Interview with Christoffer Johansson, Puta Madre

Christoffer Johansson is a hard-working bartender who recently moved to Gothenburg after having completed an internship at one of the most prestigious bars in the world. As if that's not enough, he's also one of two winners of the Swedish finals of Bols Around the Nordics - and later today we'll know if he managed to outperform the others at the Nordic finals in Amsterdam.

Christoffer enjoying life and the Bangkok skyline
What made you pursue a career in bartending and how did you get your first bartender job?

I have been in the business since I was 15-ish. As so many people said before "It's not you who choose the business, it is the business that choose you”. I can't say exactly why I chose be a professional bartender, but I can say that I am blessed to work with my passion and interest in life. Spirits, food and hospitality, throw in LOVE to that equation and we have the good things in life you need. Few people have that blessing to be able to do that and get paid to do it.

Hmmm my first bartender job was in a nightclub in Halmstad called HEAT. It was really nothing special, just something I did by the side of my regular job and school. When I got a “work-training” after I finished a cocktail education at The Fox & Anchor in Halmstad I met Micke Andersson (Head Bartender) that got my eyes up for cocktails and spirits and became my mentor and good friend, I owe him a lot for still being in the business and that he took care of my hunger for knowledge.

Where are you originally from, and how did you end up at Puta Madre in Gothenburg?

I am from a small town called Strawtown (Halmstad) haha on the west coast of Sweden. The first time I went to Puta Madre was in 2010 and fell in love with the place directly. I said to myself that one day I would be working here. My game plan has always been to be working abroad, but as so many other plans, love messed them up. So when I got a chance to get the job at Puta Madre in Sweden I did not hesitate.

Can you describe the cocktail concept at Puta Madre and the story behind it?

We are a Mexican tequila bar, with Northern Europe's biggest selection of tequila (as far as I know). At the moment we have around 350 types of tequila. The theme is a celebration of a Mexican brothel Mom in 1918 so it is a lot of vintage, sexual theme, throw in a little bit of the States just in the beginning of Prohibition and you have Puta Madre.

The cocktail concept is of course a big focus on tequila and mezcals. Our bar team is at the moment on the finishing part of creating a new cocktail menu. It will be a wide range of classics, signatures and already existing cocktails. I think It will be out in the beginning of next year, so whenever you have the time, come in and try them.

Which place/places has/have been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?

All of the places and all of the people I have been working with have created my thinking and skills in one way or another. So I can't say that there is a place that has been more important than the other one. But one of the places that I learned a deeper knowledge of the craft is of course Artesian and my year at the IBM education  (International Bar Management).

You recently did an internship at award-winning hotel bar Artesian in London, please tell me all about it!

Well what can I say? It was amazing to learn from one of the best and creative bar teams in the world. I learned more under my time there than I have ever done. It is a crazy bar team that performs in amazing ways always. They got me thinking more about the hospitality part of the business and I understand why Alex Kratena is so successful. It is an honor to have been trained under him and been working together with Simone, Roman, Rudi and the family at Artesian.

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

I actually don’t have a least favourite drink. The guest pays me to give them what they want either it is a glass of water, Pink Panther or an Old Fashioned. I will deliver it to them with the same enthusiasm as if it was any other cocktail or beverage. I love making and serving drinks, doesn’t matter what it is!  

How would you describe the perfect customer?

Polite and respectful to my work and craft. Curious, I love talking about my spirits, bar or whatever. I want them to feel comfortable and at home as a guest in the bar I am working.

What do you like most about your job?

Hard question! But one big thing is constantly meeting new people. Basically everywhere I go in the world I know someone. But as I said before. I love making and serving drinks to people.

Do you have any special bartending skills you're extra proud of?

A hunger for development and knowledge.

How do you spend your spare time?

Spare time? What is that? I spend it with my girl, friends and family as often I can. Having a good meal and just trying to relax (I am not so good at that). Going to the gym in my spare time is something I always try to do. I believe taking care of your body is important in this business; it is a hard line of work and it clears my mind.

What do you drink when off duty?

Beer! I like beer. Otherwise whatever I got in my glass in front of me

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

I actually don’t know, they are all packed down in a box for the moment because of a move to Gothenburg. It has spent some time at my parents' house and if I know them the bottles have not been standing collecting dust.

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

I believe that we are going to se more food pairing to both spirits and cocktails. Look at Pharmarium in Stockholm and their menu, I love it! I also think that the Tiki culture is a on an oncoming storm back and I'm looking forward to it.

Which bartenders/bars gives you inspiration around the world?

Another tough question! There are so many bars and people in the business that I like and get inspirations from.

Alex Kratena & Simone Caporale at the Artesian, Erik Lorincz at the Savoy.
Björn Kjellberg, Jimmy Hulth & Richard Chille Man.
Ben-David & Dannie Sorum at Alfred Rhubarb in Bangkok
Robin Törnblom & Andreas Dumbo Andersson at Barcore Halmstad.

And of course my wonderful class mates from International Bar Management together with Hans Bihl and Nick Sitbon.

There are so many more that give me inspiration on a daily base but these people I really want to give a Salute to, they are a big part of my thinking today as a bartender.

In your opinion, how do bars in Sweden compare internationally?

Really good! We are still a little bit behind in some parts, but when it comes to effectiveness and creativity we are not far behind. I believe that we need to think more about the hospitality part, about the guests, we are making a lot of "stuff" for us, the bartender community, really nerdy stuff, forgetting a little bit who is paying us to do what we love to.

You recently won the Swedish finals of the Bols around the Nordics competition, could you tell me all about it?

It was great, I am really glad to have won and to represent Sweden in the Nordic finals in Amsterdam.

What’s your opinion on cocktail competitions in general?

It is a great way to meet people and get inspiration. It has given me a great network and experience. And some really funny memories.

How do you come up with new cocktail recipes and what inspires you?

Everything! My mind is constantly focused on finding flavors, ingredients and equipment that I can create something new, tasty and funny. I like to read what others have created and the thoughts behind the creation, which gives me a lot of inspirations.

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

I am really proud of my JW cocktail Not a 5 Minute Walk for the World Class this year. I feel it is a really good, interesting and complex cocktail and hope that the judges agree. I am really proud of my time at the Artesian Bar and my working master degree from International Bar Management. I am just really proud to be a bartender.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

On a beach, with a cold beer in my hand, no problems in the world and just enjoying life. No, but I see myself still doing what I love to do the most. Taking care of people, nursing my interest in spirits and food and still making cocktails.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Up in Smoke
40 ml Mezcal (of your own choosing)
10 ml Talisker 10yo Single Malt
15 ml Agave syrup
30 ml Lemon (freshly squeezed)

Method: Shake and serve in a rocks glass with an ice ball
Garnish:  Lemon zest

This is a cocktail that is coming up our new menu at Puta Madre. DON`T BE A STRANGER, come in and say hi when you have the time.

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