MEET ENTREPRENEUR, MIXOLOGIST AND [BATCH]ELOR AMBASSADOR, RONNIE BUDERS
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur and bar owner?
Being a bar owner is one thing but being apart of a bespoke cocktail bar is something on another level. People love their haunts and develop relationships with the bartenders and other regulars but with something that people feel apart of and engaged is great. Our guests are always surprised and feel completely catered to having custom cocktails created just for them. It’s a great feeling to have guests arrive excited and ready to expect the unexpected and then to leave as if they have just returned from an amazing adventure.
What drove you to choose this career path?
I’m an artist. When I was in college in the 90’s I painted murals for a living. I would approach businesses, homes, anything that I thought I could improve or work with. I approached my now business partner who is also a mentor and presented him with a sketched on color copied photo of his bar “Liquid”, which wasn’t in the best neighborhood (then) and explained to him if he allowed me to paint the facade of his club it would never be defaced again. He laughed and said ok, a year later I showed and proved. From this point onward I became his resident artist until I managed to finagle my way into the bar/club scene and the rest is history. So I guess I can say the career path chose me.
What do you spend most of your time on, beyond what people see when you’re behind the bar?
Before we opened Biig I was back to painting murals and being a freelance artist. As Biig opened I knew that would consume all of the time I had to paint but there is no shortage of the necessity to be creative behind the bar. I’m constantly researching cocktail recipes and different and unique ways to present beautiful libations for our guests.
In coming up with the concept for Biig, what was it that you set out to do?
Another of my business partners and I had opened a restaurant a few years back, after creating the cocktail program for that establishment and training the staff I would visit different markets and farmers markets on my way to work and I would set up my station drastically different from the other bartenders. As our staff worked off of our menu I would be at a different bar in the restaurant doing the bespoke style bar tending that we do at Biig now, my partner and I had so much fun creating new cocktails for each guest that he asks me, why don’t we open a bar like this? And so we did.
Eight years ago our first Big, notice there is one “i”, was beyond amazing and was so loved by our faithful patrons, but it was short lived. Fast forward to Biig, two “i’s”, we still provide our custom cocktail service but this time I wanted to bring the classic bartender patron relationship back, music is low, phones are put away, and everything is up for discussion. One person may have cocktail on fire, another with ice cream and crickets, and across the room a cocktail served out of a giant sharks mouth. You never know what you’re going to get but it opens people up to ask and talk about their unique cocktails and what they consist of. In the digital society of screens and no social interaction it’s nice to know we are providing a space where people can actually disconnect and reconnect on a personal level.
Tell us about your no menu, menu. Why is it important to create a customized experience for your customers?
In the beginning it was just fun to create cocktails off the cuff. Now years later it’s still a lot fun but there is a sense of intimacy now. We are connecting with our guests on another level, a lot of folks get nervous and have this sense of subtle panic as we begin to go down our list of questions to begin our creative path to making the cocktail. People are used to reading a menu, pointing and ordering. Easy right? But are you really getting what you want and is there really anything fun about that? We start with a concise explanation of how we operate and how to order, ordering begins with picking a spirit (type of liquor) or as many as you like in one cocktail, then how you would like that prepared, weather it may be spirit forward (on the boozier side) or refreshing (citrus, fruity) and then any flavor profile you may like and of course any allergies you may have. We operate similarly to a kitchen everything is fresh and we may have shellfish, nuts and or other things people may have reactions to.
What inspired you when designing the interior of Biig? How does the design enhance customer experience?
The design was all my business partners, I’m a vegetarian so having taxidermied animals all around wasn’t really something I would do, but it has grown on me and it definitely puts these amazing animals in perspective. With that said though all of the smaller, subtle details that give the bar character and quirkiness was all me. I felt keeping the place all tight around the collar gave the bar a sense of pretentiousness and I didn’t want to be perceived in that manner so I felt it needed things like our little coconut monkey that greets you upon entry and well you’ll just have to experience the rest when you visit.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into the industry?
GET OUT!!! Joking, but be prepared to make sacrifices and it’s not glitz and glamour. Be ready to get your hands dirty and make things happen. Mainly you absolutely have to understand and accept that without our patrons we wouldn’t be here so know that we are the service industry and we are here to serve and make sure our guests have the greatest experience at all times. This doesn’t mean that you can’t correct someone when they’re wrong but do it in a way where you would appreciate to be spoken too and treated. Smile and say thank you.
Can you share the secret to crafting the perfect cocktail?
In creating a cocktail there is always a balance. Spirit, cordial, sweet, savory, sour, citrus, the list goes on but there is always a balance. Less is more, you can always add but never take away, unless you’re taking the cocktail completely away to start over. If a cocktail is to sweet adding more booze isn’t the answer, and you can’t take away the sweetness that is already there but you can add to that if it isn’t sweet enough. Balance.
Tell us more about your life outside of Biig as an artist and muralist.
Honestly as of right now Biig is my baby next to my real baby, my pup Mary Jane. After a little over a year we are still here and I’m grateful for that but never complacent. Once you think you made it you get lazy and start to let go, we need to stay ahead of the curve and constantly be on the edge of new spirits, styles, techniques. So for now I’m focused on Biig and growing with it. Also, you never know there may be something new coming soon....
Why is it important for you to work with and support other local artists?
Supporting the arts is the best thing anyone can do, aspiring artists see the world in ways that others don’t and having the ability to see the world through another’s eyes is an amazing experience. As an artist it’s awesome to follow your dreams and having the support to do what you believe in and have others believe in you gives you such a sense of freedom, you truly feel alive.
To learn more about Ronnie, visit his [BATCH]elor Ambassador profile here!