In the backyard of the Yugen brewery in Ghent, a wasteland has transformed into a colorful butterfly garden, with kombucha bubbles. The manager of the Yugen Booch Bar is cocktail virtuoso and lifelong student Jeroen Misseghers. We ventured off into our backyard and were able to catch Jeroen for an interview. One that will take you to Sri Lanka and back. Here we go!
Jeroen is a "Jack of all trades". At the age of 18, Jeroen was tired of school. "I was that typical high school drop-out, demotivated, no longer in the mood for school."
He therefore decided to ignore the books for a while and jumped from one random job to another. After a young career as a mailman and mobile phone salesguy, he eventually ended up at Thomas Cook. “From accounting, to ticket handling, to creating company holidays, I did it all there”.
During that time Jeroen decided it was time for a diploma. After graduating in marketing, he was able to get a job at Christophe Peeters' cabinet. He enjoyed it cause he could indulge himself in numerous projects where there was a link between sport and youth. Does the neighborhood sports halls project in Ghent ring a bell? Thank Jeroen for that! He was also Christophe's professional and personal communications manager.
But his thirst for knowledge was still not satisfied. "I decided to study communication sciences in Ghent during the day and to combine this bartender work in the evening." From the Overmeer to the Overpoort, from sunrise to sun... rise.
Until one day he came into contact with flying bottles. “Flairen”, or the art of juggling bottles while shaking cocktails, was a legitimate education in London at the time. Jeroen decided to cross the canal and immerse himself in the world of hard liquor.
Jeroen soon realized that there was more future in the art of mixology. “How do you create cocktails? What are the basic cocktails? How is liquor made? And how do you combine flavors? During the “Mixology” course, I really discovered my love for cocktails.”
After the intensive training, Jeroen was ready for the real work. With his fresh diploma in his pocket, he could immediately start working in the highly regarded Volta in Ghent. Every week Jeroen conjured up new recipes, something unique for Ghent at the time.
Cocktails in Colombo
Even after university, Jeroen was not yet saturated with knowledge. “Time to go to Vlerick” he said while laughing. During his marketing education at the Vlerick business school, he came into contact with entrepreneurship and start-ups.
Afterwards he was asked to develop an ambitious and challenging project in Sri Lanka. "It was the biggest project I've done so far, starting a commercial sailing company for a guy who builds catamarans in Sri Lanka."
Jeroen was in charge of creating and organizing the experience based whale watching trips, including breakfast, luxury lunches and parties ... many parties.
While floating off the coast of Sri Lanka he eventually came into contact with the people of Diageo, one of the world's largest alcoholic beverage brands (known for Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Bailey's, Guinness, Captain Morgan, the list goes on and on ... ). “They asked me as a consultant for their bartending training, event management, tastings and cocktail training. I liked the work and did it for a while, until I met another Sri Lankan ... ”
That man wanted to establish the first large beach club in Sri Lanka, Bali style. That is to say, experience based entertainment for the guests. Jeroen was responsible for developing and executing the customer journey, including swimming pool, beach, food, quality cocktails and so on. Experience was priority number 1 and he was the man to implement it and translate this to the staff.
But then Covid happened...
Back to the roots
Jeroen returned to Belgium and decided to focus on two things, food and drinks.
Today, Jeroen runs the Yugen booch bar. In this bar concept he has combined his background together with the Yugen values. The experience of the guests is central and the products offered are high quality and natural. The great service in a green setting is naturally part of this.
“I really wanted to incorporate the beautiful meaning of the word “Yugen*” into our concept. In the next phase, we want to extend the sustainability focus even further with reuse of ingredients and working root to tip.” *The word Yugen describe the appreciation for the mysterious sense of beauty for our natural world.
Many visitors to the booch bar know the concept through word of mouth (yes, even during Covid). People are more demanding than before and this influences the way in which the hospitality industry develops creatively.
“If I go to a bar or restaurant myself, I’d like to get something that I cannot make or create myself, otherwise why would I pay more money for it. That experience can be about the product, the service, the atmosphere, the location. People want something unique, things made with love, quality over quantity. ”
In addition, Jeroen is also engaged in a chef training, so that he can also provide customers with food within the Yugen concept.
All cocktails in the Yugen booch bar are based on kombucha. For the creation of the recipes, Jeroen continued to work of that other great cocktail celebrity, Jurgen Nobels.
Thanks to the prep of Jurgen, he was able to take the cocktails to an even higher level. “The pure kombuchas are in principle already mocktails with a complex and layered taste. By using quality extras such as fresh juices and creative finishes, we can support the taste of the kombucha even more and convince people of the added value of a kombucha cocktail.”
Jeroen believes in the Yugen brand and supports the natural, authentic, and sustainable philosophy. Therefore, the booch bar with butterfly garden is just the beginning. The next plan is to create an indoor forest in the large open studio above the Yugen brewery.
With the help of a cooperative of sustainable plant growers, it is possible to transform the space into an urban oasis, a concrete jungle, as it were. The growers produce without the use of plastic and harmful chemicals. “They can make the whole space green. And they also fit perfectly within the Yugen concept, so there is a great collaboration ahead ”
Keep your eyes open because within about 4 weeks you might be able to open your lungs here.