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Know Your Bartenders: Bryson Ryan

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10/10/2023 Bryson's Spirited Odyssey: From South Side Chicago to Mixology Mastery - A Story of Dedication and Passion in the Heart of the Windy City.

Meet Bryson, a proud South Side Chicago native who has carved a unique path in the vibrant world of spirits in the heart of the Windy City. His journey began during his college years, working various retail jobs before making a leap into the restaurant industry. It was there that he was first introduced to the enchanting realm of classic cocktails.

Bryson's passion for mixology ignited when he embarked on Bridget Albert's Southern Wine and Spirits/Academy of Spirits program. Simultaneously, his tenure at the University Club of Chicago exposed him to the highest standards of service, setting the stage for his journey into the world of spirits, technique, and history.

Driven by an insatiable desire to learn, Bryson invests both his time and resources attending seminars and classes on spirit history and exploring cocktail bars and events across the country. This dedication has brought him alongside some of the finest bartenders in Chicago and earned him the privilege of being mentored by the best in the business nationwide.

Today, Bryson holds a key position as the Beverage Director/General Manager at Thornton Distilling Company. His expertise knows no bounds, encompassing a diverse range of spirits, with a particular fondness for Bourbon, French Liqueurs, and an array of New and Old World Wines. He's equally at home with fortified wines, craft beer, and the art of creating innovative cocktails, often using unique ingredients like The Perfect Puree Product Line. His commitment extends beyond crafting exceptional drinks; Bryson is equally dedicated to providing restaurant-quality service within the lively atmosphere of a cocktail bar. His journey is an embodiment of passion, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in mixology.

Tell us something about yourself.

Something unique about me is my experience as a production and stagehand assistant within the entertainment industry (Movies and Television).

What inspired you to get into bartending?

Like everyone else, I have come across I kind of fell into becoming a bartender by accident, "I didn't choose it; it chose me" situation.

What are some of the most important skills for a bartender to have?

Branching out and thinking outside the box. Making sure that I have the skill sets necessary to deliver what my guests can expect at my establishment, and the required work to gain the skills that I will need to succeed and further myself in my career. Because every job you take will require the most out of you.

What do you look for when you plan to buy spirits for your bar?

Cost-effectiveness for a cocktail program, description of each's rating, not to mention that their prices for purchase on-premise are usually pretty good.

What support programs work best for you from suppliers?

They go beyond the limits of conventional purchasing practices to help further progress and are willing to require a new approach based on close relationships made between buyer and supplier, multiple cross-functional engagements, and the shared pursuit of new value being brought to the average consumer.

What cocktails and drinks trends do you see in 2024?

1. Non-Alcoholic Drinks Go Beyond Mainstream

2. The ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail market is ever-growing

3. Alcohol Brands Diversifying Their Portfolio

4. The push for more sustainable packaging and on-demand delivery services

Image source: Bryson Ryan / Pexels

What's the best part of your job?

It allows me to be creative and not work your typical 9-5 Day. Bring Joy to One's Day, Every Day. First above anything else is what I believe in and what matters is my ability to make them feel like a guest in my own home.

What are your favorite TV shows right now? Or your favorite movie?

My favorite TV shows right now are Heels, Archer, Power Book IV: Force, and Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. My favorite movie right now is The Equalizer 3.

If you had to pick one spirit as your personal best which would it be and why?

I would pick bourbon It's easy to find everywhere guaranteeing some quality, it's unpretentious but tasty, and it's an excellent choice when making cocktails.

How are you marketing your bar to drive foot traffic?

Social Media and Events bring folks into the venue who haven’t felt comfortable there before or have not thought the craft cocktail scene was for them.


Any tips for bartenders on how to upsell or cross-sell?

I would tell them to spread the word about hospitality through knowledge, influence, and communication. Share your experiences on product knowledge and service offerings by giving consumers the tools they need to further their education on Wine and Spirits either on a one-on-one basis or group/staffing training and recognize them for doing so. Speak from the heart with a genuine message and am already a credible source of information because for me it is always not about the sales pitch but being able to create an emotional bond with others by engaging them with the rich food and beverage heritage, various styles, and use. By providing a clear and simple message devoid of sales jargon and marketing hype. Believe for the Most you can deliver on my promises and values and exceed my expectations, satisfaction, and goals of reaching with my bartender community.

What is an experience or a customer story you thought was funny and that you remember?

I had a memorable dining experience at a Michelin star restaurant for the first time and for me, the three most important factors are Delicious Food, Service, and Atmosphere. These little details are so easy to overlook, It's the little details that keep a customer coming back, rationalize paying more, and keep people talking about you and recommending everyone they know to you. For most restaurants altogether this will cost nothing. And it ends up being something of far more value than you would without them.

Tips for brands looking to pitch to bars? What should they cover in their pitch? What you do not need to know?

Decide on the exact information you want anyone who receives your pitch to walk away with. Should be able to get the gist in under 3 minutes. Proceed slowly with pitch-making, give it the attention it deserves, and always focus on the receiving end of it which will ultimately determine whether it’s successful or not.

Define a good Bartender according to you.

Every day of your life, once you step behind that bar, always give great customer service and it is successful to its highest levels.

What's an ideal bar drinks menu? what should it include, and what profit metric should it try and achieve?

My ideal drink menu is quality over quantity. My profit metric needs to be cost-effective and whatever I purchase for the back bar must be utilized in the bar well and on the cocktail menu as well, and not just sitting there and collecting dust over the years.

A unique opportunity to present your spirits to America's top Bartenders. Final submission deadline is April 24, 2024. Enter Now.