Monday, July 2, 2018

:: balance in the bartending industry ::

The morning after the Herbs & Rye pop-up at Tiki by the Sea, bartenders Giuseppe Gonzalez and Nectaly Mendoza spoke to us during breakfast about how to live a healthier life as a bartender. Giuseppe began by asking Nectaly, "I've been bartending for 22 years, and you?" Nectaly replied with "3, that I remember." Both of these industry legends have given up drinking with Nectaly at 3 years sobriety and Giuseppe at 4. Each reached a breaking point as the partying was affecting their health. Both were overweight; Giuseppe had come down with Type I Diabetes and was on a kidney transplant list, and Nectaly faced his own health issues due to the drinking and drug abuse. Giuseppe also mentioned that he is a third generation bartender and how the job killed his father at age 38 from heroin and alcohol addiction.

Giuseppe continued on by explaining that the hard part was in learning to change his habits. He feared that he would lose all his friends in the process, and he wondered what it would be like to go to Tales of the Cocktail without that crutch. At Tales, when you walk into a seminar, you are handed a drink. It becomes part of your habit to drink, but there are ways of making it work. All of his best relationships have come from events like Tales, so there is value in going. And others like Jim Meehan and Julie Reiner have found ways of making it work.
Nectaly offered up that he does not preach sobriety. He commented how we see people both in their highest as well as their darkest moments, and the industry often does not provide guidance especially since we are not guiding ourselves. He suggested that each bartender ought to find out his or her true meaning and why they act a certain way. Bartenders these days are trying to be superstars on social media; trying to be people who they are not is not self-sustaining in the long run. Nectaly explained, "I chase myself in life" and how he stopped chasing awards. When he was chasing it, it felt like something fake; when he stopped, the awards givers and success began chasing him. In addition, "You've got to seek the happiness in yourself," and while drugs and alcohol got him into certain crowds, in the end it was just him.

Nectaly went sober when his career was on fire, and his establishment was winning awards. Yet, at Tales of the Cocktail that summer, it came to a close when he felt that he almost died due to the excess. On top of that, he quit because he was not happy. While Nectaly did not regret doing all the drugs and alcohol, he regretted how he felt.  He feels that the best version of himself is at 100% and that is a sober self. Nectaly later followed up by asking us what we were focusing on in life. Are we an artist (with talent) or a clown (the performer)? When Nectaly gets on the stage to work, he now tries to use his natural voice and reach his purist form without the need for juggling and makeup façades.

Guiseppe continued, "If you can't be happy without drinking, think about that," and he found that not drinking did not hurt his career. When you are behind the bar, you are the host and the M.C. You are making the party happen, and things can go awry if you are not vigilant which is made worse through drinking at work. As you drink, the night becomes more about you and less about your guests. Bartending is a job measured in small victories where the praise is about doing it well every day.

Giuseppe warned that "If you are looking at bartending for happiness, it is not going to happen. If you are looking for happiness, it is in connection." Nectaly supported this concept. While he blames the pressures in the industry for everything he did wrong, the industry was also the biggest support when he stepped back. People will fall in your life, and the goal is not to pick them up but to be there when they stand up. Make yourself accessible to help out, and rock bottom is the perfect foundation for that person to build themselves back up. Finally, Giuseppe wrapped things up by stating that if someone is in trouble and shoots you a text, call them. Do not text them if they are in trouble, but reach out and speak to them.

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