Joaquín Simó: Progress at Pouring Ribbons

By Lisa Elbert


Lisa Elbert
Bartender Joaquín Simó of Pouring Ribbons | New York, NY
Bartender Joaquín Simó of Pouring Ribbons | New York, NY

At the 11th annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress, we're gathering some of the industry's most formidable professionals to explore the theme, "What Is Progress." We asked Bartender Joaquín Simó of Pouring Ribbons what progress means to him.

Lisa Elbert: How has the industry progressed since you started your career?
Joaquín Simó:
There’s a new focus on work-life balance. Increases in minimum wage and gratuity-included service models are forcing bars and restaurants to think of new ways to retain and reward their core staff, as nothing is more expensive to a place than staff turnover. Hopefully, there is a meaningful shift in how (and how much) workers are paid so that people can stop feeling like they need to work 6 or 7 shifts per week just to get by. Hopefully that leads to longer and more sustainable careers behind bars, as burnout and injuries are mitigated. 

LE: Most pressing issue facing bartenders today?
While few would argue that massive increase in media coverage for F&B has hurt the industry, there is a significant drawback to the need of a rapacious 24-hour “news” cycle to create massive amounts of content. Rather than focus on the fascinating real stories behind quality ingredients or notable people, listicles, and trend pieces proliferate. Instead of focusing on bars and restaurants that have proven their mettle over many years, there’s a torrent of pieces listing “hot new trending” places. This has sadly encouraged a culture of checklist diners who only want to visit newly-opened spots so they can post that they were there before anyone else. It’s tough to see great people have to close unique places because they couldn’t afford monthly PR budgets and no one mentioned them after their first few weeks or months. 

LE: In whose progressive bar would you most like to be a fly on the wall?
I would love to see what pre-service looks like at The Connaught in London. The bar team, led by the incomparable Ago Perrone, achieves new heights in service and execution every single night. To have a chance to witness what they do to perform at that level each day would be an incredible learning experience. Also, I’d love to find out how Ago bartends all night in a white jacket without looking like a Jackson Pollock by the end of service. 

LE: Spirits company that represents progress?
It would almost be enough for Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal to have introduced most of North America to the incredible spirits being produced (according to traditional practices) in villages throughout Oaxaca. But rather than stop there, they have raised the bar by not simply paying their producers a much higher wage than normal. They work together to ensure the community is benefiting, that traditional farming and production methods continue to be employed, and build lasting relationships with the families they are supporting. Respect, not greed, has been the key factor in their slow and steady growth, and the amazing consistency of their product line reflects the care that attends every step of the process.

LE: Who's the unsung "progressive" hero of your bar?
Amanda Elder, who has been with us since we opened four years ago. We hired her because she had been a pub bartender for years, but had no craft cocktail experience. In her time with us, she has gone on to create some of our most memorable cocktails, competed in prestigious cocktail competitions, took ownership of our syrup/infusion production, AND was the creative visionary behind our thematic menus (Route 66, Silk Road, Moody Authors). It’s been amazing to see her grow in her craft and her career. 

LE: How will we be drinking in 2030?
Hopefully we’ll be drinking a bit less, but a bit better. I would love to see a glass of wine or a beer with lunch lose any unnecessary stigma. A shift towards a more European-style apertivo culture (low-ABV drinks with food) would be a welcome change from the unsafe excesses of getting bombed at a 3 for 1 happy hour. In 2030, I hope to be raising a glass to gleeful civility!

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