The interviews with Swedish bartenders continue today with Erik Andersson, Senior Consultant at Liquid Management, a man with many talents and impressive international bartending merits. Recently he's been involved in developing L'orto del Buco Nero - an Italian bar here in Stockholm with fresh and carefully selected seasonal ingredients - but more on that in a forthcoming post. Without further due, here's the Q&A - enjoy!
In 1997, I started working in Norrlands Nation (student fraternity house) in Uppsala, I started as a waiter at SEK32/hour and after about a year I was bumped up to 36/hour. It was about that time I started working behind a bar.
Where in the world have you worked and what are the main differences compared to Sweden?
I have been working in the bar at the Dorchester Hotel, London and I also opened the El Divino night club in Shenzhen, China. In London, bartending is widely considered a legitimate career but in Sweden it is still not (we are working on changing that). Therefore, the number of skilled bartenders in London is much greater than in Sweden.
In Shenzhen, the situation is obviously very different. The bar industry as we know it in the west is not developed. There is very little, if any cocktail culture and therefore many bartenders are fumbling in the dark. Language barriers as well as economical are huge, Swedes speak generally good English and are able to travel the world for inspiration and knowledge. A Chinese bartender might make 2,000-3,000 Yuan (equal amount in Swedish kronor) and are not equally able to communicate and interact with rest of the bartending world. However I am confident that Chinese bartending will shoot through the roof within the next 5-10 years and that development is something that I really embrace.
What is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
Lets start with the least favourite. The answer is simple, I don't have any. I am happy to serve whatever drinks my guests asks me to make.
My favourite, hm.. That would probably be the drink that is absolutely right for the guest at that specific point in time. What is right for the guest is normally measured by the level of satisfaction of my guest. It is hard to pinpoint or explain this in words, it is more of a feeling I have.
What do you think about cocktail competitions?
Having competed a lot over the last 10 years, my answer is quite apparent. I love them. Many bartenders benefit from being pushed to the limit in competitions and it really drives the industry forward. It is also a great place for bartenders to learn from each other and interact. I think cocktail competitions should be taken very seriously but one must never forget that results are subjective. In a 100m race the first man/woman across the line wins, measuring a bartenders skills and comparing them to another one is apparently a much more difficult task.
What's your favorite kind of customer like?
Well funded ;-) no, but seriously, guests who really appreciate all the hard work we do behind the bar will always be liked be yours truly.
What do you like most about your job?
The room for creativity in combination with the guest relation. In the F&B industry it is the best of both worlds. In the past, a bartender was always the host/waiter/barman and the bouncer. I really enjoy this versatility which is coming back to our bar scene.
Do you have any special strengths or weaknesses as a bartender?
My strengths are mixology and being a host. I consider my knowledge to be good as well. Although, there are many things that I want to improve on such as food service, coffee and wine. I'm mainly a spirits guy you know..
What do you like to drink when off duty?
It really varies, depending on the time of night. I do like my spirits neat most of the time so that they can speak to me undisturbed. I never say no to Champagne (well at least very rarely) and a good India pale ale always tickles my tongue.
What cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
I like to think about it more in conceptual terms. We have seen prohibition cocktails & concepts being on everybodys lips for the last 5-7 years (in Sweden) and over the last few years Tiki has become more popular. I think the general trend is that bars are becoming more and more specific and that they are more able to fully stick to a specific concept. It is no longer enough to have a huge rum shelf and lot of mint in the bar to be able to call yourself a Latin bar. Today our guests demand more authenticity and we must be able to meet those demands.
In the future, I think we will see an increase in the more farm to glass movement. I know a place in San Francisco that has their own bee hive on the roof of the bar. Source of origin is increasingly important in the kitchen as well as in the bar.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
My most memorable time in my career was in the bar at the Dorchester in London. Being part of a world class bar team led by mr Giuliano Morandin really took me to another level in our industry. I am also very proud of my work with El Divino in Shenzhen. I designed and built all the bars as well as trained my 30 man bar team, all in Mandarin.
Which are your favourite bars/bartenders and why?
There are so many.. I really look up to the guys in Death&Co, NYC. Cocktails, food, service, ambiance. Even for a picky guy like me, they really deliver and constantly exceed my high expectations. On many visits, I have never had anything short of a great drink in M&H, NYC (big up to Sam Ross & the team). In London: Callooh Callay, Marian Beke in Nightjar, Stefano Cossio in 45 Park Lane and Brian Silva in Rules are also a great bartenders behind great bars. I quite like Feather Boa in Hong Kong as well as Honey Ryder in Copenhagen.
What inspires you about spirits and cocktails?
Distillery visits have for long been a great source of inspiration for me. Meeting the people behind the product and getting the feel of the distillery is something one can never do by just trying a bottle. I try to travel as much as I can to these places. When it comes to cocktails my inspiration comes from everywhere. Most of my ideas on mixology in general and cocktails in particular comes to me on the bus home after working behind the bar.
Which of your signature drinks are you most proud of?
Gold to no. 10, winning drink in the Tanqueray qualifying heat, World Class 2007
30ml Tanqueray 10
15ml Amer Picon
20ml Carpano Antica Formula
1 (small) Kumquat Bitters
Stirred, Grapefruit Twist
What do you hope to achieve in the future in the bar?
Continue to develop I suppose. Work more hours behind the bar, develop new drinks, plunge even deeper into the world of spirits and learn more about the industry in general. Some consider me a huge cocktail and spirits nerd (quite righteously). As much as that is true, I always aim at looking at the actuality of the industry and always temper my mixology with reality.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
That’s a tough question. We are constantly developing in Liquid Management, I see myself working with Stockholm as a base but on a more international level. I think we will have expanded quite a bit in five years.
Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?
We are getting there. To be honest I think there is quite a lot of attention on the restaurant industry with all the TV chefs and cooking shows. As much as that is getting a little saturated, I also believe the focus will move slightly from the kitchen towards the bar. There is a danger however. Startenders seem to be born every day with very little overall knowledge and not rarely lack of respect for the service industry, which is, what we are a part of.