Picture by © Foto cortesía: Global Premium BrandsPicture by © Foto cortesía: Global Premium Brands

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