Interview with Martin Alexandersson, Barabicu

It's been a while since my last interview with a Swedish bartender, but here's a fresh one all the way from Gothenburg. Martin Alexandersson is one of the talented bartenders at Barabicu - a beautiful and ambitious Pan American restaurant and bar close to the famous Feskekörka seafood market.

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

 I came in the profession when I was out of a job and needed money. I knew a guy who owned a restuarant and needed a dishwasher so I called him and got the job the next day. I realized quickly that I wanted to be a bartender when I looked at those who worked in the bar and all the attention and gratitude they got from the guests.

Where are you originally from, and how did you end up at working at Barabicu in Gothenburg?

I am born and raised in Gothenburg. Have worked around in different places with lots of different directions on what the bar and the restaurant would stand for. I have also worked as a chef for some time when I got tired of first hand confrontation with the bar guests. My good friend Leo Lahti recommended me to his bar manager for me to do some extra shifts when they needed people in the bar and on that way it is and soon I was offered to work there full time and I accepted.

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

We don't really have a cocktail concept at Barabicu. Our goal with the whole bar is to be as broad as possible (with a focus on Bourbon) and become one of the best bars in the world in cocktails.

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

Of course it's the first bar, Kontiki, that I ever worked in had a big impact on my skills as a bartender. It was there I learned how to work in the bar and started getting into cocktails and flavors. But I think the most important place was the restaurant part of Pustervik where I met Leo Lahti for the first time and for me he is one of the reasons I am where I am today.

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

I love mixing all sorts of drinks but one of my favorite is probably the Negroni mostly because for me that’s one of the best drinks in the whole world, a perfect blend of spirits. The drink I least appreciate to make is Dry Martini and that’s because I really don’t understand its wide popularity with the big crowd when there are a lot of other similar drinks that in my book is way better in tasting point of view and has the same preparations as the Dry Martini.

How would you describe the perfect customer?

The perfect bar guest is a person who enjoys cocktails and sprits as much as I do myself. Then a good conversation can come out of it and maybe we both can learn something from each other.

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

A woman came up to the bar where I was working at the time and asked for some lemon juice so I gave her a small rocks glass with 2 cl of lemon juice. She then looked at me really disappointed and said "No, I want a whole beer glass of lemon juice". I thought it was a bit strange but gave her what she wanted and then just stood there watching her when she pounded a whole 0,4L beer glass with lemon juice, tipped me and left.

What do you like most about your job?

The best thing about my job is that I am allowed to work with the things I love most which are good spirits and cocktails.

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

My best bartender skill is probably that I can make a cocktail to a guest that they appreciate with very few leading words in how they want the drink to taste.

How do you spend your spare time?

I follow different kinds of spirit blogs and think about new cocktails all the time. Spend a lot of time in other bars with great bartenders. Another big hobby and passion of mine is football.

What do you drink when off duty?

More or less everything that I enjoy. Mostly beer, actually I find it pretty nice when you're around cocktails almost every awake time of the day to drink something else but I usually state that there is always one cocktail for every moment of the day.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

I don’t have a private liquor cabinet for the simple reason that I enjoy sitting in a bar much more than sitting at home having a drink.

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

I think Vodka is a spirit that will be very trendy in the near future. I also think that the pre-bottled cocktail trend will sweep the Swedish cocktail scene. Also now in the nearest future for Sweden summertime I think Tiki drinks will be very popular.

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

I found a great little bar when I was in Berlin by the name of Schwarze Traube, that means Black Grape in English. It is a small place in Kreuzburg with few sitting places and only two people working. One who is doing the service part and one who is making the drinks. When you first arrive you knock on the door someone will come and open, then depending on how many people you are they will decide if you can come in under the terms if you all can have a chair to sit down. If it is full you will have to come back later and try your luck. It is a dark place that almost exclusively does cocktails and the thing that I was most impressed by was that you just order whatever you like and they know every single cocktail. Comparing that to Sweden we are way behind. Then for bartenders I have to say my very good friend and colleague Leo Lahti who inspires me every day and I learn new things from him all the time.


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

I think both Gothenburg and Sweden are doing a great job if you compare to other international bars. Especially in the fact how hard and expensive it is to open bars and restuarants in Sweden with all the ridiculous rules and high alcohol taxes surrounding the whole industry here in Sweden.

You worked at Bar Raclette in Berlin as part of the Absolut Abroad program, what can you say about your experiences?

That is hands down one of my best experiences as a bartender. I think there should be more of these projects around the bartendering world. You meet a lot of people and make a lot of contacts. It doesn't have to be as big as the Absolut Abroad program. We at Barabicu are actually looking into doing some bartender swaps just because you learn so much about other bartender cultures.

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

When I think of a new recipe for a new cocktail I usually write it down and then take it with me to my work and just start fiddling around with it until it is as good as I want it or if it in the end does not come out the way I like I scrap it. Most about everything that I see or read in food or drink blogs or papers. And mostly everything I drink and eat. I am always looking for new exciting flavor combinations.

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

The one drink that maybe can come close to being my signature drink right now is my Little London Sour. That is also one of the drinks that I brought with me to Berlin in the Absolut Abroad program.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

As I see it right now in five years I will be owning my own Vodka bar with my colleague Leo Lahti. As I said before I think that Vodka will be very popular again in about five years.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

I can share the Little London Sour:

50 ml Absolut Vodka
20 ml Lillet Blanc
30 ml fresh lemon juice
20 ml sugar syrup
1 dash orange bitters
10 ml Red Wine (Malbec or similar)

Shake and strain into a chilled coupette, then carefully float the red wine.

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