What will the bars of tomorrow be like? As we become increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and a healthy bar community, there are a lot of questions to be answered. Pernod Ricard’s Bar World of Tomorrow programme is inviting bartenders, bar managers and bar owners, whether new or experienced, to help shape a positive future.
Jon Hepplestone is a Brand Activation Manager at Pernod Ricard and the person responsible for driving this inspiring initiative in the UK. We spoke to him about the programme, its live launch next week, a series of nationwide workshops, the online programme, and how bartenders can get involved.
Jon, first of all could you tell us about your role within Pernod Ricard’s Bar World of Tomorrow and why it’s so important to you?
Like a lot of people I got into bartending at university. That was back in 2004, then I went on to work in various bar roles before moving on to the brand side in 2010. But for the last 10 years or so sustainability in the bar world, looking at it in terms of “reduce or remove”, has been increasingly important to me.
For instance, seven years ago plastic straws were the big thing. We’d always been taught a particular way to use them when serving a classic Mojito, and we were starting to think about how we could present a great looking cocktail without them, that still kept our guests happy.
So when Pernod Ricard launched the Bar World of Tomorrow at the Athens Bar Show last year I saw an opportunity to bring my passion for the bar world together with the growing conversation around sustainability, and get involved with rolling out something that could really make a difference.
You mention the programme launched last year but how did it originally come about?
Pernod Ricard is committed to what we call “good times from a good place” and, as such, there’s always been a passionate commitment to our own sustainability credentials and where we want to get to by 2030. As part of this it was important for us to not only look at what we were doing on our own brands, but how we could also help bartenders and bar owners in a wider way to be more sustainable in their practices.
This lead to us partnering with Kelsey Ramage’s Trash Collective (formerly Trash Tiki). Kelsey is a real force in the sustainability world, so we initially brought her in as a consultant to look at what she had learned in this area over her years working with bars. We also spoke with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, a group made up of industry leaders, to look at how we could help shape the future of bars and restaurants with sustainable practices.
So what came out of these conversations?
The thing is everyone is looking for a silver bullet, a way we can all be more sustainable overnight. But the key thing we learned from these conversations was that the more you talk to bar owners and restauranteurs, who are looking at sustainability and where they can make an impact, the more you realise it’s actually about a mindset. It’s about rethinking day-to-day practices that you’ve simply inherited over the years. You realise that everyone’s got something that they’ve been trained to do and never questioned. But the people who are questioning things are the people who are leading the change.
For instance, when White Lyan opened in 2010, with no citrus and no ice, it was completely unheard of, but the important thing was that they were challenging perceptions.
And today you look at how you might break down a bar at the end of the night. The quickest way to clean an ice well is to pour hot water over it, melt your lovely ice and get out quickly. But when you start talking to bartenders about such things you realise the thing is to get them to question what they do. Could they just let the ice melt overnight, then use it to water plants the following day, instead of wasting more energy and producing more waste?
And did the relationships with Trash Collective and the Sustainable Restaurant Association then lead to a more formal programme?
The thing about both Trash Collective and the Sustainable Restaurant Association is that they want to inspire change. It’s not about some final destination that we are all trying to get to, it’s about the energy that they bring to the conversation and great examples how to bring change to life. At its simplest it might just be using energy efficient lightbulbs, but then you’ve got Kelsey doing things like actually creating her own vermouths and changing ingredients, through fermentation, to make them more seasonally stable. So there’s Kelsey really pushing boundaries with products, liquids and opportunities.
And then the Sustainable Restaurant Association is more about scalable initiatives, like looking at overall energy consumption and what can be done there. And it was these kind of conversations with them both that lead to the Bar World of Tomorrow programme.
To distil it all down, what is the single-minded aim of the Bar World of Tomorrow?
It’s about encouraging bartenders to question what they’re doing. I don’t mean this in a patronising way. The thing is that we all have basic habits, such as whether or not we turn off the taps off when we brush our teeth and the water waste involved. So it’s really about inspiring or empowering bartenders to question things and look at what they do.
And how do you do go about inspiring and empowering the bartenders?
This is where the “5 Rs” of the programme come in; rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle and respect.
