The future is yours to create: Julian Short

Julian Short 3 scaled

From Sin + Tax bar in Johannesburg, our seventh interviewee in our series is beverage director Julian Short. He chats about life-changing travel experiences, talking more about the impact of working with alcohol, and sharing our failures

A little bit about me

I have been bartending since 2014. I started bartending because quite simply, I needed money! I had just finished studying to be a sound engineer/music producer, and I was a working as a freelancer so money was not steady. I figured bartending would fill the gap in between shows.

After a year, I fell in love with the industry and never looked back. I actually entered my first ever cocktail competition soon after I started and ended up winning it. Soon after I found myself on a plane to Mexico to compete in the global finals and that was when I realised that I was hooked.

Passion for the industry drives me as an individual. I love creating drinks and creating spaces for people to enjoy life in.

The creativity is my favourite part of the job – coming up with flavour combos and working with delicious ingredients; mixing and matching flavours and coming up with new tastes is my favourite thing in this world.

What makes me happy? Quite simply, food and booze and the people that make it delicious. Spending time with my friends and being able to make them cocktails is priceless.

Passion for the industry drives me as an individual. I love creating drinks and creating spaces for people to enjoy life in. I want people to feel safe, and important, all while enjoying delicious food and drinks, atmosphere and incredible hospitality.

How I approach my work

The most helpful advice I’ve been given is to keep going. Believe in yourself and your ability. Take time to nourish your mind and body and resolve. Give the people around you the tools they need to succeed – believe in your team.

A bunch of things help me progress professionally! Competitions are good for your own personal progress – they help push you as an individual by testing yourself in many aspects of bartending skills and public speaking. Travel is life-changing – it gives you perspective and broadens your mind. Education is the key to becoming successful. The key to becoming a fantastic bartender is to learn as much as you can by exposing yourself to as much information and experience as possible.

I would like to travel more. I would like to finally give my first ever international masterclass. I would like to open more bars, both locally and abroad. I really want to write a cocktail book.

The key to becoming a fantastic bartender is to learn as much as you can by exposing yourself to as much information and experience as possible.

Brands have helped me personally, they’ve helped show me the world. Nearly every country I have ever been to has been because of a brand, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

My thoughts on mentorship

I look up to my parents in a huge way. If it weren’t for them and their love, support and guidance, I wouldn’t be here. I look up to too many bartenders and industry leaders to mention. I love people who are not scared to share their process and recipes – it’s how we all grow, through sharing of lessons and information, good and bad.

It’s easy to talk about things that are going well, but we should embrace failure also we can learn and evolve

A role-model to me is someone who embodies the industry. I’ve learnt a lot from people who are doing well, and people who have been suffering. It’s easy to learn from individuals who are killing the game and going from strength to strength, but there is just as much to learn from people who have problems or who have encountered issues in the industry. We should talk more about issues such as alcoholism, mental-health and bar failure. It’s easy to talk about things that are going well, but we should embrace failure so we can learn and evolve.

Experience and passion are two thing I look for in a mentor or leader. Someone who has done the things, who is still doing the things, even if it isn’t always behind the bar. I look for leadership and guidance, both in front of house, and back of house. Someone who will teach you the classics, and how to cost them too; the importance of working with suppliers, and how to do it; the importance of stock control. There are many sides to the industry and a good mentor has a solid understanding of how it all works.

My hopes for the future

I think there should be a bigger focus on alcohol itself and the effects on the mind and body. Just so we know what we’re actually selling every day and how it affects people, short-term and long term. It is also difficult working with alcohol. We need to talk about the positives and negatives more. I don’t think we should shame people struggling with alcohol abuse, I think we should develop systems to help people cope better – a stronger global support system.

To make sure our voices are heard we need to keep talking, keep engaging with each other. Provide a platform for each other to talk about the good and the bad. There is just as much of one as the other, and the good is just as important as the bad. We need it support people who are struggling just as much as people who are successful.

I want to create absolutely world class and utterly delicious cocktails that are easy to make, and that are universally accessible. There are hundreds of thousands of bars globally, and that means there are hundreds of thousands of jobs out there for people who need them. If we can teach people how to grow, how to create drinks, syrups, cordials, infusions using the resources they have on hand without feeling like they need top, high-end equipment, that is powerful.

I want to continue to learn and grow so that I may teach and empower bartenders around the world. You don’t need a rotary evaporator to be a great bartender – you need yourself and your own passion of this beautiful industry that is hospitality.