Chris Bidmead recalls the evening years ago when he walked into a Manhattan lounge and “fell in love with the fact that I had no idea what I was drinking.”
Bidmead was no stranger to the bar scene. He had tended bar in his hometown in New York’s Hudson Valley, a community that had “more bars than people,” and where most spots served cocktails “that tasted like candy bars.” For Bidmead, “slinging drinks” was a chance to make money until he landed a real job. But when he found himself in the Manhattan lounge, tasting flavors he never knew existed, it “blew my mind,” he says. Bartending not only turned into Bidmead’s real job but into an all-encompassing career, taking him from mixologist to mentor to what he calls a mechanic of the spirits world—someone who builds better bars.
Bidmead, now based in Brooklyn, would go on to work in other facets of the business, including experiential campaigns for clients in the spirits industry. It opened his eyes to the global nature of the business and the sense of community behind it. He loved the camaraderie.
While Bidmead was taking advantage of opportunities, he was also creating opportunities of his own. He noticed bars were opening quickly in some markets, but they lacked the trained staff to run them efficiently. “You had people who would go in, open the bar, get it on its feet and then move on to the next project,” he says. “I was wondering where the mentorship was and who would teach the person behind them.”
The realization became the foundation of Bidmead’s venture, Bar Method, a bartender masterclass program he launched in 2016. Bar Method took a culinary approach, emphasizing the why behind every technique. “It’s like cooking. If you understand why you’re using a particular technique, you can better apply it,” he says. The program featured seminars by professionals at the top of their game and attracted people actively perusing growth in the craft from all over the country. Bidmead is now exploring an online version of Bar Method.
Although championing the next generation of bartenders, bar managers and beverage directors continues to be a priority, Bidmead embraces the role of “mechanic” as much as a mentor. “I’m very systems-driven. When I get involved in a new project or the opening of a bar, I figure out how to systemize as much as we can so that it’s rinse-repeat, and we’re not trying to solve the same problems over and over again. The goal is to create a bar like a machine. Let’s put all the pieces together, so everything works perfectly.”
WHY BARFLY MIXOLOGY GEAR
When you use good equipment, it makes things more efficient. It makes things more repeatable. When your tools work with you rather than against you, everything is easier. I think it also gives you a chance to feel good about what you’re doing. Making a drink is so much about the vibe and the atmosphere and the experience. Having the equipment to match changes ther game.