Kathy Casey Kathy Casey

Celebrity mixologist Kathy Casey brings her extensive beverage knowledge to the region and shares her creative touch with industry professionals from across the Middle East

Last month saw celebrity US mixologist Kathy Casey pay a visit to Dubai, where she hosted a workshop and roundtable in conjunction with flavourings provider Monin for key players from the UAE’s beverage industry.

Held at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates’ intimate 1897 Bar, the event gave attendees the opportunity to enjoy an in-depth discussion on the future of the industry, as well as allowing Casey to share her knowledge of global trends and her experiences of the regional market.

Trends during tough times

According to Casey, who has appeared on various television and radio shows in the US, the global beverage industry has continued to perform well during the economic crisis.

“I think people are drinking a little less when they go to bars, but they are still going out — and happy hour promotions have become huge business for many,” she observed.

Casey said that throughout the downturn everyone had been “all doom and gloom in the States”, citing the willingness of outlets to cut costs in the face of lower customer spending as a major problem.

“In America right now people are not putting very much emphasis on training and are cutting training programmes, which I think could be a mistake,” she said.

Casey asserted that halting beverage innovation was another unwise cost-cutting tactic being employed.

“When we come out of the recession everyone’s going to want to go out, spend a little money and party,” she said.

“They are going to want to go to those places that are doing new and innovative things, so I think it’s important to always be thinking forward, regardless of what business you are in.”

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Staff comparison

While in the UAE, Casey spent time working with the bar team at recently-opened Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dhabi, aiding the development and service standards of the hotel’s beverage staff.

“They were all very engaged and I think we found some absolute superstars,” she commented. “When we went out in Abu Dhabi, however, the scene was definitely on the green side; it took a while for someone to engage our table and generally no one followed up on whether we would like another drink.”

Commenting on the differences between bar staff in the US and the UAE, Casey suggested American bar staff possessed a degree of arrogance absent in the bar workers she came across in Abu Dhabi.

“In the US there are definitely bartenders who know what they’re doing, but a lot of them have an attitude; whereas everyone here was so gracious, hospitable and charming,” she remarked.

Casey added that she felt the lack of bar experience she came across at the Fairmont was more an opportunity than a hindrance.

“I was very encouraged that the staff were so interested and I really feel that it was OK that some of them were not trained, because now they have learnt properly,” she said.

A tweet future

During the course of the roundtable discussion, a major trend Casey flagged up was the growth of social media.

“Twitter is one of the biggest tools you are going to be able to use as an outlets,” she advised.

“When you have a special event you can host a tweet-up event; you can make a social page for your bar, for yourself, or you can set up online groups.