The next Swedish bartender in my interview series is none other than Fredric “Lulle” Södersteen who was an appreciated cocktail slinger at Story Hotel for quite a long time before he was offered a job at Svartengrens which is where you’ll find him nowadays. Not only has he got the most impressive double shake in town – he’s also qualified for the Nordic finals of Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition for the second year in a row, and has of course played a big part in Svartengrens being nominated for Best Atmosphere 2014 by Bartenders’ Choice Awards – how about that?
What made you pursue a career in bartending and how did you get your first bartender job?
I started in the catering business with serving. Later on I got the opportunity to work behind the bar and throw out beer, wine and Gin & Tonics. I just found that much more interesting than serving. It’s something with the atmosphere.
Where are you originally from, and how did you end up at Svartengrens?
I am born and raised in Stockholm. I started to feel that I was done at Story Hotel. I had worked there for three years so it was time to move on. Then the timing was incredible that it was a spot open at Svartengrens. It just felt like a great step in my career to start working in such a respected bar as Svartengrens.
Can you describe the cocktail concept at Svartengrens and the story behind it?
Svartengrens is a meat restaurant with focus on Swedish, local meat. Göran Svartengren’s (owner and head chef) philosophy is to use local resources and also try to work along the seasons. In the bar we try to keep up with that philosophy. When we’re picking out the ingredients for our cocktails we try to find them as local as possible. For example, I’ve been using berries and apples from my own garden. This gives every drink more life and you’re always able to tell the guest a short story about how it was born (from the seed to the glass). Since we want to use swedish products, preserving is really important at Svartengrens. Pickling and drying are good methods for extending the seasons.
Which place/places has/have been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
Kungsholmen was the first cocktail bar I put my foot in. I did my internship there, but also got hired as a barback and later a bartender. After Kungsholmen I started at Story Hotel. During my three years at Story I developed to the bartender I am today.
Which is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
Hemingway Daiquri, just love to make and drink. Blood & Sand is a drink that I love to drink but I never really get satisfied making it.
How would you describe the perfect customer?
Good mood, interested and down to earth.
What’s the weirdest drink order you’ve gotten?
Acually the order wasn’t directly to me, but I was standing next to my colleague when he got “hi, can I get a non alcoholic tequila?”. The whole thing got even weirder when he got disappointed when we couldn’t serve him that.
What do you like most about your job?
The creative part is awesome. To create new cocktails, themes and concepts. Although it is to be able to spend time in a restaurant environment every day thats make me want to go to work.
Do you have any special bartending skills you’re extra proud of?
I think and hope that my strongest skill is to make people have a good time. If you are a guest in my bar I want you to feel that you are taken care of and always served with a smile. I also want to think that my palate is something extra.
How do you spend your spare time?
When I have time and money I try to spend a lot of time in other bars and restaurants. If not, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a black belt in spending time on the couch watching movies.
What do you drink when off duty?
Of course I drink a lot of cocktails, which one varies from day to day. A cold beer and a shot of nice tequila makes me very happy.
What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?
A lot of tequila, a bottle of scotch and Mozart chocolate.
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
Drinks will become more of an experience. With different kind of garnishes and serves, the guests will get blown away in the same way as when they had their first Old Fashioned or Daiquiri. That’s our responsibility as bartenders, to always exceed our guests’ expectations.
Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
I’m a huge fan of Ruby in Copenhagen. Every time I have been there I’ve been impressed with the way they’re working. Great atmosphere, great cocktails and professional service.
In your opinon, how do bars in Sweden compare internationally?
I think that the bars in Sweden are making cocktails just as good as anywhere. What bars in other countries are doing much better is to work with the whole concept for their bars. In Sweden we’re still afraid to go all in with the concept because it may not please everyone. I think we will get braver and make our bar concepts much more genuine and I think that will strengthen the swedish cocktail scene.
How do you come up with new cocktail recipes and what inspires you?
First step for me is to combine different flavors in my head. When I come up with a couple of combinations it is just to try them out. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t, the only way is to try. To find out new and odd combinations is what drives me.
Which of your signature drinks, if any, and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
The Nordic finals of Bacardi Legacy is probably the biggest personal achievement. I’m also really proud of my work at Story Hotel. During my three years that bar evolved from nothing to one of the best cocktail bars in Sweden. I am so glad that I was a part of that.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
My plan right now is to improve the concept at Svartengrens. I want it to be more known internationally. Hopefully that is done within five years.
Would you like to share one of your own recipes?
El Jardinero is one of my favorite signature cocktails.
40 ml mezcal
10 ml apricot brandy
30 ml carrot juice
25 ml lime juice
10 ml sugar
Shake, strain into chilled coupette.