Interview with Anders Sandberg, Pharmarium

When I ask bartenders who their favourite bartenders are, a name that very often comes up is Anders Sandberg, the current bar manager at apothecary style cocktail bar Pharmarium in Old Town of Stockholm. The main reason for this is of course that Anders is a talented and hard working bartender - but something else that people appreciate - including myself - is that he's quiet, modest and possesses just about every quality that makes a perfect host. Spend an evening at the bar with Anders and you'll understand what I mean...

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

Back in 2002 when I was working as a hotel receptionist I got the opportunity to jump in extra as a waiter in a newly opened restaurant within the hotel. That’s when I realized I really liked it and a whole new world opened up. I’m in the industry since. I’ve passed through places like Berns, Le Bar Rouge, Häktet, Noppe bar and now Pharmarium.

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

Born and raised in Karlstad. My mentor and good friend Andres Basile Léon recommended me through liquid mgmt, as bar manager for Pharmarium and that’s how I ended up here. He has always been a support to me progressing as bartender and pointing me in the good directions.  

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

What we do is basically a modern interpretation of the antique pharmacy. Actually the first pharmacy in Sweden (1575) was located at Stortorget in Gamla Stan, where also our bar can be found. At that time it was a weird and mystic place full of peculiar ingredients and superstition. We do our own version and create different elixirs, smokes, tonics, infusions and mixtures, a little bit like snake oil salesmen. The menu is full of signature cocktails that are flavor intensive, fresh, curious and visually beautiful. Each cocktail is also paired with a unique midsized dish for the hungry one.

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

That would be the period around 2010 at Le Bar Rouge working behind the bar with amazing people like Andres Basile Léon, Axel Tesch, Mohamad Manouchi and Alex Skärlén. I fell in love with bartending at that moment and learned so many things from these people about and around bartending.

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

I don’t really have any lesser favourites, I always try to make the best of anything even if it´s regarded as the most simplest. Except maybe Red Bull and vodka, - would you like some heart attack with that sir?

How would you describe the perfect customer?

A guest that is always nice to you and the people around, says hello and thank you.  Being polite and curious is a good combination. The perfect customer can come in on a Monday night, botanizing through a flight of cocktails and ask funny questions and maybe tell a story or two.

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

I can think it’s weird sometimes when people order like ‘I’ll have that cocktail, but in a beer glass please’. Makes you wonder..

What do you like most about your job?

All the people, the creativity, the network, fantastic colleagues and guests. All the dynamics within.

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

Besides Swedish and English, I speak French fluently and Spanish pretty good, and a little bit of other stuff in other languages. It’s a good thing, many guests feel extra comfortable and welcome when you can speak their language.

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How do you spend your spare time?

Hanging out with my lovely wife and two kids. I love to cook and whenever I have time - watch science fiction movies, I am really a nerd when it comes to that.

What do you drink when off duty?

I have always been a fan of red wine, I love enjoying a good one! I also have a weakness for beer and shots of bourbon. When it comes to cocktails I like getting surprised and would never turn down a Manhattan.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

Right now some Akvavit; O.P Anderson Extra and Läckö.

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

I’ll  have to quote my friend Axel Tesch on this one, he once said “I'm not very into trends, I believe in quality and that's a trend that never goes out of style”.

If you believe in that and apply it in any kind of direction/genre your bar is, I think you will have more than a good chance to achieve success.

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

Bars around the world: Happiness Forgets, White Lyan, Callooh Callay & ECC in London.
Bar 878, Doppelgänger, Café Rivas, Gran Danzon & El Hipopotamo in Buenos Aires.
All these places all have their own charm and style. When a place is good, the atmosphere is on top and you never want to leave, that’s when you know you’re in a good bar!

Bartenders around the world: There are many international bartenders I never had the chance to meet but would like to. I’ve read quite a few of their cocktail books, read articles, interviews, and some I know through friends/colleagues and so on. Just to name a few that inspires: Jim Meehan, Simone Caporale and Nico de Soto.

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

Set the possibilities I think we’re doing a super good job here in Sweden compared to other countries with less expenses, regulations and limitations. In general it feels like we have a really good reputation out there.

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

Sometimes it can be very random or very calculated. At Pharmarium we use a lot of imagination and odd ingredients, fuse them together in sometimes weird combinations. The mystique and the ‘what is that flavor in here?" feeling, is something we keep close at heart. When we create a new set of signature cocktails we try as much as we can to use seasonal berries, plants, roots, leaves and flowers etc.

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

I’m super proud to be part of Stockholm’s bar community! And also for getting the chance to join in on the ongoing upswing in our industry

When it comes to signatures I’m the most proud of one of our most appreciated from the start at Pharmarium: Roses of Gold.  It’s simple, elegant and with a floral complexity at the same time.

15 ml Purity Vodka
15 ml Garden Elixir (lavender, vanilla, roses & tagetes)
Tip of a tea spoon of gold dust
15 ml lemon juice

Shake and strain into a nice champagne glass
Top with champagne
Lemon zest oil spray

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

I see myself still in the industry channeling creativity and ideas.

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