May I buy you a drink?

Career growth is exciting and terrifying at the same time. It’s a strange and meaningful experience to transition from one end of an industry to another. It’s always interesting (and important) to look through a new lens at the job we’ve been doing for so long, whether that is promotions, department conversions, schedule changeovers or perhaps even meandering from one side of the bar to the other. No, I’m not retiring my bar stick, but I have taken on freelance brand representation work for a spirits company as of late, and I reveled in my first event for the organization this past weekend. Absorbing all the information I could, I found myself forming a whole new appreciation for my service industry brethren and a new look at the folks who patronize our establishments. In my experience, liquor representatives can be a bar staff’s headache or homie, and I plan to be the latter and learn everything I can to further my love affair with the world of libations.

Perhaps the most fun perk of representing a spirits brand (outside of the product samplings, of course) is being able to socialize, meet new friends and buy bar patrons libations featuring the product. As I’m already notorious for buying far too many rounds for my friends anyway, this seems like a great opportunity for me to let my drinks-per-hand abilities flourish, all for maximum career growth. Walking up to strangers and offering to buy them a cocktail is a bit new to me, however, and an interesting experience it was. I find there are a few different types of reactions upon approach.

On one hand, there is the buzzed bar-goer who will accept a free drink, no matter what it may be. They’ll drink tequila layered Fireball and chase it with Jager, if it’s at no cost. That’s the easiest market, but potentially not the folks who are going to follow-up this free drink with a purchase of their own, which is the ultimate goal. On the other hand, there’s the self-proclaimed connoisseur, who, upon being offered said no-cost beverage, would like to know its origin, flavor profile, the distiller’s name and date of birth… just kidding about that last one, but, truly, I am happy to oblige this third-degree questionnaire because it means these folks truly care about the products they consume. And, if I’m hawking new bevies to the masses, shouldn’t I be well-versed in what makes them so special? Last, there are the fellas who, despite my practically wearing a billboard reading the spirits’ brand name and passing out swag like candy to the masses, thought I was attempting to make a pass at them by offering a cocktail. With a gentle shift of focus to the spirit itself, luckily this crowd is polite enough to accept my Old Fashioned and lack of romantic interest with grace.

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That night, the bartenders were my saviors of the evening, almost as if they were old friends. I ran a company tab and continuously ordered specialty cocktails that they hadn’t heard of until that evening. Careful not to exceed the tab limit I’d been given, I found myself repeatedly asking them to check the balance, which they obliged without complaint. “Can you pass out the branded shot glasses when people order x special?” “Don’t forget to use the special cups!” “May I place this signage on the tables?” I heard these requests spilling out of my mouth and wondered who I’d become.

I felt myself growing a second skin — experiencing my own world from the outside looking in. It was a different experience than being an actual patron (which I am regularly, of course). Almost as if there’s a third eye of this industry that I now have access to, and I can look through it to experience growth and absorb knowledge and become better than I was before. I suppose that’s how we grow with every aspect of our lives, though, be it careers or relationships or personal journeys. To see the way we’ve always looked at something through the lens of another is how we transcend ideas, hell, it’s how we break down barriers in all walks of life.

Keep looking, friends. Cheers.

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