Elements of Bartending: How to Become the Sage

Elements of Bartending: How to Become the Sage

In a presentation on Mindful Bartending by industry luminaries Aisha Sharpe and Dushan Zaric, they identified three elements of the complete Bartender: The Mixologist, The Sage, and The Rockstar.  This article is about the Sage.

What is a “Sage?”

Everything changes, but the Sage has a constant awareness and relaxation that carries him through the present moment, and the gifts and challenges it offers: A guy hitting on the boss’ girlfriend, a really intense Saturday night with another bartender out sick, a sudden shortage of limes, these are all ripples on the surface of the deep lake of the sage’s calm.  It is this awareness that allows the best sage-bartenders to diffuse stressful situations just by their presence.  It is this awareness that lets the sage perform to the best of her ability, fully offering the gifts of her service, and expertise to her guests free from the expectation of outcome, which so easily clouds and interferes with optimal performance.
Here are 5 ways to embody the element of the Sage:

  1. Think Somatically- Most people think of their thoughts as things that come from their head, abstract concepts triggered by a song on the radio, or a book.  But the truth is, that your thoughts are influenced tremendously by your body, the way you move, and physically experience the world.  In order to become more “sage like,” it’s important to keep that in mind in everything you do.
  2. Come in Early- Gaz Regan, who was part of the talk on mindful bartending, says that early in his career as a young bartender, he would come in early so he would be less nervous during his shift, he would clean, and just be in the space.  He didn’t realize that what he was doing was actually a form of meditation.  Coming in before you have to will center you and help you command the bar, you’ll start to realize that it’s just a room with a bar and some noise, nothing to be afraid of.
  3. Do something physical you enjoy, preferably right before work- The presence of the sage is a somatic awareness, just talking about it won’t help, but getting in your body, doing something physical: The gym, walking your dog, yoga, anything that produces endorphins that will carry over, like a wave, into work.
  4. Meditate-Meditation, whether sitting on a cushion or through ritually coming in early and cleaning, or just by maintaining awareness of the present moment, is integral to the sage.  Though there are many ways to meditate, the form of meditation that is perhaps immediately conducive to the mindset of the sage is mindfulness meditation, pioneered in the 70s by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and the site, plumvillage.org, has some great free resources on how to practice.
  5. Use breath and focus- Now that you’ve done something physical, and meditated, you need to carry that mental state through the experience of your day.  Yoga teaches that the two fundamental ways in which the body influences the mind are breath (prana) and gaze (drishti).  Your breath should be slow, deep, and even, filling your diaphragm.  And your gaze should be calmly focused on what’s in front of you, but your eyes should be soft.  When something happens to destabilize you, you’ll find that just by bringing your attention to your breath and gaze will allow you to regain your mental equanimity.

Being a Sage, is not enough, the calm presence of the sage must be tempered with the fearless potential of the Rockstar and the practical confidence of the Mixologist.