Why go to a bar show?

Words by Simon Difford

You only get so many weeks holiday and your partner is set on a beach holiday, so why should you instead fly to Athens, Berlin, London, New York, New Orleans or countless other cities during months when the weather there keeps other 'tourists' away? The answer is, of course, the bar shows and drinks festivals held in those cities.

Here in Blighty we have a great expression, "a busman's holiday". Originating in the late 1800s, this fabulously English phrase describes somebody who goes on vacation to engage in much the same activity as they do whilst at work – originally a bus driver/conductor who takes a coach to their holiday destination and while there goes on an excursion by bus. Similarly, a bartender's holiday often involves going to a trade show/festival to do guest shifts and hangout with other bartenders in dive bars.

There are shows for plumbers, doctors, undertakers, porn stars and even witches. Indeed, every trade has numerous conventions, but those witches who are in the know head to The Salem Psychic Fair And Witches' Market in historic downtown Salem, Massachusetts, USA. By contrast, a week of gumbo, seminars and Abita Amber beer in New Orleans as the tropical summer heat turns to hurricane season not only sounds appealing, but normal. But why should you abandon the beach and where are the bartenders in the know heading in 2020?

Conversation flows more easily when you hang out with like-minded folk. For example, the witches of Salem are talking about a very different kind of bitter potion to the bartenders of New Orleans. It's not only fulfilling to discuss subjects that you are knowledgeable about with others who share that knowledge, but in so doing you test and stretch that knowledge. It's incredible what you can learn in a 40-minute seminar and I remember such a seminar on handling mint being a revelation. Did you know mint is the only plant with a square stem for instance?

Thankfully for us bar folk we have something that even the witches of Salem can't conjure up – generous support by huge drinks brands who are keen to invest in educating and sharing knowledge with the folk who sell their products – bartenders. Without their support there would be no bartender shows or drinks festivals or educational seminars. Or even Difford's Guide!

Nidal Ramini (the presenter in the video atop this page) and our other friends at Brown-Forman are a shining example of how brands are investing in bartender experiences, education and even health & wellbeing.

Here are just some of the experiences Brown-Forman offered bartenders at the recent BCB in Berlin:

  • Gave bartenders the opportunity to showcase their signature cocktails at the Brown-Forman pop-up bar in the heart of BCB with bartenders from bars such as The Fontenay, Hamburg, Germany, Varsovia, Madrid, Spain, Black Market, La Belle Epoque, Frascati, Italy, Jigger & Spoon, Stuttgart, Germany, all mixing up delicious cocktails for others to sample and chat about technique, ingredients and balance.
  • Guest shifts with the folk from Barcelona's Bar Sauvage hosting the Jack Daniel's party and ensuring it was the most talked about event at BCB.
  • Education at sponsored seminars.
  • Networking opportunities for people to meet, connect and share at all of the above, particularly in the relaxed atmosphere of their pop-up bar within BCB.
  • Finally, and most obviously, a deeper understanding of Jack Daniel's and their other brands – heritage, production methods and the opportunity to taste special editions with comparative tastings. Not to mention meeting distillers and brand ambassadors.

Upcoming bartender shows & festivals

If the above has persuaded you to give both the beach and Salem's Psychic Fair a miss and instead head to a bar show or two, then follows our breakdown of all those we're aware of.

Athens Bar Show, Athens, Greece - 5th-6th November 2019

Salon de Win, Sofia, Bulgaria - 6th-9th November 2019

Iberica London, London - 7th-8th November 2019

Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, Hong Kong - 7th-9th November 2019

089 Spirits, Munich, Germany - 8th-10th November 2019

Interwine China 2019, China - 9th-11th November 2019

Gastronoma, Spain - 10th-12th November 2019

ProWine China, China - 12th-14th November 2019

Taipei Wine & Spirit Festival, Taiwan - 15th-18th November 2019

International Drink Expo, ExCeL, London - 19th-20th November 2019

World of Wines & Spirits Delhi, India - 22nd-24th November 2019

World of Wines & Spirits Mumbai, India - 29th November - 1st December 2019

India Hospitality + F&B Pro Expo, Mumbai, India - 3rd-5th December 2019

Millesime Bio, France - 27th-29th January 2020

Hospitality, Italy - 2nd-5th February 2020

PUB20, Olympia London - 4th-5h February 2020

Vinexpo Paris, Paris, France - 10th-12th February 2020

The Old & Rare Whisky Show, London - 29th February-1st March 2020

Vinexpo New York, New York, USA - 2-3 March 2020

FHA - Horeca - Singapore Expo, Asia- 3rd-6th March 2020

Prowein in Dusseldorf, Germany - 15th-17th March 2020

Northern Restaurant and Bar show, Manchester Central - 17th-18th March 2020

Food and Drink Expo, Birmingham, UK - 30th March - 1st April 2020

FHA - Food and Beverage - Singapore Expo, Asia - 31st March - 3rd April 2020

Vinitaly, Verona, Italy - 19th-22nd April 2020

The Wine & Spirits Show, Westminster, London - 24th-25th April 2020

Perfect Serve Barshow Amsterdam, Amsterdam - 12th-13th May 2020

Nightclub & Bar Show, Las Vegas - 30th March-1st April 2020

Tokyo International Bar Show, Tokyo, Japan - 9th-10th May 2020

TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference, Singapore - 10th-14th May 2020

Lisbon Bar Show, Portugal - 19th & 20th May 2020

Interwine China 2020, China - 20th-23rd May 2020

Vinexpo Hong Kong, Hong Kong - 26th-28th May 2020

Cocktail Spirits Paris, France - 26th-27th May 2020

Barra Mexico, Mexico City - 7th-8th June 2020

Bar Convent Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NYC - 9th-10th June 2020

Bar Convent Sao Paulo, Brazil - 15th-16th June 2020

Imbibe Live, Olympia London - 29th-30th June 2020

Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, USA - 21st-26th July 2020

Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, California, USA - 9th-11th August 2020

Moscow Bar Show, Moscow, Russia - around 3rd - 5th September 2020

Speciality and Fine Food Fair, Olympia London - 6th-8th September 2020

Sydney Bar Week, Australia - dates not announced, around September 2020

Barometer Bar Show, Kiev, Ukraine - 25th-27th September 2020

The Restaurant Show, Olympia London - 28th-30th September 2020

Restaurant Pub & Bar Asia, Singapore - 29th September-1st October 2020

Roma Bar Show, Rome, Italy - 5th-6th October 2020

Bar Convent Berlin, Berlin, Germany - 12th-14th October 2020