Every now and then a Bartender will make a splash in the world of distilled spirits and get some name recognition for the hard work they do. Most recently Joy Perrine was made a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame for her work with Bourbon Cocktails. However for every Joy Perrine there are hundreds, if not thousands of hard working people behind the bar who never receive the recognition they deserve. The person pouring the drinks behind the bar is often the first person a consumer comes into contact for a distilled spirit like Bourbon or Rye whiskeys. The knowledge and enthusiasm this person shows for the spirit brand can often make a big difference upon that consumer’s perception of the spirit and brand. A prime example of such a person is Jennifer Jarvis, the Bar Manager at Match Cigar Bar in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Jennifer Jarvis is a native of Louisville so she grew up in Bourbon Country. Her working career has always been in the spirits industry behind a bar. She started her career at a place that is no longer in business called Staxx Roadhouse in 2009. With several stops at places like Gerstles and the Monkey Wrench, she landed at Match as the Bar Manager in March of 2015. She has paid her dues along the way but is now a well respected mixologist and bartender at Match. I first met her when I spoke to Camp Runamok in 2014 where she was one of my contacts while arranging the talk. Jennifer was on the local arrangements committee. She was named a Tales of the Cocktail Apprentice in 2015. I am sure this helped her earn the scholarship money from Tales of the Cocktail that is helping her with her college expenses. Jennifer is attending Belermine University, earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. Her goals is to become a yeast specialist at a distillery after she graduates. When she is not pouring drinks and serving customers at Match, Jarvis is nose deep into text books or on her laptop writing papers.
Jennifer knows her whiskey and other spirits. When a customer comes into Match and asks about a Bourbon or Rye Jennifer is there to steer them in the right direction, often based upon the cigar they are smoking. She is very familiar with the flavor profiles of the whiskeys and the cigars. She knows that the wrong Bourbon can ruin the experience of the Bourbon and the cigar. She is also very good at mixing a cocktail and makes one of the best Manhattans on either side of the river. She loves her job but does plan to leave the world of bartending after she earns her degree, yet with that said she admits she might still work behind the bar one or two nights a week after she finds her dream job at a distillery.
Jennifer is an example of the thousands of young men and women who are working behind the bar and serving customers spirits. They are knowledgeable and friendly. They know their spirits and are often the first influence a consumer has with a brand. When a bartender finds a Bourbon they really like they often build a local demand for that brand. They start recommending it to friends and more importantly to customers. As more people enjoy the Bourbon at the bar, they often purchase a bottle for their home consumption. A bartender can often make or break a brand because the opposite is also true. If a brand is poorly made or over-priced a bartender might steer customers away from that brand in favor of a better made or more reasonable priced Bourbon. The Bartender really is the first line of sales for Bourbon and they deserve the respect of not only the distillers, but also the consumers. When I want to try a new Bourbon or rye, I often go to a bar where I know the bartender and ask their opinion of the product. In most cases I will still try it even if they don’t care for the product but there have been some times when I have held off because of a strong negative opinion and went to another place and asked a different bartender their opinion. If I get three negatives on a product I will not purchase that drink, let alone a bottle.
Bartenders are truly Unsung Heroes of the Bourbon Industry. They are the first line of sales and have a tremendous influence on the sales of brands. The next time you are sitting at a bar enjoying your favorite Bourbon raise a glass to the person behind the bar and maybe leave an extra dollar tip if the selection was influenced by the bartender.
Photos Courtesy of Match Cigar Bar and Jennifer Jarvis