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Yao Lu

Signature Cocktail
13 years
Experience

Bar codex Yao Lu

I went to work as a bartender just because I was studying hospitality in college, and I wanted to get work experience in a big hotel. Who gets the best tips? The bartender, of course! That made the choice for me.


The hotel where I started working was on the grounds of a major oncological center. My clients were either patients, their families, or doctors. They didn’t care what they were drinking. They cared that someone was showing them some empathy and compassion. That’s when I understood the beauty of this profession: people come to bars so that they can leave a little happier.

 

You can discuss exotic ingredients, presentation, and techniques for hours, but they won’t make your guests happy. Only the way you talk to them matters at the end of the day.

 

Few people understand that a cocktail menu gives guests a lot of stress. Reading and understanding a cocktail menu is really, really hard, unless of course you’re a bartender or a cocktail geek. The majority of the words make sense to one percent of people on the planet.

 

We work in the service sector, not in the satisfying-your-own-ego sector.

 

My communication style is as informal as possible. I always give my guests a big smile, a firm handshake, sometimes even a hug, and ask – what’s your name?

 

The hardest thing about my work is responsibility to my investors and staffing. But that’s a part of the path that I’ve chosen. If you can’t avoid it, you’ve got to just do it.

 

I would call myself a neoclassical bartender. It’s really important to understand why classic cocktails are the way they are, and why they’re still popular. When I come up with new recipes, I’m always inspired by the classics.

 

A few years ago, if a guest were to ask me to make him a gin and tonic, I would have always added something of my own to the cocktail. But I don’t do that anymore. I think that if a guest orders a gin and tonic, they expect a particular drink, and I should satisfy that expectation. A classic is a classic.

 

In China, people are only just starting to ask themselves, “where is this beef from? And this cherry? Is it strawberry season or not?” In the US, this happened 15 or 20 years ago. When people start to get interested in food, they begin to get interested in drinks, too. This means that so many opportunities are opening up here! That’s why I moved to Shanghai.

 

Having moved to China, I understood that my coworkers need love, praise, and someone to support them when they make a mistake more than anything else. They didn’t get much praise in childhood.

 

I hate bars where everything is too serious. It’s important to laugh, joke, and not think about how you’re supposed to behave.

 

I can’t handle bartenders who go to other bars and judge everything. It’s the worst thing in the world! I just want to tell them: go to hell! Relax, drink, be normal people!

 

Actually, I can’t stand speakeasies, because – let’s face it, it’s 2018 and alcohol is legal! If you have an Instagram account, what the hell kind of speakeasy are you? You’re a regular bar with a hard-to-find entrance! I just want to drink, I don’t want to look for a damned door for half an hour!

 

There’s nothing more beautiful than a team that works well together. It’s like ballet, where everyone communicates without words.

Signature Hit Yao Lu cocktail 560 State Street

Signature Hit Yao Lu cocktail 560 State Street

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