Interview with Emil Hed, Svartengrens

Emil Hed. photo ©
Stockholm is full of talented bartenders, and cosy restaurant bar Svartengrens is no exception. There you can find, among others, Stockholm native Emil Hed who came back from backpacking and bartending in Australia, got a job at Svartengrens and recently managed to win the Swedish final of prestigious, global Beefeater MIXLDN bartender competition - way to go!

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

My first bartender job was at a restaurant in Darling Harbour, Sydney. I got it by dropping in my slightly exaggerated resume. From there on I worked around at a few places, tending pubs and nightclubs, barbacking at some top cocktail bars. That's where I started to realise that bartending was something that I could see myself doing for a career, watching these guys working behind the bar and getting in on the different spirit tastings opened up a whole new world for me!

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

I'm born in Stockholm, and right after I graduated I went backpacking and ended up in Australia, where I got my first real bar job, and since then I've been loving it. Coming back to Sweden I worked around at a few places, but it's hard getting a job in a good place when you don't know anyone in the business. So luckily I knew a friend who worked as a chef at Svartengrens and I did a few free shifts there in the bar and they helped me get a job at another place, and last winter I got a call from Fredric the bar manager asking me if I wanted to come work with them!

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

At Svartengrens we try to work according to season, centered on the ingredient, pickling and preserving to make the seasons last longer. This makes the drinks on our menu change very often.
To me it's a great way of working, it allows us to be creative and working with, to me, new ingredients, and getting out in nature to see what it has to offer.

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

I think all the places you work at is important, it's just a question about interest, either if it's a way of working service, a specific cocktail recipe, or how you present a wine. But some places makes a bigger impact than others, In Australia I learned a lot about classic cocktails and whisky/ey working for some speakeasy bars, and Ljunggren on Södermalm opened up my eyes for gin, and of course Svartengrens with Swedish ingredients and how to use them, and how much there is around us that makes for great ingredients.

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

I would say Ramos Gin Fizz on both, it's a delicious drink, when ordered on a quiet evening it's great, but on a busy night it can truly put you in the deep.

How would you describe the perfect customer?

The perfect customer, that's a hard one... Everyone has their own reasons for going out for a drink, whether if it's just to escape for a while or because you enjoy a nice meal and drinks, but if you as a guest comes to my bar and show a genuine interest about what we do and seem to have a good time whilst here, that's the perfect guest for me!


Beefeater MIXLDN Swedish final, photo ©
What do you like most about your job?

I guess there's a reason some people end up in the hospitality industry, to have an output for all leftover energy. I have always had a interest for food, wine, spirits and all thing related, but that has now has grown into a way of life. But what drives me the most is that there is always something new to learn, and I guess that is why I love my line of work.

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

Haha, nah.

How do you spend your spare time?

I usually spend my spare time at home studying, or out with friends/my girlfriend enjoying a good dinner and a few drinks.

What do you drink when off duty?

That really depends on the occasion, but I guess the go to choice for cocktails would be a Daiquiri (I don't mind going nuclear if it's the right time of the night). But after a long shift I usually enjoy a good lager in good friends company.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

During my time I've gathered a few bottles, but to pick a few; Chartreuse VEP, Black Cow Vodka, Gin Xoriguer, the magnum Campari and Fernet Branca of course, but I think the best one I have is a bottle of "bäverhojt" I got from one of our chefs at Svartengrens.

Emil Hed, photo ©
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?

I think we will see more bars taking inspiration from our kitchens, using similar techniques as well as how they assemble their dishes. I also believe that more bars will be aware of their waste and how they can work more eco-friendly, changing the way we work hopefully also leads to some new interesting ways of making drinks.

In your opinion, how does the bar scene in Australia compare to Sweden?

I think the biggest difference is in how the people drink, in Australia the bar could be as packed on a Tuesday night as it would be on a Saturday. But there's a lot of different factors that leads to this.
Other than that I don't believe the difference is that big, I generally think that Swedish bars aren't getting the acknowledgement they deserve, but I'm extremely happy to see some of our bars putting us on the map.

You just won the Swedish Beefeater MIXLDN cocktail competition, what are your thoughts regarding this experience and cocktail competitions in general?

I'm really excited about this experience, it will be my first competition overseas, and depending on how it goes, I'm convinced it will be an experience of a lifetime, meeting some new people and getting to visit the Beefeater distillery!

Beefeater MIXLDN Swedish final, photo ©
I think competitions is a great way to highlight our industry, and getting people more knowledge about different brands and spirits. It drives people to learn more and be creative, and if we in the business learn, we can educate our guests.

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

Usually I start with the ingredients I want to shine through and try to work around them, everything I choose from there on is chosen to compliment the main ingredients.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

I would love to have a place of my own, I have a lot of ideas but we'll se how it goes!

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Sure thing, this is one of my favourite drinks we have on our menu at Svartengrens at the moment:

Nasturtium 
35 ml light rum
15 ml falernum
25 ml lime juice
25 ml nasturtium sugar
Egg white

Dry shake, shake. Served up in a cocktail glass.

Nasturtium has this great spicy, grassy flavour that goes deliciously with the rum and falernum, and the greatest part is that you can grow it anywhere, anytime!

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