Seeing the world from behind a bar

Globetrotting bartender Danil Nevsky is living a nomad's life ... and loving it
Danil Netsky plans to tend bar in 12 different countries in 12 months.
Danil Nevsky plans to tend bar in 12 different countries in 12 months. (Photo: Danil Neysky)

It’s fair to say that Danil Nevsky is living a bartender's dream. He’s in the midst of a project in which he plans to tend bar at a different place every month, in 12 different countries. When I connected with him, he was in Kazakhstan, his third stop.

His nomadic brainstorm took shape when Nevsky was working at Tales and Spirits in Amsterdam. “We thought of these things called ‘spirited residencies,’” he says. “We thought, ‘Why don't we invite people from other ends of the world for one month to come and live and work and bartend in our bar, like a student exchange project?’” Although it wasn’t the right timing, the idea stuck with him.

Three and a half years later, when he was ready to move on from Tales and Spirits, he found out he wasn’t quite ready to jump back into work at just another bar. It was time to think about giving the nomadic bartending life a try.

It certainly helped that, while working his way through the cocktail competition circuit -- first in Scotland (where he got his hospitality feet wet at 15) and later in the Netherlands -- Nevsky had developed a network of people who knew bars and bartending. “I basically had enough stuff to do for about three months,” he says. He bartended in nine countries in November of 2016, and then participated in Westbound’s “Miracle” bar (in conjunction with Cocktail Kingdom) in Los Angeles. That’s when he also became a partner in Cocktails For You, a social media group focused on the bartending industry.

In LA, Nevsky devised his plan. “I was like ‘Wait a minute, I have a pretty good resume. What if I contact all of these people I met during my bartending career and offer my services and the services of my group in exchange for a place to lay my head, board, and flights in and out of the country?’” Soon, after, he set off on his adventure, planning to document his movements and learn all he could about tending bar in different parts of the world.

Three months in, Nevsky is quick to admit that it’s a challenging life, certainly not for the faint of heart or those hoping to make money. But the experience has proven priceless.

"What surprised me is the sheer open-arm policy that just comes naturally from everyone."
-- Danil Nevsky

He offered a few suggestions for those considering a similar move.

If you have a location in mind, start by doing your homework. “Pick 10 venues in your target location that you would be happy to work in and research every venue. Do a bit of Googling and see what the reviews are like. If you're going to Italy in the summer, temps are great. They love temps, they need people during the summer. If you're going to go to a small town in Alaska in the winter, there's not going to be any work for you,” he says.

After the research, make contact. “Go, ‘Listen I'm doing this nomadic thing, here's what I'm doing, here is my resume, I don't know if you're looking for anyone, I just want to learn.’ Be open about it. You just want to learn, because you can't expect them to give you a good salary or anything like that. You’re a temp.” It’s also helpful if you have some sort of introduction or connection to the venue.

Though Nevsky recommends tempering your expectations, he did note that if you do your job well — even if you’ve agreed only on room and board — often people will want to show appreciation by paying you.

Having no expectations includes being open to the local culture and respecting how people do things. “Every culture has a drinking culture, and not everybody wants to drink Negronis,” says Nevsky.

Once you’re on your way, Nevsky recommends carrying several different credit cards (Visa or Mastercard work in most places of the world), just in case; squirreling money away before you go; and packing as little as you possibly can. “You’ll need a lot less than you think,” he says.

While it’s been an enjoyable experience, an older and wiser Nevsky, 27, is honest about the challenges as well. “I couldn't do what I'm doing now at the age of 23, I couldn't do what I'm doing now at the age of 25. It's now that I feel that I'm secure and strong enough to do this,” he says.

Nevsky has been overwhelmed by the kindness of those he’s connected with along the way, which has made the difficulty of living on the road much more bearable. “All bartenders want to travel,” he says. “Everybody wants to do this and everybody wants to help you, so even though I have no expectations, what surprised me is the sheer open-arm policy that just comes naturally from everyone. Hospitality people at their heart are very nice human beings.”

Cara Strickland writes about food and drink for online and print publications. She’s always up for a conversation about cocktail history, preferably over a Corpse Reviver #2.

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