Interview with Axel Tesch - Beef Club Ballroom
Now I'm back on Swedish soil, just in time for the celebration of tomorrow's National Day of Sweden - and it seems like summer is finally here - fingers crossed. I had a fantastic few days in Paris and Cocktails Spirits - but more about that in a future post. Now I have the pleasure of presenting one of my latest acquaintances, Swedish Axel Tesch, who currently works at the newly opened bar Beef Club Ballroom in Paris - the latest project from the French masterminds behind Experimental Cocktail Club, Prescription Cocktail Club, Curio Parlor etc - enjoy!
What made you pursue a career in bartending and how did you get your first bartender job?
I was 13 when I started working at Restaurant Grill. I went on working as a runner for a few years and then I got the chance to help the bar out. Through Grill, I headed over to Kungsholmen and worked behind Boudy Ghostine, Thobias Pettersson and Jesper Hartmann.
I've always enjoyed working in a restaurant/bar environment. Always crowded, high pace, good music and everyone is happy, what's there not to like about that? I was very eager to learn recipes and cocktails so finally they gave up and let me start working behind the bar.
What do you say to people who ask when you're going to get a 'real' job?
I'd say this is quite a job! There is always something new to learn and the industry is growing constantly. As I have academic ambitions too, I'll refer to both as of what I'm doing.
Where have you worked prior to Beef Club Ballroom, and which place has been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
Except for Villa Godthem and Köttbaren, I've been working in all of the bars within Group F12 (Stockholm), I also worked for a shorter period at Reisen including some guest apperances.
Here in Paris, I've done some shifts at Prescription Cocktail Club before starting at Ballroom.
For every bar, you become more experienced and you learn from all your new colleagues. I'd say that my two years at Le Bar Rouge in Stockholm taught me the most. I worked together with Mohamad Manouchi, Andres Basile Léon, Alex Skärlén and Anders Sandberg - it's easy to understand why it was developing. They're still great friends of mine and I work occasionally with Andres.
Working abroad is extremely developing too. New products, new ways to solve problems, new customers etc. Paris as a "cocktail city" is exploding at the moment and working at Ballroom, meeting bartenders from all over the world, is really great!
Can you describe the cocktail concept at Beef Club Ballroom?
The cocktail list presents some twists of classic cocktails as well as some contemporary concoctions. Overall refreshing and a lot of typical french flavors. Besides the cocktail list, we offer a range of punches and cocktails served on bottle. Punches are, in my opinion, a great way to improve or to give a unique experience for the customer. We serve punches for 5-6 people and a tea pot for 3 persons.
One of the punches that I really like is made of Cachaca, Chamberyzette (a french Apértif made by Dolin - dry vermouth and wild strawberry juice), lime juice, sugar and cider. We light it on fire at the table and it's served with straws. People love sharing!
Which is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
I'm in for anything! Personally I like to make Painkillers, Zombies and drinks that make me happy.
How would you describe the perfect customer?
All customers are important - in the end, they are paying our bills. But to answer your question, I prefer customers that treat you with respect, not everybody understands what it's like to work in a bar so you have to take it from there.
What do you like most about your job?
Every time I go to work, I go to meet my friends and do something that I really like!
Do you have any special bartending skills you're extra proud of?
I try to be as professional and efficient as possible at all times, but that defines me as a private person too. Otherwise, no.
How do you spend your spare time?
At the moment, I'm sitting with my final french exams. Otherwise, with the people I love. I really enjoy electronic music, so if I have the chance, I'll play my favorite tracks somewhere in Stockholm. If I'm not, I'll enjoy a nice dinner ending up on a dark and creepy dance floor.
What do you like to drink when off duty?
That depends totally on the atmosphere and the venue. I prefer cocktails and wine before beer.
What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?
Since I'm not drinking very much at home, my collection has grown quite rapidly. I'm collecting Absolut bottles and spirits that I enjoy drinking. That will be anything from Mezcal, Rum, Vermouths to vintage vines and champagnes.
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
I'm not very into trends, I believe in quality and that's a trend that never goes out of style.
Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
As I've had the time to explore Paris in depth, I'd like to say that there are plenty of bars there worth a visit; Curio Parlor, Experimental Cocktail Club, Silencio, Grazie and Entrée des Artistes - in Paris they have a great sense for atmosphere which contributes to your experience.
Otherwise I really like The Loos Bar in Vienna because of it's originality - that's an old school bar where the barmen are lighting your cigar while preparing a double Manhattan, the service is spotless just like at Le Lion in Hamburg.
Many bartenders have inspired me - but among these I reckon Andres Basile Léon, Mohamad Manouchi and Inko Garat (Ballroom) as the most contributing to my achievements. I've been working a lot together with Mohamad and Andres in Stockholm and they are always passionate, humble and working hard, something that's important to me. Inko has been supervising me during my time in Paris and he's extremely ambitious and looking for improvements all the time.
In your opinon, how do bars in Sweden compare internationally?
Very well! There's a sense for service and consistency that is very rare. Unfortunately, running a bar is very expensive in Sweden and we are forced by so many laws and regulations that it has become much more difficult to succeed in comparison to bars outside Sweden. Therefore it's encouraging that Little Quarter was nominated as one of Europe's top 25 bars!
What inspires you regarding spirits and cocktails?
Everything! Music, art, people, food and books, just to mention a few sources.
What’s your opinion on cocktail competitions, and do you have any experience of your own you'd like to share?
I never felt like I've had the time to participate in many competitions but maybe that will change. For many bartenders it's a very good way to earn recognition and to meet others. I'm very happy that there's a wide selection of competitions and that the standards are getting higher. At the same time, it's extremely difficult to judge one's cocktail - everyone has a different palette and expectations.
Which of your signature drinks, if any, and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
I'm proud of being a part of this ongoing revolution and expansion within the bar industry!
One cocktail that I created for myself at home is actually one of my own favorites, it's very simple but yet complex and good for any occasion.
50ml Engenho Da Vertente Cachaça infused with rosemary and black pepper
22 ml lemon juice
20 ml home made Rhubarb and strawberry syrup
2 dashes of Pernod Absinthe
Shaken, double strained and served in a cocktail glass.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Anything can happen within five years but hopefully I've finished my economic studies and I feel free to do whatever I like!
Which question would you ask yourself, and what would you answer?
I'd ask myself why there aren't more people that tries working in the bar/restaurant industry: it's a great education for anyone, both socially and culturally.