Bartenders are the heart and soul of a bar. Besides being able to make a mean cocktail, however, they also need a number of other skills to progress.
James Leung (right) is manager of Tiffany's New York Bar at InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong. 'I have to think of marketing strategies for the bar, supervise staff and create signature cocktails. Despite all these duties, I still make cocktails because this is my passion,' he says.
Leung adds he needs to come up with new cocktails every three months. 'Customers get bored drinking the same thing. I read other bartenders' blogs and do research online to look for ideas,' he says.
'The key to success in the industry is to be hardworking and have the desire to learn. The industry is ever-changing and a bartender has to keep up with the latest trends,' he adds.
Most bartending skills are learned on the job, but for beginners, there are training courses offered by the Hong Kong Bartenders' Association.
The working hours for bartenders are long and often involve overtime. 'You have to adjust to working late. Weekends and holidays are the busiest times, so bartenders tend to only take days off during the week,' Leung says.
Many young people are attracted by the glamour of the job but few have the patience to succeed, according to Leung. 'Many give up after a year. Youngsters are too aggressive - they think that with a year of experience, they should be in management.
'My advice is to stay patient and learn as much as possible. I have been in the job for 12 years and every day, I am learning,' he says.