Thank heavens for the internet. Even though it can occasionally get a little ‘world wide weird’ out there, it’s at times like these that those three w’s really come into their own.
While we’re all united in lock down mode, staying connected is key. So too is keeping the old grey matter active. Zoom, the video-calling app for conferences, group chats and coming together face-to-face, has become the go-to hub for meeting up with friends and joining in everything from virtual yoga and fitness classes to choir practice and book clubs. For career minded bartenders twiddling their thumbs at home, there’s The Booze Brain.
Devised by Maxim Schulte, Head Bartender at the American Bar and Jo Last, Senior Bartender at the Beaufort Bar, each venue adding its unique touch of glamour to The Savoy in London, this recently launched initiative is a community space for industry professionals – whatever stage they are in their careers – to come together, share, learn and be inspired.
With week one done and dusted, we caught up with them to find out what we can expect going forward.
Before getting on to The Booze Brain, let’s rewind a bit: when did your respective bars close doors?
Maxim: For Jo and the team at the Beaufort Bar it was the 19th of March. For us at the American Bar, it was a couple of days later.
What was the mood like?
Maxim: Obviously there was a great amount of uncertainty leading up to it. Nobody knew what was going to happen and there was a certain sense of wondering whether we would be secure. However, once the announcement had been made and the government announced the package in place for hospitality workers, I must say the mood was fairly strong. Of course it’s a bad situation but the attitude of the team was that this needs to be done but we’ll be back and we’ll be stronger than ever. There was also a sense of optimism, of making the most of the opportunity. For instance, knowing that we can make use of the time to do a really deep clean.
When did you decide to launch The Booze Brain?
Maxim: The day that we announced that we were launching The Booze Brain was the day that we had the idea!
It started to formulate when we were told that The Savoy would close. I was in the office preparing for the apocalypse and it occurred to me that I’d go completely crazy if I didn’t have something to do for three months. So Jo and I had a chat about things we could do to keep ourselves busy which is how we came up with the idea of providing a platform where we invite people to talk about things we are interested in. It’s a bit self serving but it’s also relevant to everyone in the industry. Jo came up with the name and artwork, I made a post and the response was so overwhelming that it confirmed that there’s obviously a need for something like this – particularly now.
What was the rationale behind it?
Jo: We were seeing that people were being forced to stay in their homes – not just here in the UK but across the world. One thing we all have in common is that we share social media, so by using Instagram and Facebook for our platform it means everyone can come together in one place. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen that often in our industry because everyone is so busy travelling or getting on with their work.
What was really noticeable when people didn’t know whether or not they’d be losing their jobs was how everyone came together quite naturally. That was the idea behind The Booze Brain. It’s a brand neutral platform and everyone involved is volunteering their time – that goes for the brands as well as the bartenders – which is something we don’t see that often.
How did you come up with the guests for week one?
Maxim: After we put out our first announcement post, we were inundated with supportive messages. The first thing we did was put together an ExCel document with the names of the people who had contacted us and from there we worked out how we could have an organic launch week.
The main thing for us was that we didn’t want it to be focused on one direction – so we asked ourselves what would people be interested in right now? That’s why we started with Sim [Edwards; Global Beefeater Brand Ambassador] because she’s also a personal trainer and people have been saying that we finally have time to exercise.
Another thing that’s really prevalent is that everyone is posting like crazy on Instagram. So having John [Wayte; UK Monkey Shoulder Ambassador] talk about social media and photography was another natural fit for the first week.
What can we expect from The Booze Brain going forward?
Jo: Next week will be more booze related (see program below). And in week three we’ll be moving into music at home. We’ll also have sessions on things like how to make your own kombucha. On Fridays, we’ll try to create something lighter and interactive. It’ll be fun as well as being educational.
Maxim: We have a lot of ambassadors who want to talk about their brands but we don’t want The Booze Brain to be brand heavy – nobody wants to be lectured. So it has to be a balance between what’s useful in your career and also in life.
One of the things that we want to address is keeping mental health in check. We don’t want to create geeks who after three months know about every single brand on their back bar but we’ll have people who know how to make kombucha at home and know how to look after themselves mentally and physically.
We hope this will be a platform that we can use when we all go back to work. The main thing that inspires our schedule is what we think people will be inspired by. There will be days when we don’t want to learn, so we might have the pianist from the American Bar at The Savoy playing his music so you can have that playing in background at home.
We’ve been given this time for a reason. What do you hope we take from this situation that we find ourselves in?
Jo: The first thing I think people have to learn is that we all need to work together. That’s the main thing that struck me: the overwhelming sense of the hospitality industry supporting each other in a way that they probably haven’t done before. We all work in our separate bars and want to do the best, it’s the same with the brands – they don’t really talk about other brands on their platforms but now you’re seeing brands working together and bars working together. The thing to take from this is we’re all actually stronger when we work together. We all have different strengths and by coming together, we’re just going to push this industry in the right direction instead of fighting each other for the top spot.
Maxim: It really is time to work together – not just for bartenders but the world in general. It’s a reminder that we’ve lost our sense of community. Individualism has taken over for many – look at the way people were hoarding groceries in the first few days…
As bartenders, this is a reminder that having a work/life balance isn’t a bad thing. Now it is about focusing on me as well as my career.
Tune into The Booze Brain for more insightful talks: Week 2
6pm, Monday 30th March
Ali Reynold and Colin Dunn – Diageo Whisky Legends
A Story To Drink
6pm, Tuesday 31st March
Giorgio Bargiani and Agostino Perrone – The Connaught Bar
Behind The Scene of The Connaught Bar Service
3pm, Thursday 2nd April
Camille Vidal – Founder of La Maison Wellness
3pm, Friday 3rd April
Gianluca Pavenello Canella – Patrón Tequila Ambassador
Tequila Lockdown Library