Interview with Elias Malmberg - Brass Monkey

Now it's time for me to introduce Elias Malmberg, who quite recently (and unfortunately for us here in Stockholm) quit his job at Tiki Room. He's currently "big kahuna" at Brass Monkey in Copenhagen, and last weekend he competed in the Tiki Challenge at the German Rum Festival in Berlin - too bad he didn't win!


Photo © Stine P. Sidelmann
What made you pursue a career in bartending?

I can't really remember but when I was young around 15 I helped out a bit at different parties as a waiter, selling beers and spirits to people. I thought it was really fun to see all the old people being drunk and got interested in what made them act like that.

Then I took a four week bartender course, but that was not enough! I got hooked but went to study at KTH for one year. I lost all motivation and got bored. Went home to the deep forest where I come from for a year and tried to figure out what to do with myself.

The last time I was really motivated was during the bartender course, and I somehow found International Bar Management a 1 year course that could give me the tools to get way better. Right now that is one of the best choices of my life.

When and how did you get your first bartender job?

During the 4 week course we got the chance to work in a nightclub in Stockholm, just did a couple of shifts.
But the starter one is another nightclub in Nyköping while I was attending International Bar Management that would be the first ever actual bartender job, since I dont really see it as a job to give my parents, friends and relatives horrible drinks after my four week course.

What is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?

My favourite drink to make is either Tom Collins or Corpse Reviver No 2, I always shine like the sun when someone asks for any of them!

Least favourite drink Vodka & Red Bull no doubt. Or anything with Red Bull I will probably have to eat this up but that synthetic taste is just horrible worst one so far is Mintu & Red Bull I have no idea how one can put together those two things. 

Do you have a favourite kind of customer?

The customers that comes through the door and wants to see what you got in store for them! Really like the interested customers but I like all customers that are having fun and without going over the limit.

What do you like most about your job?

The creative part, that you always can learn new tricks and things and meeting a lot of different people with different experiences. 
And that it gives you a new challenge every shift!

Do you have any special strengths or weaknesses as a bartender?


I am quite nerdy and want everything to be perfect, I am trying to relax a bit more and have more fun. I think its both a strength and weakness. 
And I got a secret weapon, Banana Liqueur that is a big strength! Otherwise I wish I could improve my Danish rapidly so it would be easier to have conversations with the people from Denmark.

What do you like to drink when off duty?

Just for going out i usually go for something easy as a Rum & Tonic, Tom Collins, beer the easy stuff but a good cocktail always get ordered as well so I can see what everyone else is doing. 

What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?

I have no idea, we are already doing so much good things and I wish we can keep the diversity in bars. So no matter what you feel like there would be a place for you!

Which are your favourite bars/bartenders and why?

Andreas Nilsson, Jimmie Hulth, Robbie Radovic, Martin Cate, Anders Sandberg and everyone that really enjoys what they are doing, having fun with it and just kicking serious ass. Always with a big smile and having a good customer service and the ability to do that little extra thing. Forgot a lot of people of course but these are a few of my favourites. 
But these fantastic five blended in one would definately create the strongest bartender in the world!

What about spirits and cocktails inspires you?

How complex it is to make a simple drink or cocktail that is what inspires me most about cocktails. That it is so damn hard to master. 
And I am a sucker for chemistry and all the processes are just fun to know how the spirits are produced, what happens in the barrels, if your pour it in a glass, mix it with another spirit etc.

Which are the main differences between working in a regular bar and a tiki bar?

Smaller then I imagined as first. The drinks are just a bit more complex and takes longer time to make.
But we can have a bit more fun I would say ;) Serving drinks in the most crazy looking things, making playing with fire and making the guests cheer from across the room and of course all the good RUM we got!
Working in a Hawaii shirt is not that bad either ;)  

How do the Stockholm bars compare to Copenhagen's?

Stockholm has the better edge to me there are a lot of amazing bartenders and the knowledge is so high that it is insane! They got one problem though the spirits behind the bar. They know so much, want to do so much, but sometimes they just can't get their products. 
Copenhagen is a bit more relaxed and have really talented bartender group, here we can get the ingredients that can keep us up to level with Stockholm!
Both scenes are developing quite rapidly and I just hope that the customers can take it all in!

Which of your signature drinks and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?

Signature drink is nothing I really have, if I have to choose one of my own it would be the Macaco Crusta (recipe further down) otherwise just the classic Tom Collins.

Most proud of that I didn't hesitate about moving to Copenhagen, Denmark. Was really hard in the beginning but now everything is set and Brass Monkey is kicking ass!

What do you think about cocktail competitions in general?

Fun way to boost creativity and show people what you do, just wish there was more audience and that the judges would let me win ;) 
But for me it is all about the exchange between bartenders and a nice way to meet people from the same business. We like to keep some secrets for ourselves and during the competition you can finally see what the others have been preparing behind your back!

What can you say about your participation in the tiki drink competition at Rum Festival in Berlin?

I just sent in a mad recipe and was really happy when I got the invitation back. The drink is called Jojo the Monkey. And yes it contains everyone's favourite ingredient banana liqueur! 

What do you hope to achieve in the future as a bartender?

Keep my customers happy, have both feet on the ground and just be that nice guy that makes good drinks and will make people come back. 
And just keep getting better at everything nothing that I can't improve! 

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Hopefully I will be on a Caribbean island owning a small rumshack, that just makes a few drinks but always with the skill to give out something amazing. The style of the place would be a beach shack/Tiki bar with roots and products from Scandinavia.

Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?

Yes and sometimes a bit too much. Would love to answer the question with a no and have a huge statement how much effort we put in everything, from going mad with an icepick on  iceblocks until you are left with a tiny diamond, squeezing all the juice fresh for every single drink, flaming zests, having the oldest recipe for whatever drink.  But the ones drinking these drinks often expects that as a minimum.

But we are there to serve people not serve drinks. And all about freshly squeezed juices and putting on a show is part of the service to me, towards our customers.

If the people leave the bar I attend with a smile that is enough for me. No matter if you work in a fancy cocktailbar, at a busy nightclub or just the local taverna.  

Though we should of course be respected for crafted drinks!

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Of course I will take a drink I made for a Cachaca competetion here in Denmark. The one for the competition in Germany has to wait a bit.

Macaco Crusta
45 ml Ypioca 150
10 ml Benedictine
5 ml Calvados
25 ml Lemon juice
5 ml Orgeat
8 drops Ricard

Stirred with ice and strained into a glass of your choice I use a ISO glass, with a fat sugarrim and a lemonzest that I place in the glass before straining the drink, otherwise it tends to be a bit too much zest.

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