What does a group beverage manager do? Odd Culture’s Jordan Blackman explains

It's a role that blends the creative and operational sides of the bar business.

What does a group beverage manager do? Odd Culture’s Jordan Blackman explains
Jordan Blackman is this week's Drinks At Work guest.

You can listen to this episode in the player here, or take a listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and on Android.

Just what does a group beverage manager do? That’s the question I’m asking Jordan Blackman on the latest episode of Boothby’s Drinks At Work podcast.

Jordan is the group beverage manager for Sydney’s Odd Culture Group, and has spent the last decade working in and running some of Sydney’s best known bars. He has worked everything from small bars to specialty beer joints, cocktail bars and pubs, and it’s that broad range of experience that has set him up for his current role.

It sometimes feels like getting that broad experience doesn’t happen as often as it should anymore. That’s in part a reflection of the staffing crisis which bars all around the country are navigating. I’ve visited a few different states over the last couple of months, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide or Sydney, when you ask bar owners how business is, the first thing they say is that it’s impossible to find staff.

And by staff, they mean good staff, you know — bartenders with some experience and ability, people who can step up a gear when the bar gets busy.

Jordan Blackman. Photo: Supplied
Jordan Blackman. Photo: Supplied

This staffing crisis isn’t a new thing, by the way — it had been difficult to find good staff well before Covid came along to mess everything up. But since the lockdowns took hold in 2020, what was once a staffing issue turned into an urgent crisis.

And it has led to some strange outcomes, some of which has seen the hospitality on offer dialled back a bit. It used to be that, to be a bartender in a high volume cocktail bar, you’d have to have had a few years experience making drinks, but today you’ll find bartenders with considerably less than a year of experience doing the job. There are bartenders in senior roles behind the bar with little experience at all, and often it’s all within a particular style of bar. I'm sorry, but going straight from school into cocktail bars rarely makes a great bartender.

But experience working in restaurant bar dispense service, serving locals at a pub, and pouring Vodka Red Bulls in a nightclub at pace tends to be in the backgrounds of the best cocktail bartenders I’ve ever met. That broad range of experience means you can read people better, you’ve got the ability to deal with different types of people, and your technical skills are well and truly honed. If you’ve ever been served by a bartender in a cocktail bar with no urgency whatsoever, you can safely assume they’ve never worked restaurant dispense or pumped out the drinks in a nightclub — and their service suffers for it.


Hopefully we’ll see more of that well-rounded experience coming back soon. Because it’s not all doom and gloom out there; for the new breed of bartenders, those who have just left school in the last year or two and stumbled their way into hospitality (as we all do), the tap is being turned back on: brands are piling on the trainings, cocktail comps are back, and there’s a real eagerness to the way this generation is approaching all of it. You love to see it.

Maybe they'll catch the hospitality bug the way Jordan has. He was studying law when he began working as a glassy, before he realised he was having too much fun working in a bar to continue with his studies. Now, he's in a role which ticks all the boxes for him: the group beverage role is one that blends the creativity of cocktail list creation and drink selections with the operational side of things, and a lot of staff training and development, too.

“It’s numbers, it’s creative, it’s building culture,” he says. “It’s all of the above.”