Words by: Timo Janse
In this Legends Of the Bar series we will look into some of the great names in Dutch bartending and ask them ten of the toughest questions.
First up, everybody's wish list son in law: Lennart Deddens.
What is the nicest moment behind the bar you can remember?
"It is actually really difficult (even impossible) to pick one specific moment after countless hours spent working behind many different bars. On several occasions I had guests entering my bar with tears in their eyes after a stressful or shitty day at work or after a private drama and leaving after a few hours with smiles on their face thanking us for great service. This always gives a bartender a satisfied and proud feeling.
What I cherish the most are the returning guests and friendships which are a result of me tending bar and them being my regular guests over a longer period of time. Also the process of working with a team and starting up a bar from scratch to making it a very successful place is magic, and again the friendships built from doing this makes bartending a very reward full job. I was lucky enough to be part of starting up a new bar as a bar manager twice (the fancy Dominican hotel bar in Brussels and the Distillery/cocktail bar Mr. Mofongo in Groningen). Both times when I left the place I felt sad in a way because it
felt like saying goodbye to a special number of years in my life and leaving great people, both colleagues and guests. That feeling, like the bar, thejob, the people became part of you for the rest of your life is beautiful to me."
What is the worst?
"Luckily I can not really remember the several moments I felt bad, as in really bad behind the bar. Some occasions maybe that it had to do with a bartenders' most dangerous enemy: ego! For instance: dropping a glass of the tray or not remembering a cocktail recipe as a junior bartender, all minor events.
Something I really can't stomach is guests being rude and disrespectful towards bartenders. Some people really still think that acting like a jerk is totally normal in a bar or restaurant. It is our responsibility to react professionally and not to get provoked but once I had to step up towards a guest who was so rude to an 18 year old intern (girl) for no (serious) reason. The intern was working the floor that night and one of the guests started to shout at her in a very loud and aggressive manner. After a serious warning from my side the guest repeated this behavior and therefore the intern started to cry. I had to remove the guest from the bar and this was, while I was not even the one being picked on, my worst moment behind the bar.
I felt very bad for the pour girl and of course the atmosphere (the bar was packed) was totally ruined after the incident."
Who are the two Gurus you look up to the most in our industry?
"There are a lot of Gurus these days and all of them played a very significant role in the uprising of our industry. If I may be so free i'd like to pick one international guru and one Dutch guru since our industry has grown so extremely for the last couple of years and there are always people responsible for that and it's about time to start mentioning gurus nationally.
When I read Gary Regan's books and follow his seminars at bar shows, the one thing which always shows is the fact that this man is born and raised in the bar industry. He proves this by never taking himself too seriously (very important in our business), his extreme knowledge about spirits, cocktails and flavors, his experience and his natural way of talking and writing about our industry. So Gary Regan is my international guru.
As a national guru i'd like to select someone who's electing gurus in the hall of fame himself during the Dutch Gouden Strik awards and can therefore never be in that hall of fame himself: Misja Vorstermans.
Misja has been playing a significant, relevant role in our Dutch bartending community for so long now that he deserves to be called a Dutch guru. He's been around since even before the Dutch bartenders where seriously shaking and stirring drinks, played in huge inspiring role in the Dutch cocktail revival in many different positions and co-owns a company which is responsible for training many, many young talented bartenders in The Netherlands today. Before mentioning the names of people which could also be called Dutch gurus I would like to invite my Dutch colleagues to include more Dutchies as an answer to this question, we all know who they are."
Which book on bartending is a must-read?
"Everyone interested in becoming a respected good cocktailian bartender must read The Jerry Thomas Bartenders guide.
Sounds cliché, but all movements, métiers and specializations are build out of important ground work you cannot miss out on when wanting to become a pro. After reading the professor's book there are loads of other cocktail-, spirits-, beers-, wines- and culinary books (ask your senior colleagues and kitchen chefs) you should also read."
