A Work Week With Jorge Conde- Head Bartender Of Smoke & Mirrors
Just what does it take to create one of the hippest and most innovative cocktail bars in Singapore? We find out from Jorge Conde, Head Bartender at Smoke & Mirrors.
Today I am focused on Scheduling the week and training.
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is have a shower while listening to some flamenco. After this, I will make a cup of coffee or two, and listen to global news as well as doing a check through social media and other online platforms for feedback from guests who went to Smoke & Mirrors over the weekend. For me, Monday is normally a day of meetings, admin work, checking and replying to emails, planning and scheduling my week to prep ingredients for our cocktails, as it usually takes anywhere from one to three weeks to produce the drinks. We use tools like the rotary evaporator, sous vide and more to create the cocktails – so a lot of work goes on behind the scenes before the drink is served to guests.
Every Monday, I also run a staff training and meeting that focuses on the new bar programme, increases product knowledge of the team, and inspires ways to further elevate the service. It’s a great opportunity to come together to discuss ideas to further improve and motivate each other at work.
Today I am focused on Prep work and motivational listening.
Even if I go to bed around 2-3am, I always try to wake up around 9am. At this time, I like to start the day with some cardio and weight lifting at the gym. I’m starting to build a routine of heading to the gym at least four times a week - ever since the launch of the new menu I’ve put on some weight at the tastings during my cocktail development!
I usually spend my Tuesdays at the back area (otherwise known as the lab) doing production such as re-distilling, infusions, fermentations, batching etc. My prep time is normally accompanied with an industry podcast, live masterclass or motivational talks, sometimes it includes Spanish rap! It changes every time; it depends on my mood and what helps me focus at that point of time.
Today I am focused on R&D and tastings.
By the time it gets to the middle of the week, my breakfast usually becomes my lunch. I normally eat pretty well around 12 noon, when it is the morning in Spain (6 hours behind now). I enjoy exploring the neighbourhood and am constantly on the lookout for new foods to try. I do have my usual go-to places for my “early lunch” but love trying new things.
Wednesdays are usually the days I spend doing R&D (cocktail research and development); however, it does depend on the schedule and crowd at Smoke & Mirrors. I’m always looking for new herbs, new aromas to extract and a new combination of flavours that might produce an exciting experience for myself and guests. I can easily spend many hours in the lab with production as the prep is not very systematic – it’s always different, which it allows me to keep the creativity alive.
Today I am focused on Prep work and service training.
The first thing I do in the morning is shave my beard, but it always grows too fast – sometimes it feels like it’s back within minutes! On Thursdays, I continue where I left off from the day before – I’m back in the lab straining infusions, doing distillations and prepping ingredients for infusions for the week or next. It’s also a time for me to start preparing the batches for the weekend and control the solera system, which is something we have implemented for all of our drinks for Smoke & Mirrors to control consistency. Each of our drinks is created in batches, and we build on the batches as time goes on – so the drinks are actually aging as time goes on.
When I am doing production, I’m always thinking about new ways to do things and improve them so that I can optimise efficiency while obtaining even better results.
Today I am focused on running the show.
Sometimes, I don’t even know if it’s a weekday or a weekend, but especially on Fridays – the week always passes really fast. This industry is competitive, but I believe that passion is what carries a lot of bars through. I love being at the bar making drinks and being with our guests, whether I’m serving them or just chatting with them about the drinks and how their week has been. My team and I always try to create experiences that goes beyond great drinks and a stunning view, which we are lucky to have! Every single drink has a story behind it, and I believe that that storytelling plays an important part in adding flavour to each concoction.
This menu is based on three core ideas – Illusion which ties back to the Smoke & Mirrors name, and evokes the idea of magic and surprises, Art because of our unique location atop the National Gallery, and you’ll see some of my favourite artists throughout the menu as inspiration; and Flavours, which is one of the most important component of cocktails. This menu is all about finding unique ways to extract flavours from ingredients and combining them for a result that keeps people on their toes, and I love spending time behind the bar engaging with guests and sharing the inspiration behind the menu.
Being able to talk to guests and get to know them allows me to further understand what they enjoy in a cocktail so that I can constantly come up with something that will surprise them.