Who is the unofficial ambassador for every quality spirit behind the bar? You got it: the bartender.
Jacques Bezuidenhout, top San Francisco bartender and Liquor.com advisory board member, is adamant that when you’re talking to your customers, labels—both big-brand and small—should take a back seat. It’s the juice inside the bottles that’s most important.
It’s common these days to hear industry people decrying big brands for theoretically producing mass volumes of mediocre spirit, while championing “artisanal” brands who supposedly make smaller batches of superior quality. (We recently talked to Liquor.com advisory board member and distillery owner Allen Katz about that same issue.) Bezuidenhout urges bartenders to “spread a responsible message with regards to the quality of a product.”
“Many of the big brands are looked down on because of their size,” says Bezuidenhout. “Some are bigger than others, but, at the end of the day, there are some big brands that produce consistent quality spirits and should be respected for that. Large and small brands alike can produce quality product just as much as they can produce poorly-made liquor.”
It’s an issue close to this chest in his role as a brand ambassador for Partida Tequila.
“People perceive Partida as a larger brand because they see it around, but realistically we are still very small,” says Bezuidenhout. Because people think the brand has grown in size, they believe the quality must have suffered—which he strongly states “is not true.”
How do bartenders determine if a spirit is good quality or bad, regardless of size? Do research.
“Customers trust and listen to the bartender for advice on spirits, beers, wines and cocktails,” he says. “So the bartender needs to have a responsible and researched voice.”
You heard him: Go out there and try everything. It’s for the good of your craft—and the brands you serve.
(Illustrations: Ariel Dunitz-Johnson)