Interview with Josephine Sondlo – Svartengrens

At the latest Bartenders’ Choice Awards, early December 2011, Svartengrens well deservedly won the “best newcomer” award. A while ago I interviewed Madeleine Rapp, bartender at Svartengrens, and now it’s time to learn more about her partner in crime, bar manager Josephine Sondlo, who recently also won the Swedish qualifying round of the Absolut Invite competition – congratulations!

Interview with Josephine Sondlo – Svartengrens, Trader Magnus
Photo © 

What made you pursue a career in bartending?

I needed job, simple as that. Started as a barback, got fascinated by what they did in the bar and wanted to learn how.

When and how did you get your first bartender job?

Sjögräs, got the job through my old boss.

Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?

We probably get too much, considering how some of my colleagues behave…

Where have you worked prior to Svartengrens, and which place has been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?

Berns, Riche, Reisen, Bauer, Sjögräs, Kåken/1900. Probably Kåken.

What do you want to achieve regarding cocktails at Svartengrens and in general?

I want to be the best at what I do. And I want Svartengrens to be the place people go when they want good service and good drinks, whether they are in a rowdy mood or not. People should feel at home at our place, and I think most people do.

What’s your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?

I make all drinks, I don’t have a favorite/least favorite.

Do you have a favourite kind of customer?

The guest who behaves, drinks heavily and tips heavier, who is sociable without being too sociable and is easy to pair up with another guest.

What do you like most about your job?

The hours, and all the people I meet.

Do you have any special strengths or weaknesses as a bartender?

My biggest weakness is that I’m shy. I don’t have any particular strengths, I’m average at everything else.

How do you spend your spare time?

I fight. Literally. I practice MMA and BJJ (Brazilian jujitsu)

What do you like to drink when off duty?

Beer. Shots. Mezcal. Rye Manhattan with orange bitters. Sewer water. Pretty much anything.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

A cognac from 1875, among other things. A lot of agave.

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

Cocktails on tap. Isi-whip infusions. Nerdy amari cocktails. Nerdier sherry cocktails. Nerdiness of epic proportions.

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

Jason Littrell. Hands down.

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

Very well, and if you consider the cost of labour here, I’d say we outshine most other countries.

What inspires you regarding spirits and cocktails?

History and culture.

What do you think about cocktail competitions?

They’re good for inspiration, I guess. I always get crazy nervous, so I hate them.

You recently won the Swedish qualifying round of Absolut Invite, please tell me all about it!

Didn’t think I’d win, I was just happy that I participated and didn’t freak out. I still think it’s some cruel hoax. I had a good day and delivered, that’s all. But the Absolut drink was one of the best I’ve made so far.

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

The Absolut Aftermath and the fact that I’ve come this far, mainly by my own engine.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Easy. I’ll be obscenely rich and powerful. In ten I’ll have world domination.

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Mexican Standoff
30 ml Carpano Classico
10 ml Averna
10 ml mezcal (del maguey tobala)
10 ml orange juice
30 ml lemon
20 ml sugar
Dash Angostura Bitters

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