The Saratoga Sun -

Toss a tip to your 'tender

Firewater Public House to appear on PUNCH's Tip Your Bartender livestream on April 16


April 15, 2020

Photo courtesy Firewater Public House

Angel's Envy will be used for the cocktail that will be shown on Thursday afternoon.

It's been nearly a month since Governor Mark Gordon issued his first public health order which closed restaurants and bars to dine-in service. Wyoming, however, is not alone as states throughout the nation have enacted similar orders that have had an affect on those working within the service industry. While restaurants in Wyoming are allowed to provide curbside or delivery service, and now include wine or malt beverages with curbside pickup, it leaves much to be desired for bartenders whose income relies heavily on tips.

"Bartenders, in particular, are heavily reliant on getting tipped by the drink and how they're doing and howthey're interacting with guests," said Danny Burau, owner of Firewater Public House (Firewater). "If this is what you've been doing, you're that good at it, you've been practicing for years and all of a sudden it's taken away from you; what do you do?"

Enter PUNCH, a digital drink magazine which recently began an initiative known as Tip Your Bartender. With the backing of Bacardi, PUNCH goes live on their Instagram with a bartender every day at 5 p.m. EST. This is not a new concept. In Wyoming, Backwards Distillery has taken to social media with videos on how to make cocktails at home. What is new, however, is how PUNCH is using the idea.

"I think PUNCH found a really cool way to take that and turn it into a money maker for bartenders and people that are really hard hit by this," Burau said.

Thanks to the funding from Bacardi, PUNCH is able to give a fee of $1,000 to each participating bar. Additionally, when that bar goes live, their Venmo account is listed so that viewers can tip directly to the bartender. In a time when businesses have to get creative to keep going, this provides an opportunity to keep staff paid.

While Burau has been following PUNCH for a few years, it was his brother, Scott, who had notified him about the program.

"He reads a lot and so, even emails that come in from things he's signed up for, he takes the time to read them and see what they're about. He saw this thing pop up. He forwarded that along and said he thought it would be kind of a cool idea," said Burau. "At first, I rolled my eyes a little bit. I thought 'What are the chances?'"

As Burau thought about it more, however, he felt that a 45 minute application and a video would be worth the possibility of money directly in the pocket of his team.

"The possibility of getting this check written to the team, it's worth 45 minutes of my time right now. We've got time," Burau said. "It was one afternoon. I contacted my bartender that had made that drink up originally ... and said 'Hey, do you think we should submit this? Do you want to do it? If so, you're going to be on the Instagram live feed.' She said 'Yeah, let's try it.' So, I was over here 30 minutes later."

The original variation of the drink was made using whiskey from Single Track Spirits in Cody. Due to Bacardi backing the project, Firewater had to substitute with Angel's Envy, a whiskey from Bacardi that has been used by the establishment before.

Part of the application process included a 45 second video clip showing PUNCH the bar and explaining who the money would go to if Firewater was selected. Burau submitted the video and the application and waited, though he didn't have to wait long. Firewater received a response a week later.

"I happened to be walking around out in the woods and my phone dinged and I pulled my phone out and saw the email," said Burau. "I ran around a little bit in the woods because I was really excited."

One of the things that Burau is excited about is the national visibility for Firewater and for Saratoga. According to Burau, cocktail culture is something that is generally found on the coasts, in New York City and Los Angeles. He added that he thought being in small-town Wyoming was a concern for him in that Firewater might have been looked over, but that it was also possible that they would stand out.

"They have 126,000 people that follow their Instagram feed. So, if some small percentage of those people watch this, it will be great exposure for Firewater, certainly for the town. It puts us on a different stage than what we usually have access to. That's a really exciting thing, that people can see a little craft cocktail bar in Saratoga, Wyoming," Burau said. "A PUNCH crowd seeing that is going to be surprised. That's a lot of exposure that you can't pay for and we're getting paid for that exposure. So, it's a double win for us."

A factor that Burau thinks might have helped the selection was the social media presence that Firewater has. Under normal operations, the restaurant hosts musicians throughout the summer and broadcasts on Instagram. The process for Firewater's turn on Tip Your Bartender, however, is requiring a little more involvement.

"They're doing a lot of work to make sure this is a pretty professional experience even for something that seems so casual. It's kind of fun to watch the behind the scenes production of a 20 minute Instagram live feed," said Burau. "I'll take 12 photos to get one picture of a donut and to get the light just right. It's pretty curated and I have no illusions about that but you want it to look seamless and I think that's what these guys are doing."

Another aspect of the Tip Your Bartender program that Burau is excited about is how PUNCH is using social media to retain the social experience of bars that isn't available right now.

"People will go back out to the bars to get that experience again and I think this is such a cool and interesting way to give some touch of that. The fact that they're going to pay my team to be a part of it is even better," Burau said. "It's a really cool thing."

Emily Luparia will be the bartender representing Firewater Public House on PUNCH's Instagram (@punch_drink). The livestream will begin at 3 p.m. MDT and will last for approximately 20 minutes.


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