A day in the life of a bartender

“Bartending is just a not a side-line way of making extra money quickly… it is a profession”. Mixologist Chanel Horn gives us insight on the life of a bartender.

Name: Chanel Horn

Job title: Bartender/Mixologist

Qualifications needed:

A passion for the hospitality industry is as good as a qualification in some regards however a Culinary, Food and Beverage background would come in handy. I studied Food and Beverage Management at CPUT’s Cape Town Hotel School which benefitted me on a business side where the culinary studies/subjects gave a new dimension to my drink making.  

1. How did you get into your line of work?

I have always been fascinated by the glamour of bartending, the art of the bartender’s dance which is the meticulous style that a bartender/mixologist displays when making his or her drink. The way you pour or your own personal way of shaking, it’s the show piece that memorizes.

When I was a student I did promotional work and I always looked at the gents behind the bar and thought: “They have all the fun.” Pretty soon I was behind a bar soaking up all the information that I could and the fascination grew. I’ve spent the last ten years perfecting my craft/style of drink making with the intention of providing consumers with ‘innovative’ luxury cocktail experiences, through the drinks that I design and also through the bartenders I facilitate.


2. What's the first thing you do when you get into the office?

Contrary to popular belief that bartenders and mixologists only operate at night, I am actually an early bird. After my 5am gym sessions, I step into the office ready for the day. The morning is then generally spent getting ready for and facilitating training sessions (I do up to 3 a day). After this its menu development time, i.e. admin and quite often in the evenings I spend time in the hospitality industry - chatting to consumers, bartenders and managers, learning about people and trends.

3. To do my job, you have to love…

Life and add a dash of interesting individuals and great dining experiences, whether it being liquid or not. The greatest honour is to be of service.

4. I spend most of my day…

Part of my work is to raise the skill level of bartenders in South Africa with training. This includes theoretical training and practical training on everything from the different spirit categories to bar ergonomics. In an effort to create a level of professionalism where the guest feels confident to ask the mixologist what he or she could recommend. The mixologist would then take into consideration the likes of the guest and then create a unique experience to dazzle the guest with the aim to leave the consumer with a memorable premium cocktail experience.

5. What is the worst aspect of your job?

When people believe that bartending is a side-line way of generating extra money quickly and don’t take the craft seriously. It is a profession and we need to elevate the perception of the craft in the hospitality industry for people to see it as such. The careered mixologist strives every day to alleviate this misconception and slowly we are through competitions such as the Diageo Reserve World Class events.

6. What is the best thing about your job?

I have been given the opportunity to train individuals, being able to give them a skill set where they can take pride in and make a living from, when they didn’t previously have the opportunity to do so.

Designing a bar skills program for the 2009 government initiative, for the 100 000 Jobs Creation Program to train 25 previously disadvantaged individuals and then place them in a work environment, it was the most rewarding experience ever.

My job has given me the opportunity to design the curricula to prepare 1000 bartenders for the Soccer World Cup, to work in various departments of hospitality. Education here was incredible, with the amount of foreign guests that visited SA during this time.

7. The next job up from yours is…

I can’t think of doing anything better, there is so much potential in Africa. We are ‘such’ a beautifully aspiring market. I would like to have the opportunity to create an internationally accredited curriculum for advanced beverage studies and implement it on a large scale in Africa.

8. What's the one thing no-one knows about your job?

People assume that my work is only the theatre of making elegantly executed drinks. The show piece is maybe 10% of what I do. There is so much planning and preparation that is done for the performance. Be it an event or a training/tasting session or just a presentation that I do.
Always be prepared. That is where your success lies.

9. Optional question: What is the starting salary of someone in your job?

That is a near impossible question to answer. However, I will say this, if you are passionate about what you do and you constantly strive to improve what you do, there will always be new opportunities that present themselves. Altitude is dependent on attitude!
 
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