Angus Winchester… The Bartending Golden Age


So I am in a difficult position. I do not have enough grey hairs to be considered a Bartending Grand Master alongside with Dorelli, Regan, Schumann and DeGroff and yet I don’t not have enough hair full stop to be considered a young stud. And yet I figure I have been in the game long enough and flown enough miles to make a few comments about the state of our Industry now as opposed to when I started in 2 B.C. (two years before cranberry juice).  To quote English Prime Minister Harold McMillan “we have never had it so good” – we are in the midst of perhaps the greatest Golden Age of bartending since the late 19th century and here is why.

Firstly we are seeing a meta-trend among our consumers for three main desires. On the main our people are searching for authenticity in their activities and their consumption. No longer do we want instant coffee when we can have espresso; no longer do we want boy bands when we can listen to real musicians playing real instruments; no longer do we want package holidays where someone else tells us where to go and what to be impressed by and no longer do we want mass produced products.  Increasingly people are searching for products and experiences that seem more ‘real’ and have heritage. Next, we are seeing a rise in connoisseurship. We want to be seen to be discerning in our choices of products, services and experiences: we want to show our sophistication and knowledge to explain why we are drinking our brands or where we drink them. Finally we are seeing a desire for increased flavour in our food and drink – we want slow food and not fast food and we want big, bold and flavoursome experiences. All three of these together give us as bartenders a willing audience to show off our skills to.

And our skills are being developed as never before. Shows like the Sydney BarShow, Tales of the Cocktail, Bar Convent Berlin, Paris’ Cocktails and Spirits and several others now exist. Ten years ago tradeshows were dull conferences where sales reps mingled with sales reps. Now the cream of the industry pontificates and educates and inspires and what’s more bartenders from around the planet are travelling to see what other nations are doing. Secondly Brands are training bartenders in increasingly large numbers where in my day they relied on cool t-shirts and branded bar tools to convince us to sell their products (tho’ I have to say the loss of the Bar T Shirt is a great one that I miss dreadfully). Finally the rise of the ‘Academic Bartender’ and the increased availability of bartending books both old and new means that old skills are being revised, histories are being learned and the profession of the Bartender is being revived and understood.

Finally as I referred to in my opening with the BC comment the average bartender of today has a backbar that most older bartenders would have killed for. Twenty years ago when I started behind the stick we were smug bastards if we had two ‘brands’ of vodka, gin or bourbon. Yet now there are a wider array of brands and also whole categories that we never dreamed of like Anejo Tequilas, Agricole rums, Rye whisky, Old Tom gin and the like…never before has the back bar offered such opportunity and such choice and thank god because of the above trends we get to use them.


Yet we must be extra careful with our position as nothing lasts forever. Yes it may be nice to have a choice of 20 tequila brands in three styles of each and yet if we do not sell them regularly we will go out of business. Yes it is nice to be called Mixologists in the media and yet if we can’t serve the wine drinker and the beer drinker and even the non drinker and make them feel welcome and important we shall disappear up our own collective backsides. We must still remember to be humble and understanding with our guests, be business-like in our whims and also give suitable respect to those that have gone before us and seen times when they were not as golden as today… like me for example!



Mr Angus Winchester is a drinks expert with an encyclopaedic knowledge of drinks, their recipes and the myths surrounding them. He’s has been a regular contributor to Australian Bartender magazine as well as other international industry publications, has a successful drinks consultancy called Alconomics, heads up the award winning Trailer Happiness in London and is the founder of the London branch of the Rum Club. He is now Tanqueray no.TEN Global Ambassador and leader of the Tanqueray Guild. You can email him at his mobile desk (aka crackberry):

  1. Well said sir, with all of the available products today and the stiff competition in the industry we must remember that stonking service is as much a part of bartending as that new hyper premium tequila that we may not sell. Creating an experience for our guests and gaining their trust will result in return trade and a possible chance to show some of the amazing products available in most bars nowadays.
    Cheers T Dub

  2. Here, here Mr Winchester! It’s true bartenders today have never had it so good and have a huge selection of free educational information available to them via trade magazines, websites, trade shows and supplier functions to name a few. They’re all designed to build knowedge and confidence and, of course, from the supplier’s point of view some brand loyalty . In saying this, I see a growing issue of “bartender no shows” thoughout the industry where people RSVP for a supplier trade event of some sort and simply dont turn up! I understand today’s bartenders are invited to many functions or tastings, but people please don,t RSVP if your unsure if your going to attend!
    We see it with events all over the country and I feel its getting worse especially in Sydney.
    Bottom line; if the golden age is to continue more respect (via attendence if you’ve RSVP’d) must be given to the many great suppliers who invest a lot of time and money to help bartenders and build this great industry!

  3. Although I do appreciate some things made to make things easier for me i  DO NOT want my drinks to come out of a package. Have you heard they’re going to be making cocktail juice boxes? I love my dirty martini’s and if it’s not in a martini glass freshly made I get upset. I actually wanted to learn how to make one and used this recipe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.