Theme Magazine - UK, October 2001
Chef Geoffrey Zakarian opened Town a bar/restaurant in the Chambers Hotel this year in New York City and even in this challenging environment of post September 11th, it quickly became the new destination. Although the bar is small, it spills out into the lobby lounge and up to a mezzanine/loft area overlooking the lobby that is set up as a second lounge area. The bar program started out a bit shaky but then chef Zakarian hired Albert Trummer, an Austrian who worked for a short stint with chef David Bouley at Danube. Albert gave me his business card the on my first of many trips to his bar and it read Bar Chef under his name.
After an hour or two at the bar watching his drink execution and studying his mise en place, it was apparent that Bar Chef was more than just an affectation. Albert has worked for talented chefs and adopted their approach to running a kitchen as a blueprint for setting up his bar. This is the most important and revolutionary trend I have seen in the bar business in years. Albert is one of many young beverage professionals who have benefited from sea change in the culinary world that first swept the United States and has now changed the dining scene in London. Diners on both sides of the Atlantic are in the middle of a passionate love affair with big flavor, whether ethnic, regional or a fusion of many cuisine's. This change has greatly impacted the bar. There is a growing demand for well-made new and classic cocktails with big flavor and fresh ingredients. Young professionals like Albert are dedicated to meeting that demand.
But on the flip side of that opportunity at the bar is the reality that cocktail programs don't take care of themselves…they have to be managed just like the kitchen. That means they need an executive chef type person to oversee the menu and the manufacturing of the menu at the bars. Smaller operations don't have the budget for a new management position, executive bartender if you will, but they do have bar staffs. Hire a bartender who is passionate and elevate that person to head bartender or what ever title you choose and give them the control and responsibility as you would the executive chef. The owner must be willing to pay the individual in the head bartender/manager position for the additional responsibility and must relinquish some creative control. I was brought into one major hotel in midtown Manhattan to train and jazz the bar staff in classic and original cocktails, technique, and product knowledge. Although I left an enthusiastic group of bartenders ready to make great drinks, at the end of the seminar I walked away knowing the program would never take root; there was no manager present during the seminars and no management person spoke with me at all about maintaining the program. The money spent by management on my fee was wasted. The bartenders can't do it alone, they need the support of management and the commitment of the owner.
Manage your cocktail program as you would the kitchen. Meet with the head bartender or manager on a regular basis to discuss menu and products just as you would the executive chef. Discuss pricing, portion size, and control. The Head bartender/manager should meet regularly with the bar staff to maintain the quality of the product and manage the training of new staff. A creative cocktail program that employs fresh juices, exotic ingredients, new and classic recipes, needs intensive training and maintenance to be successful. Christmas in Town, is one of Albert Trummer's "Hot Crocks", winter warmers he created to take the sting out of the cold weather.
CHRISTMAS IN TOWN 1 slice of orange 2 tablespoons of fresh pomegranate seeds ¼ fresh vanilla bean 1 purple fig cut in half 1 ounce vanilla infused simple syrup 1 measure of aged rum 4 ounces of fresh orange juice Muddle or mash the first five ingredients together in the bottom of the metal portion of a cocktail shaker. Add the rum and the orange juice and steam all the ingredients with the steamer arm of an expresso machine until hot. Serve steaming hot in a ceramic mug and garnish with a cinnamon stick.