10 Profound Observations About Life, From Bartenders

10 Profound Observations About Life, From Bartenders

What’s the most profound thing you’ve learned about yourself, or others, as a bartender?

We started thinking about this question more recently. We as bartenders constantly strive to give perfect cocktails in stylish spaces with thoughtful lighting and music. We aim to create a welcoming vibe and deliver good consistent value for your hard-earned money and free time. Amongst ourselves we nerd out over massive backbars stocked with the most complete ranges of sometimes obscure categories of spirit.

But that’s not entirely the thing that drives success in our industry. Many of us have profound respect for bartenders whom we couldn’t name any of their creations.

Bartenders truest strength is our power of observation. We’re engaged in a scientific study. We are Sociologists behind the bar. Anyone that doubts the scientific bent to Bartending needs to check out the book Proof: The Science of Booze, by Adam Rogers. (We owe this all to yeast!)

So we put the question at the top of the page to some of the bartenders we respect in the industry (For the insights of Female Bartenders click here). Here’s what they’ve learned:


Profound Bartender Insights

Philip Duff

“That it’s not about the drink”

– Philip Duff (Director of Education for Tales Of The Cocktail \\ Official Barman for Planet Earth)

David Wolowidnyk Profound Bartender

David Wolowidnyk

 “I believe one of the most important pieces of equipment in hospitality is the front door…

The “holy grail” of all that we use, not for the door itself but the symbolic nature of it. Our guests have chosen to touch the door and enter through it. Especially when they could have easily chosen to patronize another fine quality establishment. It is up to every employee and the proprietor of the venue that we do everything in our power to create a memorable experience to encourage the return visit of our guests and to genuinely appreciate their presence.” 

– David Wolowidnyk (Bar Director West Restaurant + Bar \\ 2012 “World’s Most Imaginative Bartender” 

Profound Bartender Insights

Shawn Soole

“I’ve observed that the tiniest details can have the greatest effect”

– Shawn Soole (Bartender \\ Author of Cocktail Culture)

Profound Bartender Insights

Jay Jones

“The profundity of looking outside yourself and caring to provide an experience to others; as a sincere host and benevolent mentor. [That pays you right back]”

Jay Jones (Beverage Director Vancouver Canucks \\ Vancouver Magazine Bartender of the Year 2014)

Profound Bartender Insights

Jeff Savage

“There is an inherent respect for crafted quality in everyone’s DNA.  When I mention to someone who orders a rum and coke at our bar that we make our cola in-house, I see that spark of intrigue in their eyes. This feeds back to me. I reflect that what we are doing is crafting consumptive art; and thankfully, we, the artists, do not have to die to be respected”

– Jeff Savage – (Bartender ThreeBoars.ca)

Robert 'Buck' Friend Profound Bartender Insights

“The fact that we are a community. There is always someone to help. We never go without. We always want the best for each other and someone always has your back. No matter what”

– Robert “Buck” Friend (Bartender Clough Club)

robyn gray bartender

Robyn Gray

“Through years of observation I have honed an instinct for serving each individual guest in a manner that is captivating and unique to that individual. It can be done in even the busiest bar”

– Robyn Gray (Bartender Rosewood Hotel Georgia\\ justcocktails.org contributor)

Philippe Grandbois Profound Bartender Insights

Philippe C. Grandbois

“That universal patience is the most important virtue. Most of us don’t give our endeavours enough time. Service, reading, eating, drinking, speaking, interacting, etc. Finding patience in your own life and living with patience in your personal and professional life will make you live longer. As a service professional, if you don’t find patience you will just grow jaded.”

– Philippe C. Grandbois (KraftyKitchen.ca \\ Founder INC Branding & justcocktails.org)

Kevin Brownlee Profound Bartender

Kevin Brownlee

The bar is simply a platform to extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude for all people and the time they share with me. We all feel the same emotions at some point. We’ve so much more in common than we think… 

There are times for conversation and then there is time for few words, when the drink does the talking”

– Kevin Brownlee (Bartender  Pourhouse Gastown \\ CPBA Treasurer)

Profound Bartender Insights Tarquin Melnyk

Tarquin Melnyk

“I used to work in a hospital. Back then, I strove to provide superior guest services to people on their worst – often last – day. Bartenders offer that same quality of life enhancement. We get to do it for a broad variety of reasons. To be able to host people in their celebration moments, to help enhance those, is a profound privilege.”

Tarquin Melnyk (Head Bartender Bambudda\\ Founder justcocktails.org

And as a toast to all that learning, enjoy this excellent cocktail from the Canadian Bar scenes spiritual leader:

Jay Jones Quick Wick Cocktail

Jay Jones – Quick Wick Cocktail | “Dorothy Parker is legendary for her quick wit among other intellectual qualities. Old Pulteney, made in the salty northern east coast fishing town of Wick, Scotland. Together they create the character of the “Quick Wick” cocktail.” explains Jones. 

Quick Wick Cocktail – by Jay Jones

1.5 oz New York Distilling Company Dorothy Parker American Gin

Combine ingredients in a stirring vessel. Stir all ingredients with large fresh ice cubes until chilled but not ice-cold.
Fine strain into a cocktail glass or champagne saucer.

Express orange peel over the drink surface – discard peel and serve.

Enjoy this cocktail, and give us some feedback. What is the most profound thing you’ve learned about yourself, or others, thanks to this industry?
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  • pgrandboisgmail-com

    […] He’s saying, “Let me show you the cool things I’m in to. Get a sense of me, and maybe, fall for me”. Bartenders, like Chefs, endeavor to provide quality and authenticity. Whereas most Chefs create behind the scenes we must produce balanced cocktails in a visually compelling performance for onlookers. We strive to be awesome at it, learning rituals of fluid movement and eye-catching flare. We work to add something to everyone’s night and be the “benevolent hosts” (A Jay Jones gem) […]

  • pgrandboisgmail-com

    […] laughs, “We worked so hard on hiring hospitable Bartenders, instead of ‘mixologists’, that Jeff and I are still creating most of the new cocktails […]

  • pgrandboisgmail-com

    […] Observations about life from bartenders. […]

  • pgrandboisgmail-com

    I really like what Kevin Brownlee and Philippe C. Grandbois have to say. I’ve been a bartender in craft cocktail bars for 14+ years, and I think their words hold very true. Patience, and remembering that we are all just people, and appreciating the connection, is very crucial. Not always easy, but crucial.

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