It’s that time again to make New Year’s resolutions. But whether you end up sticking to them or not, is almost beside the point: The new year is the perfect opportunity for self reflection and figuring out where you can do better.
As many of us eagerly await saying goodbye to 2018 with a glass of bubbly in hand, we asked bartenders—who so often help us close out one year in style, while welcoming the next with a headache and a dose of humility—what they have planned for the coming year.
From taking better care of their staff and customers to becoming more sustainabile and searching for the often elusive work-life balance, here are the inspiring ways 10 leading bartenders are planning to improve themselves and raise their bar game in 2019.
“Being more conscious of our bar’s impact on the environment is something I’ve already started to focus on a little bit behind our bar, but it’s something I’d like to look at making long term changes for. The bar and hospitality industry can be incredibly wasteful at times and being able to assess what you can change to make a better impact on the planet is very rewarding. We already document our waste on a daily basis, but being able to make better use of it would be a big step forward.”—Liana Oster, head bartender, Dante, New York
“I want to try to get the bar to be more sustainable. We’re using compostable straws and have already incorporated composting into the bar. We’re in Portland, so it’s already a pretty green-focused city, and I want to make sure that we’re a step ahead in terms of sustainability and that we’re having that conversation with our regulars and our staff, and making what changes we can.”—Sierra Kirk, assistant manager and bartender, Hale Pele, Portland, Oregon
“For 2019, we have many initiatives for Midnight Rambler that all culminate with our bar’s ‘Purpose’ to ‘Uplift Spirits & Elevate Drinking Culture.’ We will use this as a guideline throughout 2019 to focus on the guest experience from the time they walk in the door to the time they leave...In addition, we are always working to ‘Elevate Drinking Culture’ by focusing on our craft, techniques for optimized flavor and aroma, product selection, and this means 2019 will be a year spent with an intense focus on training, development, and empowerment of our Midnight Rambler team.”—Chad Solomon & Christy Pope, co-creators, Midnight Rambler, Dallas
“This year I want to learn to be more engaging behind the bar outside of actual bartending technique. I’d like to learn some magic tricks and continue my love for play and games behind the bar. For example, it’s time for the world to know about this new dice game I have co-created called The First 48. It’s scheduled to go viral any day now.”—Yael Vengroff, bar director, The Spare Room, Los Angeles
“In 2019, I want to make every experience at our bars all about the guest. We all need a reminder that we are only here because of the guest. Our job is to create an atmosphere where the guest isn’t shamed for ordering a Lemon Drop Martini if that is what they like to drink. Our job is to make them the best damn Lemon Drop Martini that we can! We should all keep learning and pushing ourselves to create new things.”—Shawn Stanton, beverage manager, Antihero, Detroit
“I resolve to make more drinks that I just don’t like because I know it makes my guests happy. I resolve to be kinder to the guests that order ten Ramos gin fizzes on a Saturday night at 9:30 PM and not convince them that a Daiquiri is a suitable alternative. I resolve to respect the incredible spirit that vodka is and not try to convince people that gin is ‘basically the same thing.’ I resolve to have more patience when someone orders a Long Island Ice Tea and not automatically assume they just want to get blackout drunk.”—Ezra Star, general manager, Drink, Boston
“Taking better care of my health, mentally and physically: This year I made an unwritten rule with myself that whenever I had two days off in a row I’d leave the city. It’s such a nice release mentally to be able to take a step back and just chill out. It’s something I’d love to focus on more since this industry can be relentless on the body and soul. Listening to when we need a break and looking out for our own wellbeing is a big priority in 2019 for not only me, but for my bar team as well.”—Liana Oster
“I think for me something I would like to do is resolve to read the cocktail books that have come out this past year, that I haven’t been able to get to. Cocktail Codex is one I have really wanted to dive into a little more. I also want to read The Noma Guide to Fermentation. And, of course, there’s some personal, non-work related reading as well.”—Brock Schulte, bar director, The Monarch, Kansas City
“I’m interested in learning more culinary techniques, especially things that allow for more preservation—properly batching, using sugar or alcohol to make syrups and cordials versus just making an interesting simple syrup. We have as much to learn from our partners in the kitchen as anywhere else on the floor. Batching has had a bad name in our industry for a long time, but creating and batching a full-on ingredient that already has the alcohol base included and turning a seven-bottle pickup into a one-bottle pickup is something that adds value back into the space.”—Adam Fournier, bar manager, NoMad LA, Los Angeles
“I want to take advantage of all the educational opportunities within the bar community, like travel and competitions. Competing is really nerve-wracking, but I feel like it’s such a great opportunity to put yourself out there, meet new people, and expand your knowledge. I just want to take advantage of those opportunities, be it personal edification, like reading bar books, or attending events. I want to encourage my staff to do more of that as well.”—Sierra Kirk
“I don’t usually make New Year’s Eve resolutions because I know ultimately I won’t keep them...I’ve been told I need to quit smoking but that just ain’t gonna happen right now. That being said, I am indebted to every single person that works for me. I ask them each and every day for their best, and in turn, I need to do a better job of reciprocating that. I am their captain and it’s my job to lead and inspire them. It’s something I focus on every single day, not just when the calendar flips.”—Brian Miller, co-owner, The Polynesian, New York
“One of the biggest things for me is learning Spanish fluently. Working in Los Angeles and also in the hospitality world in general in the U.S., being in a position of leadership and not being able to communicate with a good number of employees in an effective way is a real detriment to both my ability to lead and encourage and empower those employees. Especially now, with all the vitriol being thrown back and forth, it’s a small gesture of outreach that can improve a lot of relationships.”—Adam Fournier