Where are you?
If anyone has ever read my blogs before, it is obvious that I tend to write about traveling, finding time for yourself, and the importance of life balance. Often times, when I'm on the road, I find myself taking some time for myself (yay!) but at the same time landing in a mad rush to catch up as soon as I hit the tarmac. The recurring theme I've found in my life this month, which I wanted to share with you, is keeping up with a busy life and also staying focused and inspired with my job.
Let's face it -- our jobs are pretty amazing. When you're tapped in, we can make all of our money based off our imagination and creative energy. We have to be kind, courteous and hospitable to our guests -- many of which are coming to our bars already in a good mood. We need to keep them there; maintaining their happy demeanor, or better yet, raising their spirits even more so that they leave in a better place than they entered.
Being "on" all the time can be exhausting. There are so many factors that allow this to be challenging -- duration of shifts, how busy you are, the type of guests you are serving, if you're properly staffed, etc. All of these things are not things you can plan for -- it is part of our unpredictable job. There is something so amazingly awesome about this unpredictability, though. I've worked many a 9-5 office job to know I would take our chaos over cube-land any day. The struggle isn't in the nature of what we do; it's in keeping a level head, positive attitude, and powering through.
All that being said, at the end of a shift, I believe we should be exhausted in every way; as if you just gave it your all in a sports match or on stage. This exhaustion is a sure sign that you're in. Mental, physical, emotional -- this is what our jobs are. So in the midst of that, how do we bring ourselves back down? How can we tap into our creativity when we feel we have given all we can? Whether you're cocktail blocked (what I call writer's block for cocktail creation) or needing the breath of fresh air to bring you mentally back to a good place, I have a few methods I cling to:
I'm a huge advocate of traveling and seeking out inspiration through research and development. If you don't have the time to drive to a new town, or fly to another city for the weekend (you know -- a Monday, Tuesday), go to a new neighborhood you have yet to visit. Try a new place in your hometown. TREAT YOURSELF to a nice dinner/drink at an upscale restaurant. Are you inspired? Are you impressed? Are you the opposite? Think of why and bring it back to what you do. Did they have a menu item that struck something within you? Did it make you think, "Oh man, this would be great with Mezcal and maybe a little bitters..." Even the slightest bit of inspiration and excitement can make you feel refreshed and excited again. I highly recommend making time to travel outside of your city and visiting the places that inspire you. To me, that is where most of my excitement and inspiration comes from.
When I'm struggling to come up with a "new" idea for seasonal drinks, I typically will start with flavors I would like to work with. From there, I consult The Flavor Bible. This is a staple in my book collection, and if it isn't currently in your arsenal, put that on your holiday list. After looking up a few ingredients, I am on a spiral of new ideas and I have more recipes than I cared to have in a very short amount of time. This book is one of my many go-tos. If you have some of your favorites, please share with us! This party can use all the guests we can gather!
3. MOVIES / SONGS
I love to think about what my favorite fictional characters would drink if they sat down at my bar. I also love to think about drinks inspired by songs. Next time you need inspiration, give it a try. It's a really cool way to make a cocktail. PLUS -- you would already have a name, which is like... totally the hardest part.
Very similar to creating something based on a movie or song, think about a place or a time in your past. Re-create that trip you took to Burlington where you could smell the trees and feel the brisk wind on your face. When you've nailed this, I can assure you, you will feel so mighty and victorious!
5. IMITATION LEADS TO CREATION
Sounds weird, I know. This was a trick I used to use in my past life as a musician / songwriter. I read a book by one of my favorite artists, where he said that when he was lacking inspiration, he would listen to a song by an artist he loved and try to write a song "by" that person. Perhaps you love what a restaurant / bar is doing with a certain ingredient. Maybe it's the presentation or the garnish. Maybe it's one of the best bars in the world and located in Siberia, but you read about it and would love to some day visit their establishment. Write a cocktail for "their" bar program. Do something weird. Do something exciting. Do something you're proud of.
Most importantly, DO SOMETHING to bring you back to what you got into this industry for. Sometimes it can be hard to lose sight of these elements, but know that there is a wealth of support and inspiration our there for you -- you just need to seek it out.
This blog was originally published on usbg.org October 28, 2016.