Interview with Madeleine Rapp - Svartengrens

Photo © Finest.se
Now I'm back in business after a crazy weekend, having survived London Cocktail Week and UK Rumfest - really great to meet lots of old and new friends - I'm looking forward to next year already! Enough about that, though, since I have a special treat for you. I recently interviewed the very talented Madeleine Rapp, who does a great job at Svartengrens here in Stockholm. They recently launched their new cocktail menu, and I advice you to try it out as soon as possible - but not until you've read the interview! Here we go - enjoy!

What made you pursue a career in bartending?
When I started it was mainly because of the excitement of working nights and to be a part of the industry. But the more I worked the more I liked it and I felt for the first time that I was actually good at something. After a few years of working in Örebro I realized that it must be something more out there then Franco’s Sour mix, so I moved to Stockholm. When I met Andres Leon and the crew and saw that there was so much to learn I decided that this is what I want to do. I felt that I was creative in something for the first time.  I have the opportunity to work with the best things I know; booze, wine, beer and food. I get paid to do what I love, that’s awesome.

When and how did you get your first bartender job?
I was eighteen and just about to graduate when I got my first job as a barback at a nightclub in Örebro, the town I grew up in. I needed a job and they were looking for staff, simple as that.

Where have you worked prior to Svartengrens and which place has been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
I moved to Stockholm four years ago and started working at Clarion Hotel Stockholm. After that I got the chance to open up Collage again together with Andres Leon, Åsa Nevesteveit, Michael Bergström and a few others. And that opened up a new world to me and they taught me a lot. Definitely an important move in my career. After that I did one summer at Gerdas and one at Spymlan before I started working at 1900/Kåken.

Which are your favourite and least favourite drinks to make and why?
I like making all sorts of drinks as long as my guest is satisfied with the result. And by result I mean the overall experience; service, mood and the cocktail.  There’s no drink I really don’t like making, but Long Island Ice Tea… come on!

Do you have a favourite kind of customer?
I think that one of the greatest things about bartending and working in this industry is that no day is the other one a like and the same with guests. That’s what I like. So no, I can’t say that I have a favorite kind of customer. But it’s always nice to have guests that are interested in cocktails, beer, wine and food.

What do you like most about your job?
That everyday is different and that I get to be creative in all sorts of ways. And of course the guests and my co-workers. Especially my partner in crime and best friend Josephine Sondlo, she brings out the best in me.

Do you have any special strengths or weaknesses as a bartender?
I would say that service and creativity are two of my strengths. One of my weaknesses is criticism; I take it too hard and negative sometimes instead of turning it into something positive and try to work on it.

What do you like to drink when off duty?
Depends on the mood and where I am. But a daiquiri or an Anchor Steam is never wrong.

What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
I think knowledge and service are two important trends.

Which are your favorite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
Tough one.  I’ve been to New York a lot and it’s always a pleasure to sit in the bar at Death and Co when Jason Littrell and Thomas Waugh are working. Recently discovered 11 Madison Park where I met Leo Robitschek and he made some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. But most important was the service, amazing!

What do you think about the current cocktail scene in Stockholm and Sweden?
I think we got a good thing going on and a lot of fun and interesting things are happening. I’m proud of Stockholm’s cocktail scene and it’s just getting better and better.

What about spirits and cocktails inspires you?
Everything! Creativity, history, technique, diversity and individuality.

What do you want to achieve regarding cocktails at Svartengrens and in general?
We want to give our guests a good experience. Service, nice atmosphere and well made cocktails. It’s important for me to give good service and to make the guest feel comfortable in the bar. We want to make cocktails for the guests, not for our selves. By that I mean that you have to listen and pay caution to what the guests like and try to balance that with what you as a bartender like. I think you know what I mean. When it comes to the cocktails we love to be creative as much as keeping things classic. And the process if making the drink, the craftsmanship, is important to us.

What do you think about cocktail competitions?
I think it can be fun, good and educating. Of course there are more serious competitions than others, but I like it. It’s always nice to get together with other bartenders.

You recently won Cocktailkamp together with Josephine Sondlo, and you were awarded a trip to Cuba - tell me all about it!
My first and last competition, haha. I will never do it again. The weeks before the competition were horrible, never been so nervous in my entire life. But it went well, we won and it was a lot of fun. I’m proud of myself for facing my fear of competing and I think Cocktailkamp was a perfect competition for me to start with.

What's your opinion regarding the lack of female bartenders?
That’s a difficult question but I think one of the reasons is the lack of female role models in the industry. At the time when I started I only knew Åsa and I’m glad that I had the chance to work with her. It’s a few more of us now and I think it’s important to support young, not only female, upcoming bartenders.

Which of your signature drinks and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
As long as I keep on developing and moving forward I’m happy and proud. But when I was nineteen I decided that I wanted to become a sommelier and last year I did. I studied wine, beer and food full time and worked full time as a bartender.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
I live in New York and work as a bartender or bar manager at a very good cocktail bar.

Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?
I think only a few bartenders, and others in this industry, get recognition for what they do.  We need to change that.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?
I would love to. This is a drink that I recently made for our new menu at Svartengrens.

Beetlejuice
40 ml Wild Turkey Bourbon
10 ml Cherry Heering
8 ml Campari
20 ml Lemon juice
10 ml Simple syrup

Shake and serve up in a coupette.

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