We, of the video game generation, have sought the glory of saving a princess while collecting a fortune in coins from question marked blocks for years. I grew up with video games. They were a part of my life since I opened my first Nintendo on Christmas morning when I was eight. Imagine my surprise all these years later when I discovered The Sims™ collection of games, where one can live virtually – and be challenged to ‘gain fame and fortune as a mixologist’.
Level 1: Read books on mixology to increase your skill level
Centuries of history shape the barman’s legacy, and understanding the tales of bartending can help you avoid some rookie mistakes along the way. In The Sims ™ 3: Late Night Edition, one of the first opportunities to grow as a ‘tender is by reading up on the subject, with books available for your virtual character to purchase.
For us corporeal mixers, there are the classic cocktail books.
It was David Embury’s Fine Art of Mixing Drinks that first opened my eyes to the bartender traditions. From Jerry Thomas to contemporary scribes like David Wondrich there exists a living history in print of the evolution of cocktail culture from which to shape your path to greatness.
Seattle’s bar star Evan Martin of Naga Cocktail Lounge sums it up well, saying “Education is important because you can’t know where your craft is going without knowing where it’s been.”
Level 2: Attend mixing classes
In addition to books, there are also mixing classes in Sim-land which will build upon your skill set and create some flashy career opportunities. While most of us ‘in the business’ agree that the bartending classes you see on the back of those alternative newspapers are a joke, there are, however, a few real-life courses that can help you become adept at slinging drinks. Cocktail-themed conventions also offer a slew of classes and workshops face to face with leaders in the industry.
“Events like Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Portland Cocktail Week, and Tales of the Cocktail have inspired me to want to be a better bartender,” says Mindy Kucan of Anvil in Houston, one of GQ’s Top 25 Cocktail Bars.
Level 3: Practice makes perfect
So you’ve read the books and studied up, but only perfect practice makes perfect. And without someone to show you technique, all the recipes in the world aren’t going to help. If you want to be the best, you’ll need to beat the best, or at least study them.
A well-stocked home bar is a good way to experiment on imbibing house guests at your next dinner party but it gets expensive buying hooch out of your own pocket. I might recommend in both the game and in life, if you want to get rich and famous as a mixologist, plan on spending time behind a professional bar to back it up.
“I’ve learned that the best bartenders are just as dedicated to technique and form as athletes,” says Ron Dollete of LushAngeles.com. “What separates the average bartender from the cream of the crop is attention to technique.”
Level 4: Use better ingredients to make more tips and gain celebrity
Back when I was in Chicago, I did an event with Adam Seger, the well-regarded barman and proprietor of Hum liqueur, famous for using interesting ingredients and flavor combinations. He showed up at my bar with a kaffir lime tree that towered almost to the tin ceiling from the mahogany bartop. He stood there, making drinks with the freshly picked fruit, and while I’m sure it was a pain in the pinstriped vest hauling citrus tree around, using only the freshest ingredients is the difference between good drinks and swill.
The video game version of intoxicology agrees, allowing for new ingredients to be unlocked as your skill level increases. I’ve never mixed a drink at my bar with ‘life fruit’ or ‘flame fruit’ but you can impress all kinds of fancy folks in the game that way. And by making fancy new friends with your fancy drinks, your celebrity level grows.
And let’s not forget about the booze! Just because of the glaring omission of alcohol in the game doesn’t mean that’s not what we’re talking about here.
“The more the bartender knows about their craft, the ingredients on the bar with which to play, all the tools at their disposal, the better they will be able to serve the needs of the patron,” attests Danny Ronen, representative of Fair Trade Spirits and artist of fine cocktails.
Level 5: Compete in cocktail competitions
In the virtual world, one can rise to the auspicious designation of Master Mixologist through meticulous accumulation of knowledge, skill, and networking. Challenges like the ‘Cool Creator’ exist where new drinks can be unlocked, like the Glow Goo, Morcubus Molotov, Llama Head, and Woohoo on the Beach. (I kid you not, those are actually drink names in the game.)
The cocktail competitions that exist in the real world bar community are a great way for up and coming bartenders to get their name out there. Notoriety, prizes, travel, and going toe to toe with other talented bartenders are great incentives to hone one’s craft. And if there’s a way to better explore new flavor combinations than picking random ingredients on the fly when there’s a huge cash prize on the line, I haven’t found it. Winners are often flown around the world and earn press and accolades for their libational creations, providing their first intoxicating taste of the glamorous side of the booze world.
Level 6: Boost your star status by hanging out with celebrities
Impressing celebs with your drinks is the quickest way to enter into posh society in The Sims™. And while in the real world, master mixologists like Tony Abou-Ganim rub elbows with A-listers on a regular basis, it didn’t happen overnight. Once you know what you’re mixing, it’s a good idea getting to know the people behind it.
To each brand, there is a face. Larger brands have brand ambassadors with big budget dollars behind them, an oft-sought-after job for many bar folk. Prove your worth as a bartender to these brands and they may be flying you around the world in style. Parties, dinners, and all kinds of excess will unfold before you. A cover story in Time and TV appearances are sure to follow. Welcome, young apprentice, to the glamorous world of mixology!
Champagne wishes and caviar dreams are now part of your jet set lifestyle. Just don’t forget to break down your well and take out the trash before you turn out the lights.
Level 7: Live the dream, whatever it may be
I’ve been making drinks behind a bar since before I could legally do so, certainly not in search of celebrity. Most of us do it because we love the expression of creating an experience for our guests, much the same as any chef worth his fleur de sel. Often the career chooses us, igniting our passion through the rich history of cocktail culture or the exhilaration of a three deep bar full of thirsty patrons. But to set out with the goal of fame and fortune as a bartender, most of us do not. Nonetheless, if that is your aim there are some notable parallels from this video game so that you, too, can have success as a mixologist of tipulars.
~Brandon Wise, Presiding barman of Portland’s Irving Street Kitchen