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Know Your Bartenders: Oliver Eardley

Photo for: Know Your Bartenders: Oliver Eardley

27/09/2023 Oliver Eardley -  A Journey in Mixology and Hospitality

Oliver Eardley is a seasoned professional with ten years of experience in the hospitality industry. From his humble beginnings as a Food Runner at the age of 17, Oliver's career has been a remarkable ascent through various roles, culminating in his current position as Head Bartender at IVY Cocktail Bar in Paris. Join us as we delve into his inspiring journey of passion, innovation, and excellence in the world of mixology and hospitality.

Your current place of work / Last place of work.

Current - IVY Cocktail Bar Paris / Previously - Bartender Savoy and later Bar Supervisor Sketch London.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm a 27-year-old professional who embarked on a career in the hospitality industry a decade ago. My journey began as a Food Runner at the age of 17, and since then, I've traversed various roles, from Server to Bartender, Bar Manager, and even Group Bar Trainer in numerous bars and restaurants across the UK.

In October 2021, I took my passion for mixology to London, where I secured a position as a Mixologist at The Savoy Hotel's prestigious American Bar. My time at The Savoy also saw me contributing to the Training & Consultancy department, where I played a role in developing app-based learning modules for Forbes and LQA standards training.

My dedication to the craft of mixology bore fruit in March 2022 when I emerged as the 1st place winner in the UKBG X JSS Great Honkaku Shochu & Awamori Contest. This victory not only earned me the title but also a career development trip to Japan. Subsequently, I assumed the role of Bar Supervisor at The Glade, a well-known establishment at Sketch.

My journey has now taken me to the captivating city of Paris, where I hold the position of Head Bartender at IVY Cocktail Bar in the 2ème arrondissement. Here, I've had the privilege of launching an exciting new menu, focusing on the art of cocktail and food pairings. I've introduced innovative techniques, intriguing flavors, and new products to enhance the guest experience. Additionally, I was recognized as a finalist in the Trophées du Bar competition in June, with the final competition scheduled for September.

Image Source: Sid Patel, CEO, Beverage Trade Network.

Why did you want to become a Bartender?

When I was a young professional in the industry I unfortunately had a small burnout. Staying in the industry I found myself as a Barista and met my mentor an amazing Bulgarian Barista. He inspired my first fascination with liquid, and upon returning to my old company I wanted more!

I started back as a Bartender this time, learning everything I could about liquid. That passion has stayed with me every step of my career across every position I’ve worked in. For me, bartending is an individual journey and every day is an opportunity for learning.

What are some of the most important skills for a Bartender?

For me, some of the most important skills are… continued pursuit of drinks knowledge, adaptability, and the ability to accept everyone and invite them into your bar with welcome arms

What do you look for when you plan to buy new products for your business?

Right now my bar focuses on trying to introduce guests to the more obscure, unknown liquids of the world. I look for exclusivity (not available in shops to start), I look for unusual product origins (for example a Japanese spirit in the Rhum category) and lastly, I need the liquid to look and taste good. Without quality, there is no up-sell and it helps when showing a guest something new if it tastes undeniably great!

If you had to pick one spirit brand that you love, which one would that be?

This is a very hard question… for me, I have a soft spot for the independent. My favorite brand right now is a little-known brand from Palmela, Portugal (south of Lisbon, Alentejo). They are called Arrabadine, they produce 4 spirits. 2 are based on Portuguese traditions and taste and the other 2 are the 600-year-old recipe of the Arrabidain Convent! Still produced the traditional way and aged in the original casks this medicinal liqueur is then macerated with local grapes to produce a Branco and Tinto version! It’s a must-try! Get yourself to Palmela!

Image: Oliver Eardley

What's the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to create something and watch your guests enjoy what you’ve made! Right now I’m trying to create and capture new cocktails for my local area in Paris and it seems to be going down well with our more classical French guests.

Please share some tips to increase beverage sales in a Bar.

Firstly I would say exposure (choice) make sure your guests have access to a full spirit list! After this look after your team.. give them tastings, training, and focus. There is nothing more powerful than an enthusiastic server talking about a product they’ve tasted and loved to your guests.

What do you love hearing as a bartender?

The best thing to hear for me is gratitude from a guest for their experience or individual drinks they took. I also love to hear new young employees asking questions and wanting to learn!

How can a customer get your attention in a crowded bar?

Be patient! I’ve seen you before your close enough to look at the cocktail tins! Just be kind, wait your turn, and give respect to your bartender… ask nicely, engage us in light convo if it’s not too busy, and best of all day thank you before leaving the bar with your beautifully crafted cocktail.

Image: Oliver Eardley

What is your go-to "surprise me" order?

For me, the ‘surprise me’ order depends on the guest. If you're drinking off the menu.. I’ll surprise you with our best-selling menu item of the night. If you're on the menu I’ll switch it up depending on what you’ve taken. Drinking something light will get you to try the Paradise Cocktail, drinking something more boozy lets get you on a nice Vieux Carre or a Tuxedo No.2

Please name 3 bars that you admire and why.

Lyan-ess, London - This bar used to be my ‘local’ in London. I love their innovation and how they have seen lessons blend the Hotel and Independent Bar vibes together.

Little Red Door, Paris - I’ve known these guys for a few years now, and having followed their Farm to Glass concept through its growth I am so taken aback by the ability to process the amount of produce they do and the ability to go direct to the grower.

UNI, Lisbon - This new concept bar has broken all conventions. 1 room, 9 seats, 1 station… and what a beautiful bar this is! Their menu focuses on UNI flavors or universal flavors. Each drink contains 10-15 ingredients making up one single flavour profile. It is a MUST-visit bar if you are going to Lisbon, Portugal!

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Any good customer story that you recall that comes to mind?

My all-time story is when in London a guest showed me hospitality in return for me looking after him in my bar. He came in like any other guest took a seat and took a nice top-shelf whiskey.. we got talking about all sorts whilst I was still serving the 14 tables and managing the venue.

He was over from America and brought his daughter and her friends. I managed to arrange a large table for them in our packed sister venue. He settled his tab with us before joining his family paying a 100% tip and letting me know I was doing a great job and he could see my experience showing through (very nice words at the time).

Before leaving he came to find me and we exchanged details.. he said he wanted to keep in touch for his next visit. The next day I get a message asking if I am free. He tells me to meet him at a hotel bar for a drink. I normally don’t accept this type of interaction with guests but that day something in me went screw it going.

We shared great whisky and had a great chat Prepared to pay my half we took the bill and he didn’t allow me to pay saying it was on him for being so hospitable to him and his family during their visit the previous night.

It’s a guest and a moment that will stay with me my whole career.

Note: Header Image Source - Sid Patel, CEO, Beverage Trade Network

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