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Michael Cecconi: My drinks career and why the Bartender Spirits Awards

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12/04/2021 "My life is led as a search for what I call delighters, things that make life more colorful and flavorful. The chance to find these, and celebrate them through the Bartender Spirits Awards is an honor and a privilege," Michael Cecconi.

Tell us about yourself and how you got into the drinks and bar scene?

I found myself in the foodservice industry through that well-worn path of struggling artist in New York City who needed to pay the rent. Who then, fortuitously enough, found that he had an aptitude for the physical labor, and a creative streak that could find expression in the glass. To the wayside went dance (MFA, NYU), and along came full-time immersion in the service industry. 

A stint at cooking school (Institute of Culinary Education, NYC) deepened my creative skills, while also affirming that I belonged behind the bar, not behind the line. School also gave me an opportunity to teach. 

What is your current role and your main responsibilities?

I have pulled back from bartending full-time in order to concentrate on teaching and bottling my own line of craft cocktails, M Squared Spirits.
And after a year of pandemic, my teaching and events and promotion have all gone virtual.

What do you think are the most important skills you need to be successful working in your role?  

A work ethic. No matter what role one plays, I am drawn to those that do it fully. Those people that commit fully to their task, in that moment, will always have an edge over those that would rather be somewhere else.

How have you found the last year in lockdown and what sort of things have you been doing to keep on top of your skills and knowledge?

I was able to pivot quickly to a virtual enterprise (while continuing to bottle and sell my craft cocktails). It was a major blow when I could no longer make cocktails for people. Not being able to extoll the virtues of a well-made cocktail would have been a bridge too far. That’s where Instagram, Zoom, and decades of experience came together. 

Instead of creating cocktails for a cocktail menu, I have been creating them for my Instagram feed as well as my virtual cocktail events.

What are you expecting when the on-trade does re-open in terms of how customers will respond?

I expect a slow resurgence in people’s comfort to work/go out. I hope that people will grow a sense of appreciation (just like the Grinch growing his heart) and treat the service industry as essential for nourishing our bodies and our souls. We in the industry already know this. We see it.

Why did you want to be involved in the Bartender Spirits Awards?

My life is led as a search for what I call delighters, things that make life more colorful and flavorful. The chance to find these, and celebrate them through the Bartender Spirits Awards is an honor and a privilege.

What is it about the awards that make it stand out from other competitions?

My first time with the awards was post-pandemic. The complete pivot that Sid (Patel) and his team were able to accomplish was miraculous. It is that expression of the ‘make it work’ ethos that ties these awards to the very industry it is celebrating.

Do you use the awards to pick new trends and see what new drinks are coming into the market?

I use the awards to see trends in spirits on the market, and to get a broad feel for the palette that producers think will sell. Selfishly enough, I use these awards for inspiration and hope to be a part of the new drinks coming to market wave.

What sort of demand do you think there will be when the on-trade does re-open and what sort of drinks, spirits, cocktails are going to be most in demand?

I think we will be heading into a decadent phase of cocktails. People will want maximal experiences when they finally venture out, so be prepared.

* The entry process for the 2021 Bartender Spirits Awards is now open. Brands, distillers and distributors need to submit their entries by April 20. Click here for more information

2021 Registration Are Now Closed.