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Meet Michael Ng of Behind the Glass Bartending in East Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Ng.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve a lot of fun experiences traveling and teaching around the world as well as bartending. I have worked and taught in several different countries and have been an adventurous eater going so far as to break into live termite nests and eat termites crawling around my hand in Belize to eating horse sashimi in Japan. I can draw from an eclectic set of experiences from not only traveling, but work/volunteer as well. Some of my experiences have included interning for a PR firm in Washington D.C., working kids in parole and probation in underprivileged communities, organizing/hosting Mustang rallies/cruises as a director of a car club, rape counselor, humanitarian relief work in Vietnam, and even some time as a martial arts instructor.

As for my direct experience in the cocktail scene, I first started off as a barista and then moved onto Asian-style Boba drinks in my college years. To put myself through graduate school, I took a bartending course and started bartending on the side. I became lead bartender for several different catering companies and did a short stint with the Hilton hotel. My personal bartending business started to expand and I started my own private bartending company: “Behind the Glass Bartending.” Working private events became a special passion for me as I enjoyed meeting so many different people from all walks of life and going to amazing locations such as Frank Sinatra’s old Palm Springs getaway house. My company quickly developed a reputation for coming up with creative cocktails and terrific service.

We are extremely involved with customers in our cocktail creations and love introducing new twists to their favorites. I think our approach brings us closer to really understanding where the cocktail scene is going with regards to a pulse. It is definitely a two-way street as we love new ideas and suggestions from customers who have traveled to all the hot spots locally and around the world. I have a small group of bartenders assembled where we all push each other to come up with different syrups, mixers, use unique ingredients, and learn up-to-date cocktail techniques. Long nights experimenting, going to different bars/lounges, and especially doing research on the web just pushed my passion for being a better bartender to provide an even better experience to customers.

I always think that anyone can push out drinks, but people who go to a bar and order a cocktail want a fantastic experience from the creation of the cocktail to the special interaction with the bartender. The guests and all the idiosyncratic traits that come with a particular city or region all play an important factor as well. In the end, bartending is a way of spreading positivity and community through cocktails and engaging service.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
From the start, it was extremely difficult to find an independent voice among the sea of other companies offering bartending services. Unfortunately, as a result of our economic downturn, there seemed to be an over-saturation of individuals entering the catering business. Also, because of my responsibilities with graduate school and teaching duties, I knew that I had to start some kind of mobile bartending business as working at a bar would have been too restrictive on my schedule. I needed the freedom of choosing when and where I wanted to work with maximal flexibility to give priority to my education.

There were a lot of sleepless nights, but bartending opened up a creative outlet that I never knew existed. Creating cocktails became an obsession with my friends hosting tasting parties to help me experiment. That was the easy part, but I’ve never ran a business in my life. After a few months, I couldn’t keep up with the demand so I had to expand. For research, I bartended for several different catering companies and after some trial and error, I developed my own system. Taking the best parts and approaches from my observations, I placed the heart and soul of the company’s stakes on creative cocktails and extraordinary service.

I didn’t have the history or recognition. Starting out as a small company doing modest events, I treated every aspect of service with careful enthusiasm and detail. Details of each cocktails including garnish and glass type were always meticulously chosen. If someone asked for water, I would muddle a little mint or strawberry. Mocktails were always beautifully presented. Children were always left with amazing-looking drink. Essentially, I made every customer have a great experience at the bar. With regards to service, I would come out to customers when the bar was slow and sometime during the night I pass around some tasty shots on a serving tray.

My reputation was quickly developed, but the next problem was trying to find the right bartenders to maintain the same level of quality. I only brought in bartenders who I have personally worked with or personal referrals from individuals aware of my standards. I instituted monthly dinners to discuss new cocktail ideas and techniques. I also made a point to keep the company small and only focus on bartending to keep the high standards. Ideas were always discussed and I also started using an online collaborative tool called Coggle where my bartenders can add new ideas for cocktails or the company at any time. I made it a point to create an inclusive environment and to compensate them well.

To get our name out, I took advantage of social media putting up studio shots of our cocktails and professionally cut videos. Content that really allowed potential customers to see what set my company apart from everyone else. Positive reviews on Yelp were also instrumental in reaching more people and driving business. A powerful social media presence was something that I had to put a lot of time and money into.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Behind the Glass Bartending – what should we know?
Behind the Glass Bartending is a boutique bartending company specializing in custom-crafted cocktails, flair bartending, creativity, and top-notch engaging service. From small & intimate to large-scale events, we put the utmost care into every detail so that your bartending needs are not only met, but exceed your expectations.

We also offer other services such as creating handcrafted one-of-a-kind custom syrups and mixes as well as hand-smoking cocktails with smoked wood!

Each aspect of our bartending is treated with enthusiasm and conscientious detail. We are also extremely well-known for our spontaneous creativity. It is a hallmark of our company that we carry an assortment of different bitters and waters to be able create new cocktails throughout the night that are off the menu. This definitely adds another level of entertainment and excitement for our guests.

With regards to service, we love interacting and engaging with our guests & clients. Our mission is to exceed the experience that you will get from a high-end craft cocktail bar or restaurant and create the ultimate cocktail experience by personalizing it for our special customers. After all, bartending is not just about making cocktails, it’s entertainment!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The drive to exceed expectations and boundaries. Let your passion and enthusiasm course through every aspect of your business without compromise.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Klaudia Seidl

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