Editor’s Blog – The Page of Shame is a Crock

The CLASS email newsletter came out on Tuesday, and among its treasures can be found The Page of Shame.

A dog and a duck.... playing.

This week the rather nebulous subject of cocktails in pubs gets a beating, and to be honest, we here at BarLifeUK think it is a crock of shit.

In part, the article says:

““Tuesday night is cocktail night”, proclaimed another pub poster we saw recently, in laminated laser printed glory – about as attractive an idea as Happy Hour at the Queen Vic with Dot Cotton for company….
Pubs should stick to what they’re good at and leave cocktails to the experts.”

Now it occurs to me that anyone who cares about the bar industry wants to see it grow and be successful. People who do a good job should earn a good living and bartenders should be able to open their own bars when they are ready.

All of these things are contingent on customers walking through the door and spending money. This is something that often gets forgotten by industry commentators – bars operate by selling drinks to customers, not wanking on about obscure spirits.

Anything that gets customers with money in their pockets reaching for a cocktail instead of a pint of Stella can only be a good thing for the bar industry. That’s why high street operators like B@1 are owed a debt of gratitude by high-end bars. They begin a process of cocktail education for a whole raft of Friday night revelers who might not think to walk into Match Bar. And almost as importantly, get them used to paying £7 plus for a drink.

The obvious counter to this position is that punters trying their first cocktail in a boozer may have a bad experience that puts them off for life. Well, yes, that might happen. But for every bad experience there will surely be a good one, or at least an ok one, and that’s one more cocktail convert for the cause.

Much has been made in the press of the huge numbers of pubs closing in the UK every day. There is a view, subscribed to by BarLifeUK, that cream rises to the top. Many of the pubs that have closed in these tough economic times have been grubby Dog and Duck dives with stinking toilets, flat beer and the ability to rob a person of their will to live.

The pubs that continue to prosper tend to be reasonably well run, and many that fall into the ‘gastro’ bracket have great staff, great food and solid spirits offerings. You add into this mix the activity of the various brand training teams, and you can expect the quality of simple cocktails to steadily improve in pubs – feeding more and more new customers into cocktail bars.

While I agree that there are horses for courses – if I want a Martini I’ll go to a bar – writing off the cocktail efforts of the entire pub sector is short sighted and foolish. Drinks journalists should remember that their readers earn a crust by selling drinks to people, and the more people buying, the thicker the crust for everyone.