Interview with Hedvig Johansson, The Ritz-Carlton Berlin

So, here's the next instalment in my coverage of Swedish bartenders working around the world - and this time it's the talented Hedvig Johansson who's been working at one of the most upscale hotel bars in Berlin for almost two years. I noticed her when attending the Barmaid Olympics cocktail competition earlier this year, decided to find out more - and finally here is the result, enjoy!


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

I always worked in the hotel industry during my studies. My first real "behind the bar" job was at the Farm Club in Verbier, Switzerland. A well known discotheque.

Where are you originally from, and how did you end up at The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin?

I'm from Kalmar, Sweden. After finishing school I traveled a lot, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and New Zealand. in 2005 I finally ended up in Berlin. I started working in different restaurants with good bars. I've been a part of the Ritz-Carlton team since October 2012.

Can you describe the current cocktail concept at The Ritz-Carlton and the story behind it?

We are working with fragrance drinks and perfume cocktails. It means we are inspired by a lot of different perfumes and fragrances to create a new cocktail. We are trying to make a cocktail that tastes the way the perfume smells. We are also trying to please all the senses, with light, music, colours....

The original cocktail bar at The Ritz-Carlton is called The Curtain Club, but recently you opened another one called Fragrances - what can you tell me about it?

It's all about the senses. By entering the Fragrances bar you'll find yourself in the "Hall of Fame", a tunnel where all the cocktails in our menu are presented. You can see a picture how the cocktail is gonna look like, smell the parfume that inspired us and see the base spirit that we used. Next to every presentation there are also small boxes where you can see and smell the other ingredients. We use a lot of unusual aromas like Ylang-Ylang, Patchouli, Vetivier, Jasmine, Oud, Incense....

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

Of course my work with Arnd Heissen and the opportunity to be a part of the team who opened the doors to Fragrances. Before I worked at Nhow Hotel with Christina Schneider. I also participated in a short bartender class for David Wiedemann back in 2010. Mike Meinke from Diageo always hosting different workshops in which I'm always talking part.

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

Don't have any preferences. But I'm not so keen on mixing with cream.

How would you describe the perfect customer?

Patient and curious. Well behaved....

What do you like most about your job?

I love having people around me! Guests as well as colleagues. And of course the working hours...

Photo © Natalia Kepesz

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

I'm quite good at talking... and I think my shake is pretty good too.

How do you spend your spare time?

Reading a good book, either on the balcony or in the bathtub.

What do you drink when off duty?

Gin & Tonic.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

Not that much actually. Some old rums.

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

Fragrance drinks and perfume cocktails! We're getting great feedback from bartender colleagues around the world. It's a great way to come up with new drinks and try out unexpected aroma combinations. The winner of this year's World Class German finals, Maxim Killian, The Parlour, Frankfurt, used a perfume flacon with saffron to aromatise his cocktail. And the winner of this year ABSOLUT Invite, Andreas Künster, Bar Bijou, Berlin. Made a cocktail inspired by a Andy Warhol Parfume.

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

Harry Glockler, Becketts Kopf, Berlin, a great host with perfect skills that always makes you feel welcome. Always makes perfect drinks in a very nice atmosphere. Halbestadt Bar, Vienna, Erich Wassieck, also a great host with a huge back bar! A great location just under the railway. Booze Bar and Gin & Tonic Bar in Berlin, my comfort zone and homies! I once visited a great bar in Tokyo which name I can't remember. I had one of the best nights ever with people from around the world. Great ambience, like a living room. I'll go back next year and give you the name!

In your opinon, how do bars in Berlin compare to Sweden and the rest of the world?

No where else you'll find such a good collection of great bars in such a short distance from each other. And the price level is unbeatable!


You've entered some cocktail competitions like Bacardi Legacy and World Class, what can you tell me about your experiences?

It's a great opportunity to get around and meet other bartenders. See how they work, picking up new trends and skills. Try new spiritis. Visit new bars and it's great for networking.

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

Of course perfumes but also state of mind. How do you feel/how do you want to feel? Awake? Tired? Concentrated?

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

Honey Ryder! I was inspired by the very first Bond girl, Ursula Andress in Dr. No, when she comes up from the water. I wanted to make a very aphrodisiac and floral cocktail.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Honey Ryder
6 cl Swan Lake-infused Tanqueray no 10 (Swan Lake a green tea from Mariage Frères with Rose and Jasmin)
3 cl fresh lemon juice
2 cl homemade Ylang-Ylang-Jasmin-syrup
2 barspoons honey syrup
1 egg white

Shake on ice. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with cornflowers and gold dust.

Enjoy!

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