I came to London for two reasons, I wanted to work in a cocktail bar in the city which has the best bars in the world and secondly I wanted to visit those bars and see why they are the best.
Nine to five
I started work at the end of May in Bethnal Green, area in East London. The bar is called London Cocktail Club and it has eight venues all over the city. The venue I work in is the only one above ground and it has a terrace, which means I don’t have to rot the whole summer in a cellar bar without seeing the sun. We were also the only bar without air con, which meant lot of sweating during busy days. Luckily the those times are over, because now we have a cool breeze coming from the brand new air con -machine.
This year this company was nominated in top 10 of Tales of the cocktail’s Spirited Awards “best international high volume cocktail bar”-list.(https://talesofthecocktail.com/news/tales-cocktail-announces-top-10-nominees-2017-spirited-awards ). Which should look good on my CV.
For the customers the bar is kind kind of a party place, like the company’s motto says: “… a bartenders paradise! A bar that parties like the best of them, and mixes the worlds greatest drinks to perfection. A place where you can dance on the tables whilst singing to AC/DC, sipping on the perfect dry Martini!” And it gets crazy during the weekends, customers are literally dancing on tables and everyone is having fun, including the staff.
But as we work there, we can’t just party all the time, we also work and train ourselves to be better. Lots of prepping and cleaning to do also, I’ve had to juice lemons, limes, grapefruits, make sugar syrup, pre-batch liquors, wash glasses by hand (we don’t have a dish washer) and break down stations after closing time. So basically just normal bar work, what I’ve used to do. But I have also learned a lot new things and skills during my time here.
For example I’ve had to learn a completely new way of pouring, free pouring, which means you can’t use a jigger and you have to count the amounts in your head while you make the drinks. That took a lot of practice and I still have to practice it daily, but I’ve become quite good at it now. I also had to memorize the whole menu and specs for the cocktails, which includes about 70 different drinks. That took me couple of weeks before I passed the spec test and pour test, so I could start bartending.
We also do training with the whole company on Thursdays, the subjects vary from different spirits to opening your own bar, so they have been very interesting and educational.
At the beginning, when I had more spare time, I spent a lot of time seeing things and going to places. Because I live kind of in the middle of the city, it’s not too far to walk anywhere, so I like to do it a lot, which is weird according to my work mates, even though the buses and tube are very easy to use as well.
I’ve visited many museums, like Tate modern and British museum, which is five minute walk away from my flat. My goal is to see everything in the British Museum before I leave, don’t know if I have time to finish that though. Another hobby of mine has been walking around looking for street art, especially Banksy’s.
Otherwise I have been kind of a bad tourist, because I have been here for almost three months and I still haven’t gone to see the Big Ben, and it took me almost two months before I even saw Thames.
My touristic sight seeing has been more of going to the bars which I’ve read a lot online and heard so much about, like Dandelyan, the top-3 bar in the world, The Gibson, bar that serves the weirdest looking cocktails what I’ve seen, and my personal favourite: Happiness Forgets, a small cellar bar with very good atmosphere and minimalistic cocktails.
I’ve also spent time with my work mates, we’ve been out couple of times together, seen movies and just hanged around, we even went to a festival in Victoria Park with everyone in the company.
On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of my spare time at home watching Netflix and doing chores like laundry and washing dishes, because nowdays I work much more than in the beginning so it’s nice to relax and do nothing during the days off.
Differences to Finland
I see a lot of same in the working culture over here that we have in Finland. The British people like punctuality and precision like we do in Finland. The wages are about the same in both countries.
The biggest differences what I see is the customer service, because it is more personal in here, it is the most important thing what you have to do, little bit of small talk, making guests feel comfortable etc. Here it’s been taken to an another level compared to Finland. And that is one of the thing what I came here to learn. Partly customer service is on that level here is probably because of the general culture, like the small talk, and partly because some of the restaurants and bars have a service charge added to the bill, which goes directly to the staff, and if you don’t serve guests well, they don’t want to pay it. But still there is the certain something that makes you feel comfortable when you walk in to a venue with good service.
Here the alcohol industry is very close to you when you work here, there’s lot of different events, competitions, exhibitions and lot of leg work by brand ambassadors coming to showcase their products to you. And that brings you closer to professionals and industry leaders, and gives you more possibilities to advance in your career.
But all in all bar industry is pretty much the same everywhere and there is similar working cultures around the world and at the same time two bars on the same street might have totally different ways of working and doing things compared to each other.