What is the cocktail you have created you are most proud of and why?
"I'm proud about a few cocktails but i'll go for my Afternoon Blazer. Not because it's the most difficult drink i've ever made but because it was part of winning me the award for Entrée best bartender 2015 and it combined a lot of my passions (Genever , distilling and pairing cocktails with food).
It is called so because the drink is developed for consuming during a cold (afternoon) when you do not wish to leave the house and enjoy your favorite stuff on tv and threat yourself on good food and drinks.
60 ml De Borgen Malt Genever10 ml Malt wine straight from the still at 82% ABV and to level up the Genever ALC content to set the blazer on fire (distilled at Mofongo's distillery).
20 ml homemade syrup of Bock beer and seasonal winter spices
20 ml Lapsang Souchon tea
Serve in an old fashioned glass and garnish with an orange zest and cinnamon stick.
style Foodpairing: custom made dry walnut sausage (biltong sausage style) and dried honey melon in white Porto."
What is the biggest challenge facing our industry in the Netherlands today?
As far as i'm concerned, there are 2 big challenges in Holland within our industry.
The first one concerns the industry globally. Brands are making more and more use of bartenders to implement their products correctly in the hospitality market. This means more (different kind of) job opportunities for bartenders which is a positive development.
Nevertheless, we as bartenders have a responsibility to protect the quality of our trade. Since the consumption of cocktails and spirits is growing (awesome by the way), budgets are growing and we as bartenders are being overwhelmed with spotlight opportunities like hundreds of competitions, brand activations, fantastic trips organized by brands and many other spoiling treatments.
Again, this is great for our profession, it shows the respect our métier deserves but we should always remember the fact that the biggest motivation for a bartender should be delivering great service to customers at the bar.
Part of this motivation should also be the willingness to know everything possible about the products stocked at the bar and the ability to make great drinks. A bartender should genuinely enjoy the fact of making sure other people are enjoying a successful night out by playing her or his part on the background.
I believe that the true motivation of people entering the bartending industry are becoming a bit foggy lately and i'm afraid the biggest victim will be the customers and in the end our industry. If the guests become unhappy in the bar scene, brands will spend their budget in other markets.
If you want to be at true value for a spirits brand within this industry you need to have a well above average knowledge about beverage related products and you need to speak the language of the bartender and the customer. The best way to learn this is to work as a bartender for a serious amount of years and therefore you need to like to be at service to guests, in my opinion.
Challenge #2 for our Dutch bartending industry is to make sure, by working together that the whole world is going to accept, respect, understand and joyfully implement our own heritage spirit Genever back into their businesses. We should show the same pride for Genever as the Scottish do for Whisky and the Mexicans for Agave spirits."
What is your guilty pleasure drink?
" I'm home grown, born and raised Groningen, so Cola-Beerenburg is my guilty pleasure drink and my standard escape to switch to when i'm out pinting with friends and reached the point that I can't stomach any more beer.
Hereby i'm showing a lack of respect to another great Dutch product, true malt wine based Beerenburg is great to use in good cocktails. So my sincere apology to Beerenburg, but it has been a habit for over 15 years now and I will not drop it: 50/50 Beerenburg and coca cola over ice, love it!!"
If you could teach new bartenders one thing, what would it be?
"Tools and ways to train your helicopter view when working behind the bar."
What do i have to do as a bartender to piss you off when visiting a bar?
"You will piss me off when I don't feel welcome in your bar somehow, someway. There are many ways to accomplish that fact as there are many ways to make a guest feel very welcome.
I hate bars with certain arrogant atmospheres as if the guest should be very grateful to be able to sit and enjoy drink there. In my opinion, it's exactly the other way around.
A bartender should let every guest feel welcome and be grateful for their order, also if this order contains a straaljager or vodka-cranberry.
If you want to be remembered by any quote, what would it be?
If there's one excellent choice i've made over the years amongst many mistakes, it is to always stay close to where the bar is.