There are several components which are usually “wrong” in bars in the UAE:
- out of fashioned drink selections
- bad value for money
- average quality of drinks
- wrong clientele
- wrong planing of the bar
First: Out of fashioned drink selections:
In the UAE, bartender and guests alike still think, that the Bullfrog [the UAE’s spurious version of the Long Island Iced Tea with blue curaçao and Red Bull], Flaming Lamborghini’s and Sex on the Beaches are still the latest in mixology. Own creations here have usually the same style.
Some fancier bars often also sports an usually unsuccessful attempt to molecular mixology.
If you understand this business, you see now, that everything mentioned is a thing of the past [to be precise from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s].
Modern mixology would include: the utilization of ancestor recipes and interpretations; local / regional produce; simplistic concoctions with a raised attention on detail; avant-garde influences there, where it really make sense
[curiously nowadays everything seems to be about smoke- a trend I don’t want to follow].
Homemade ingredients like bitters, liqueurs and essences are even more substantial than only to be called a trend.
Second: No value for money:
My believe is, that a bad mixed drink is not worth the money – meaningless how less you charge for it! But there are also bars in superior locations, which are just charging 30% to 100% more than any other competitive bar. They might be occasionally better by a margin – but don’t bother about the differences; it is just a rip off – and most guests think the same.
Third: Average quality of drinks:
It starts with the recipe – nobody seems to have the interest in offering drinks in a classical [and good quality] way.
There is a tendency, that bartender, outlet manager, F&B manager are in bondage to the ideas of guests, how to make drinks. Sorry – I love my guests, but they should not tell me, how to make a classic drink; pst – that is why I am a professional and they are in this case just amateurs.
[I am not sure, if customers are also giving directions to doctors, dentists, mechanics, baker, bankers etc how to make their job properly].
But it is not only about the recipe – usually the drinks are not appropriately prepared. A drink has to be shaken for at least 20 seconds to reach the correct temperature and dilution. Watch any bartender in Dubai – and you might see, that he is shaking 5 seconds the most.
And then there are the products; like already mentioned in my previous post, externally procured fresh juice is the standard here [from a company called Barakat]. Orange juice is anytime great; grapefruit juice still most of the time good [however it degrades much faster as it should], pineapple juice – I would say, less than 40% of the delivered product is adequate… but lemon juice is never good.
Craft bartender would now indicate on the article of Dave Arnolds [of the CIA – Culinary Institute of America], in which he made a series of tests, which proved, that the taste of lemon and lime juice is severely degrading after 10 hours.
Not to speak about low quality liqueurs, even worse tequilas and grappe etc. which is commonly used here in bars [yes, even the good ones].
Fourth: Wrong clientele
This is now a topic, which is a little bit… delicate.
Everybody who visited the UAE [especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi] and went to a swanky bar or nightclub realized, that there are certain ladies, lurking for prey.
And places, which have obviously enough “variety of these guests”, attracting men with specific ambitions. Other guests, especially women are feeling more than annoyed by this – and usually don’t bother to visit those bars again.
While I do understand, that diverse guests have different perceptions about a venue; the main reasons should be the beverages, the food, the courtesy of the colleagues, and later the ambiance and entertainment.
However it is not only this kind of “wrong” clientele: too loud music usually attracts very young guests, who won’t be very loyal to a bar, neither will they spend enough and would detract more mature guests, who might want to socialize [including talking to each other].
Fifth: Wrong planing of the bar:
This is a far more complex problem. Most bars don’t have the budget to be replanned in a reasonable timeframe. That means one time wrong always wrong. Also planning of a bar includes so many facets- which are simply a topic for several more posts – or even a book.
The most obvious one, some bars accidentally are doing right: The focal point.
The most successful and renowned bars have one focal point. This is a feature like a sculpture, a big and complex painting… sometimes a tree in front of a central window; anything which is complex enough, that one can loose him- or herself in it. It is beneficial if it is one point – as vistas can meet, or while talking, people can let their eyes wander…
One de-central focal point can be a nice view; and several bars in Dubai are [accidentally] utilizing this. Other bars sans view, are missing this focal point; trust me – there are a variety of venues with amazing designs – however without a focal point, people are missing “something”.
Another point of wrong planning includes the bar infrastructure. If a bar can attract at the beginning guests, people would be annoyed to wait very long for their drinks. A clever planning could prevent this: this includes the size of the bar [should not be much bigger than 70 seats], the layout of the bar [refrain from island bars], the location of the kitchen, the back of house] and so on.
One of the most important points: Bars are not planned as bars!
A restaurant is planned to serve food and wine – even better: usually it is planned for the requirements of a specific cuisine. The kitchen itself is even [nowadays] better planned to produce food.
However bars are commonly developed by designers with no sense for the necessities of beverage production, beverage service nor for the need of the bar guest.
Again – while a restaurant features a specific cuisine – a bar features a design concept [and maybe an entertainment concept] – and usually doesn’t focus on mixology [except of tikki bars] – this is plainly wrong.
The future of the bar in the ME!
The future of the bar need to focus on more on seriousness!
Either the specific style of mixology or the maitre d’bar, bar manager, head bartender has to be featured and has to be the mainstay of the venue. The blueprint of the bar itself has to make this possible.
Focus on quality is another point, nobody can deny! And a contemporary style. Even classic bars cannot refrain from the latest techniques as barrel aged cocktails, cocktail pairings and home-tinkered ingredients.
investments: contemporary mixology needs reasonable investments – e.g. into a carbonation system, smoking guns, quality bar equipment, quality glassware, whiskey barrels for barrel aged cocktails, specialty spirits / ingredients […] and in the worst [most expensive] case – a rotary evaporator.
Overall it is all about trust. If the bar operator found the right bar personality, this personality has to be trusted and has to able to lead the bar into the future.