I rsquo;ve said it before, it’s a great time to be a bartender; especially now, and especially here in Las Vegas. We are one of the world beverage epicenters and are in the middle of a continuing expanding and evolving renaissance for imbibing. For years we’ve accomplished mass quantities and we are now striving for, and pulling off, quality! Not only service, but drink, freshness as well as hospitality are all at the forefront of our minds.

One of the driving forces behind our Vegas renaissance is the United States Bartenders’ Guild. The USBG is a grouping of united barmen dedicated to honing, expanding and perfecting our craft. Treasurer of the Las Vegas Chapter Adam O’Donnell says, “Socially, professionally and for educational opportunities the USBG is an excellent organization to be a part of in any capacity.”

The diverse and newly elected USBG council is off to a robust start and have already held dozens of events in the first two months. With the wildly talented and first woman president Kristen Schaefer at the helm, she is bolstered by a very energetic Vice President, Raul Faria, Adam O’Donnell as Treasurer, and the ardently steadfast Secretary, Cody Fredrickson. One of Kristen’s ambitious goals for the council is, “to be the biggest chapter in the US.”

The USBG helps us to better perform our craft and brings bartenders together. As Kristen explains, “First and foremost it’s about getting your network built. The USBG is a great outlet to do that, because not only do you get the educational component, you also get to be around people that are passionate about the things that you are about.” As a proud member, I agree. One of the main tools that we have as bartenders, besides for the will, determination & passion, is the USBG. The benefits of being in the guild are numerous. Kristen further elaborated, “The educational opportunities are amazing. Some of the tastings that are hosted by us are very expensive. But for $100 a year you can go to all of them. And we throw some cool parties too!”

Bartending is the one great American living art that is performed nightly and has a place at the center of our culture. While we do not have the fanfare garnered by sport, culinary arts, even reality TV, we are a part of the American experience. To the intoxicated naked eye, a lot of the nuance of our job can be missed but there is much to it. The bartender is the conductor and even though many capacities of our job can be performed well by the natural novice, they must be constantly perfected by the lifelong student.

We have for years focused on learning classic cocktails, bringing back freshness, but also expanding the boundaries on what a drink can be. We have yearned to expand the American palate by bringing in different components of the flavor wheel including bitter and exploiting umami flavors. Now I feel the final step for us in our maturing movement is the focus on hospitality. That was the discussion topic of the first in the “For Member By Member” series which I had the honor of speaking at. Along with Gene Samuels of Caesars Palace, David Cooper of CarneVino and Alex Strauss of the Bon Vivants, we all brought our own experiences and style to the table with the intent of proving the point that hospitality comes first and to stress that the most vital component of our job is the connection between people.

It was the morning after another event,“Barmania!” which was a bartender charity event partnered with St. Baldrick’s with the intent to “kick cancer’s ass.” As with many nights at Herbs & Rye the imbibing and good times were a spirited and a constant flow that lasted until the wee hours. The next day, much to our amazement, we still had a room full of attendees who may have not all been bright-eyed but were all still very engaged and enthusiastic. Every barman that attended, was intent on sharing and in “saving mixology with hospitality.” It was inspiring to see.

The Workshop series is a collaborative expansion of President Kristen Schaefer’s goals for Las Vegas, “One of my goals for the USBG was to make it more member driven. I wanted to give them a platform. Raul took that idea and brought it too life.” Cody Fredrickson expounded, “We are very proud of the ‘For Member by Member’ workshop series because they are seminars where the sole purpose is to provide our members with skills, insight and knowledge to empower them to strengthen their craft and career. It was especially important for these events to be by members and for members.”

The next editions of Bacardi-sponsored workshops will cover topics ranging from USBG Master Accreditation to Menu Development, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. The Guild’s continuing dedication to our craft is further proof that what we do is more than just a job; it is a profession. The USBG helps us connect with the esteemed lineage of our forefathers who have changed the way the world drinks. Our rich heritage will not be forgotten and the craft will continue to evolve. Our forefathers have created it and now it’s our job to expand it and not to mess it up! The USBG will help us do that! So for all of you bartenders on the fence, just join! Now! You will not regret it!

Salute!

You can join at USBG.com