Naren Young: Life on the road

These days, a career in bartending can take a wanderlust afflicted bartender to places far beyond their home city. In this article from BARS&clubs Autumn, Naren Young tells you how to make it happen. 

I’ve just returned from Delhi and Mumbai, talking to young local bartenders about my career and how I’ve got to where I have. No one fell asleep. Not even once – which happens often. The brief was to try and inspire a new generation of young industry professionals coming through the ranks and show them the possibilities that are available to them in this age of modern bartending. The whole notion of speaking about myself still seems a little unnerving, and at times self-effacing; but mostly just preposterous.

But I can’t deny what this industry has afforded me. If someone had told me 25 years ago – when I was getting my start – that I’d be traveling to India or wherever I end up on any given week, I would have laughed right into my frozen Banana Daiquiri (probably what I would have been making at that time too). Back then, the only dream anyone had was to one day have their own bar – through sheer hard work and saving up enough coin, or by finding a unicorn investor.

There was no job title of brand ambassador, bar consultant, or the dozens of other roles that now offer numerous avenues for one to pursue if they don’t wish to stand behind the stick for the rest of their lives. Thank god, since we all know that bartending can be back breaking work. I still do it here and there, but the opportunities now available to the jaded barkeep are myriad and if you’re lucky, they can indeed take you around your region – or even better, around the world.


I caught the travel bug early on and ever since then I knew a life behind a desk wasn’t for me, much like it is, I suspect, for many of you reading this very publication. Like I said, I never imagined that bartending would take me around the globe, especially coming up in an era when international cocktail competitions rewarded only the winner – unlike these days, where many of them reward all of the competitors with all-expense-paid trips to all corners of the earth to compete!

I was never into competing in these myself but I am very much an advocate for them (whether it’s Diageo World Class, Bacardi Legacy, Chivas Masters, or Havana Club Grand Prix to name only a few) because I’ve seen what kinds of doors they can open up, especially if you take the top prize.

These competitions have turned bartenders into rock stars – which does have its downsides too – and brought them global notoriety, which can turn into job offers, book deals, consulting gigs, cold hard cash and more. Some have stayed on the payroll for these big brands for years and been invited back as guest judges time and time again. Pretty sweet deal!

I’ve never won any of these competitions, but I do get to sit on their jury from time to time, which has taken me to some pretty amazing places along the way. In addition, I spend of a lot of the year now on the ‘speaking circuit’, attending many of the bar shows and exhibitions that keep popping up at a dizzying rate.

It’s almost impossible to keep up with all these global symposiums, but if you’re committed to making a living from this part of the business like I am, then you need to be constantly pitching and coming up with dynamic, unique and interesting ideas that will hopefully captivate an audience.

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