Interview with Nicolas Truedsson, Hornhuset

In my series of interviews with Swedish bartenders, I'm proud to present Nicolas Truedsson who's been working in a number of the best bars in Stockholm during the last couple of years. Most recently he became bar manager at newly opened Hornhuset, and also managed to convince the jury in the Swedish finals of Nikka Perfect Serve that he's the right person to represent Sweden in the European finals in Munich on November 18 - good luck!

Nicolas preparing Nikka Whisky cocktails, photo © Symposion

What made you pursue a career in bartending and how did you get your first bartender job?

I had plans to become a travel rep so I went to Mallorca but realized that there´s more fun and money behind the bar. Went to bartender school in Globen, did an internship, showed my brilliance, got the job.

Where are you originally from, and how did you end at Hornhuset?

Born and raised in Stockholm. Done most bar jobs in Stockholm. (Norrlands Bar & Grill - Lydmar - Lokal - Hotel Rival - Hamburger Börs - Bistro Napolyon - Taverna Brillo - Hornhuset). Heard about Hornhuset by chance and gave it a shot. I know Jesper Ahlbom from before but never worked with/for him earlier.

Can you describe the cocktail concept at Hornhuset and why you've chosen it?

It´s a 50-50 mix of classic cocktails and our own recipes. It´s made for the clientele that we have and what me and my team want our guests to drink.

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

Norrlands Bar & Grill. At the time one the best bars in Sthlm. Travelling to NYC, London, Paris and Copenhagen has influenced and taught me a lot. Competetions and workshops always give me inspiration.

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

I´ll serve the customers whatever they want. My personal favourites are usually my own concoctions/recipes. It always puts a smile one my face when somebody orders a classic cocktail because they want to drink it, not because they´ve seen it in Mad Men or another tv-show.

How would you describe the perfect customer?

Humble, thirsty and interested. And money to spend.

What's the weirdest drink order you've gotten?

Atomic Submarine is definitevely in the top (pint of Jäger with a shot of beer in it).

What do you like most about your job?

Corny answer but that every day is different. New customers, new challenges. Meeting and hanging out with my colleagues at competitions and workshops ain´t bad either.

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

I´m pretty good at coming up with recipes and names for cocktails. I have a pretty good palate as well. The Nikka competetion proved that I´m not too bad in taking care of guests either.

How do you spend your spare time?

Hanging out with my wife and two dogs. Travelling as much as I can. Got a few side projects going on as well. Gammel Dansk and a couple of others.

What do you drink when off duty?

Gammel Dansk. Brooklyn Lager. Pabst Blue Ribbon. Old Fashioned is always good. Dr Pepper if I´m staying sober.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

Shitloads of bitters, Gammel Dansk, bourbon and gin.

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

More individuality on the menus. The bartenders' own recipes. Stiffer cocktails will stick around for a while I think. The bars will have a more "set concept". Tiki, speakeasy, whatever.

Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?

Bars : Amor Y Amargo, EO in NYC. The Union in Copenhagen. Lounge Bohemia in London. Candelaria in Paris. Bartenders : Emil Seth Åreng is f***ing brilliant. Ola Carlson is always a laugh. The guys at Angel´s Share in NYC are always top notch. All the guys at LQ are definitely up there.

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

Top three in the world. Easily.

Nicolas shining during Nikka Perfect Serve,
photo © Symposion
You recently won the Swedish finals of the Nikka Perfect Serve competition, could you tell me all about it?

It was divided between inventing a cocktail based on Nikka and and how you behave behind the bar and take care of your guests. Your body language, how you move and how you communicate. I didn´t go in to it thinking I was gonna win but just tried to have a good time. I felt very relaxed and I knew my cocktails were brilliant. Representing Sweden in Munich now on November 18th.

What’s your opinion on cocktail competitions and do you have any experiences of your own you'd like to share?

I think most competitions are good for you. Just not the competiting part but that you get to meet likeminded people and hopefully learn a thing or two.

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

I read a hell of a lot of cocktail books and magazines. I´ve also got a quite vivid imagination and pretty good palate so I usually make them up in my head and then actually prepare them. After a workshop with Jim Meehan from PDT I´ve started to work with the "Mr. Potato Head" model. Base spirit - sweeteners - sours- glass - garnish - bitters and so on. Build it on paper, then in your glass. Travelling and history always gets me going.

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

Signature drink : I did a cocktail with Absolut Peppar and honey that we had on the menu at Rival that I still really like. The Pigeon (see below). Came up with a few for Gammel Dansk that are top notch. And all the ones at Hornhuset´s current menu. Crappy answer I know. The win in Nikka is high up on the list. My work with Gammel Dansk.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Probably still behind the bar in Stockholm. Still trying to improve as a barman. Still competing and drinking Gammel Dansk.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Sure. This is my twist on a Manhattan that we had on the menu at Napolyon. One of my best so far I have to say.

The Pigeon
15 ml Monkey 47 Gin
15 ml Carpano Classico
20 ml Buffalo Trace Bourbon
3 dashes of Orange Bitters
Orange zest

Stir and serve in a chilled coupette/cocktail glass.

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