Interview with Tina Shine, Twinpigs / Melody Nelson

In late September last year I met Tina during a mezcal master class here in Stockholm. I noticed she was passionate about being a bartender and tried to soak up everything she could in order to get better at her job. Shortly afterwards she went to BCB and decided to stay in Berlin. Nowadays she can be found at Berlin hotspots Melody Nelson and Twinpigs - pay her a visit and you'll see what I'm talking about. Or, just continue reading... 

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

I was working in retail, selling tea, coffee and a wide range of delicacy products and sweets before I got into the restaurant business and bartending. I have a weakness for the pleasure in flavour and culinary experiences. My very first job in a bar was pouring draught beer and mixing booze with soda in plastic cups for 4 weeks at ’The dolphin shack’ in Sihanoukville, Cambodia in 2012. This was as far away from quality one could get, but I was curious and it was an experience for sure. When I got back to Stockholm my first bartender job was at Berns where my friend Freddie was manager and he placed me in the outdoor bar at Bistro Berns over the summer. That was a great introduction to the scene and industry.

Where are you originally from, and how did you end up at Melody Nelson and Twinpigs?

I’m from Gustavsberg on the coast of Stockholm, but I travel quite a lot and have lived on and off in Stockholm for the last 7 years. I ended up in Berlin because I went to the Bar Convent in October and missed my flight home the week after. I decided to stay, so I went job hunting. Luckily I found Twinpigs and Melody Nelson.

Can you describe the current cocktail concept at Melody Nelson and Twinpigs and the story behind it?

At Twinpigs we released our new list on March 17th and it’s a compilation of mine and my three bartender colleagues creations. It’s fun and playful balanced with quality and ambition I’d say.

Melody Nelson is a speakeasy in Mitte that offers classic cocktails with only 3 signature cocktails that changes every 3rd month or so. We have about 50 different classics listed in our menu and we let them speak for them selves, perfect as they are.

Photo: Tina Shine
Which place/places has/have been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?

Can’t pick.

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

My least favourite is Long Island Ice Tea because it’s a shitty shitty drink and the people who orders it have no taste.. usually they’re already drunk too.

My favourite used to be ”Cookie Monster” at Laika because it was so cute and everyone loved it and it made people laugh. Now I just love to make customised cocktails for people with curiosity.

How would you describe the perfect customer?

Hehe the perfect customer is cute, charming, interested in what I have to offer and likes what I make. Of course I like innocent flirting over the bardisk. A good conversation and a laugh is always thrilling. He/she hopefully leaves a number and tips ;)

But really, I like any guest who’s just nice and polite, you know.

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

l don’t know… A dark and sour? I mean what is that? A German thing? A mix between Dark and Stormy and a Whiskey Sour? It took some confusing minutes to figure out that he wanted a London Sour. He had a heavy accent.

What do you like most about your job?

The people I meet. Colleagues, guests, DJs etc etc. It’s a business for crazy or at least semi crazy people :D And that’s what makes it so interesting and fun.

Photo: Alice Wonder
Do you have any special bartending skills you're extra proud of?

I’m super good behind the bar. It’s my scene. Where I shine. I'm an excellent co-worker and I’m proud of that. I care about everyone on the team and always wanna create an nice ambiance amongst the staff and guests.

How do you spend your spare time?

Working on my blog http://tinashine.spotlife.se

It’s almost like a part time job :) Mostly I devot the rest of the time to music and singing. Currently I’m also studying German.

Photo: Tina Shine
What do you drink when off duty?

Beer and coffee.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

I move around so much and this is actually the first time I have a little booze collection at home. I’ve got some bitters, rum, gin, vodka, liqueurs… and Brown tonic syrup. I finally like tonic thanks to Brown. It’s the guys at Twinpigs who make it.

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

Hmm.. I dunno. But for the summer I hope for milkshakes and poptails (popsicle cocktails) since my love for ice cream is beyond!

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

I worked in Montpellier, southern France in September - October 2014 with one of my best friends Tony Comas who is an excellent bartender, as much of a freak as I am, and he always seems to know what I want before even I do.

He took me to Le Parfum where some of his friends work and it’s the most beautiful bar I’ve ever seen. Not only aesthetically but the bar is so well planned, a perfect balance between style and function. And a short person like me wouldn’t have any problems working there, since they haven’t got a back bar with high unreachable shelves - that’s always a huge plus in my book -Instead they use the back wall for a light projection that resemblance smoke. Melody Nelson also has a low back bar, + !

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWUmLmIt-1g

* The cover photo of my blog is from Le Parfum.

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

I can’t tell the difference in general, I just have my view from a staff perspective and there are some differences in structure and employer-employee relations for example. Berlin feels even more family-like than Stockholm, but Stockholm is a more convenient scene to work in. Can’t say which scene I prefer.. So I’m just gonna go back and forth a bit I think!

Oh, and in Berlin you can smoke in most bars!

What's your opinion on cocktail competitions, have you entered any and in that case how was the experience?

I have no experience in them so I have no opinion. Might enter one one day though, just for ticking it off my list of experiences. But they don’t beckon me really.

Photo: Alice Wonder
How do you come up with new cocktail recipes and what inspires you?

Curiosity, trial and error. I love watching other bartenders work and I ask a lot of questions. I read some bartending / cook books and I listen to ”Med eller utan is” - a bartenders’ podcast by Jonatan Östblom Smedje on Soundcloud. That is very inspirational.

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

Hehe this interview is what I’m most proud of so far :D And my blog!

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

In 5 years I’m in Tokyo singing jazz, making music together with DJ Krush alongside working with a master and keep learning about mixology and this industry. But I’m kinda like Pocahontas in the sense that I go wherever the wind takes me, and 5 years is a long time so you never know.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

This is a super delicious raspberry - salty liquorice cocktail that tastes like liquid candy (but not too sweet even though the recipe might indicate it) which I’ll make into poptails this summer!

Red Velvet
40ml Fennel-infused vodka (infused for 5 days)
20ml Chambord
20ml Lemonjuice
20ml Raspberry puré
20ml salt-liquorice syrup

Hard shake on ice, double strain over cocktail glass, no garnish.

Photo: Tina Shine

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