Behind the Bar Bar Talk

Andie Ferman of St. George Spirits on Becoming a Hospitality Master

As interest in the spirits industry continues to grow, there’s more opportunity than ever before to help educate guests about what’s in their drink. How do you begin to explain the process of fermentation, though, without sounding like a wonk? Or gently correct someone who doesn’t know their mezcal from their tequila?

St. George Spirits brand ambassador Andie Ferman is a master of communicating with guests who are still finding their footing in the spirits world, and sees real-time drinks education as a prime opportunity to build lasting—and educational—relationships. Below, Andie shares her secrets for turning the bar into a makeshift classroom dedicated to education through inebriation.

Embrace Different Guest Learning Styles

“When sharing knowledge with guests, have at least two ways of explaining a particular topic. How you describe something (e.g. distillation) should never be a dictionary definition, but rather a palatable exchange of information. For example, we love to share with our distillery guests and tasting room aficionados that distillation is the art, magic [and] fantasy of boiling.

We will also share that essential oil extraction and perfume making techniques are applied as well—anything that helps them understand.”

Mi Bar Es Su Casa

“I suggest really thinking about the bar like it’s your home and the visitors like they’re your guests. [When educating] guests, they should be able to trust that you have their best interest at heart.”

Be Open to Correction, Thoughtfully

“It is my firm belief that the age-old mantra of the ‘guest is always right’ is simply not correct. It is extremely easy to turn the other cheek, and let a guest at your establishment keep believing that whiskey is made from magical whiskey mushrooms that are placed in the still at night by highly-trained whiskey squirrels.

I always think it is best to correct the guest. Over the past 10 years at St. George Spirits, I’ve learned many ways to correct [people] without pissing them off. Hard as it may be to engage a guest in this way, it is the right thing to do. The real trick is to put yourself in their shoes and be mindful. Thoughtful correction involves using ‘I’ statements: ‘I used to think that too, but then...’ This creates a safe space for the guest to then consider what you are saying and not immediately go on the defensive or shut down.”