Rethinking, simply means asking a question, such as, why do I need to use this ingredient? Or if I need to use it or want to use it, how might I reduce the amount? If I can’t reduce it, can I reuse it? What can I do with leftovers? Can I recycle the ingredient?
Underpinning all of this is respect. It’s about respecting the world, respecting the planet’s resources that we use, and respecting the people we work with. We believe it’s really important to encourage bartenders to take time out and build a community that isn’t based on the typical way you might think bartenders normally socialise. And here we’re also working with Healthy Hospo.
It’s clearly a very big undertaking, what does the roll out entail?
We officially launch the Bar World of Tomorrow in the UK at Imbibe Live, next week, on the 3rd and 4th July. We’ll then be heading to seven cities around the UK over the coming six months. In each of these cities there will be opportunities for some 40 or so bartenders, bar managers and bar owners to come along and really get hands-on with the programme in three hour training sessions.
Can you give us an example of what the bartenders can expect?
A great example is how we’ll invite them to look at making citrus alternatives, concepts like Super Juice, which was created in the US. This explores how you can take the skin of a lime and basically turn it into an acid oleo. This effectively lets you lengthen your lime juice by five times simply with the addition of water. Importantly there will be opportunities for bartenders to try things first hand and actually understand how these processes work.
Sometimes when bartenders hear the word ‘acid’ it can be quite a scary thing, thinking you need a lab to do all this extra prep stuff, but actually citrus and malic acids are in our day-to-day food and drinks. It’s about demystifying that and giving bartenders an opportunity to look at how we could change the way we make certain drinks. Or even to encourage new drinks development. Everything they learn they can take back to their bars straightaway and start experimenting with.
And after the live workshops, what next for the bartenders?
There’s an online programme and there’s also a Bar World of Tomorrow YouTube channel. New content is being added all the time by our partners across Europe as well as by us.
At the moment it focuses on industry leaders from different countries. It’s not about trying to offer solutions but more about thought-sharing. It’s an ongoing platform to which bartenders can continually return for new updates and learnings.
It’s not about training some bartenders and thinking the job is done. The whole programme will constantly evolve, so we can we can keep learning and evaluating to build the bar world of tomorrow.
Bartenders, bar managers and bar owners generally work challenging hours, how flexible is the programme to accommodate them?
The physical workshops are three hours, because we know that people like to experience things first hand. Then the initial online course takes about two hours to complete, although you don’t have to do it all in one go. Thereafter the online learning platform will be there for bartenders to dip in and out of when they have the time or the opportunity. So they could drop in every week and get more inspiration as the channel grows.
Since launching in Europe last year some 6,178 bartenders have participated in the training programme so far across 38 countries. Here’s what they’re saying…
“I’ve learnt new innovative ways of doing things.”
“Informative and eye opening for self-improvement.”
“My knowledge has improved on offering great service, taking care of customers and running a sustainable business”
How can bartenders and bar owners find out more and join the programme?
At Imbibe Live we have a stand where bartenders can come along and meet the team. We’ll also be showcasing the Super Juice I talked about, serving three cocktails inspired by the 5 Rs and we’ll be joined by our friends from Healthy Hospo with their chess corner! It’s all about explaining what the Bar World of Tomorrow programme can inspire.
And, of course, it’s a chance for bartenders to sign up for the live workshops that will be coming up around the UK, and to register for further updates on the online platform.
What about bartenders who can’t make it to Imbibe Live?
If bartenders, bar mangers or bar owners can’t make it to Imbibe Live, or even if they can’t get to the live workshops, they can still dive straight into the online programme. All they have to do it speak to their Pernod Ricard account manager or local contact to sign up.
It’s clearly ambitious and inspiring – how would you sum up The Bar World of Tomorrow programme in one sentence?
It’s a fantastic initiative to encourage us to challenge day to day practices in bars and try and make ourselves one little bit more sustainable tomorrow than we are today.
Pernod Ricard Bar World of Tomorrow: dates and details
Stand E40, Imbibe Live, 3 and 4 July, Olympia, Hammersmith Rd, London, W14 8UX
Nationwide workshops – exact dates and venues to be announced
For more details see edapp.com/course/the-bar-world-of-tomorrow/