Interview with Magnus Pettersson – Reisen Bar

Last weekend I attended the North European finals of the Absolut Invite competition (more about that in a later post) here in Stockholm, where 35 bartenders from 10 countries did their best to win. Ultimately it was Magnus Pettersson at Reisen Bar in Old Town, Stockholm, who outperformed the others – congratulations!

So, who is this bartender with such a lovely first name? I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times, both at Reisen and elsewhere, but I decided to ask him some formal questions to find out more – and here is what he had to say – enjoy!

Interview with Magnus Pettersson – Reisen Bar, Trader Magnus
Photo © Thommy Gyllenbielke

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

My uncle who used to be the owner of Stockholm BarAkademi got me into this industry by giving me an education when I turned 18 and the opportunity to work as a barback at Berns. I got fascinated and couldn’t imagine anything else but a career in the food and beverage industry.

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

Through my six years in this industry I’ve been working at Berns, Och Himlen Därtill, Lonsdale, Maze by Gordon Ramsay and Reisen Bar. They have all been important to me but I would say that it was Lonsdale who made me a professional.

Can you describe the current cocktail concept at Reisen, and how you came up with it?

I didn’t come up with it and I would say that it has been there since Jimmy Dymott (in 2005?) but in different shapes. Today we are making all different cocktails that have been around and trying to be creative but we do enjoy the prohibition style.

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

I will never show my guest what I think about their order but honestly, who would not choose to make an Old Fashioned instead of a Hot Shot?! Well, maybe if you are into colours and layers.

Do you have a favourite kind of customer?

It´s always a pleasure to serve ”famous” people from the industry but overall, it doesn’t matter for me who the person is. As long as they´re interested in what they are drinking and willing to try new flavours.

What do you like most about your job?

My colleagues, my guests who appreciate my hard work and that it feels more like a hobby than a job!

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

I don’t think I know them all but I know that I can get in a bad mood when guests can’t behave. My strength… It´s not mine, it´s Plymouth Navy!

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend it with great friends, my lovely girlfriend and all kinds of beverage.

What do you like to drink when off duty?

All kinds of beverage but a well made cocktail will always have my love.

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?

A liquor cabinet can never be too big and you will mostly find tequila and bourbon in mine. My precious are El Tesoro, Elmer T Lee and Beefeater Crown Jewel!

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

What I´ve heard there is a trend in London and New York with blue drinks, big garnishes and influences from the 80´s. I´m not sure that we will follow. It has been around for a while but I think bartenders will use more akvavit, bitters, port and sherry in their drinks. I also hope and think we will get more into knowledge, service, back to basics and maintain quality. You can sometimes afford to be cruel when you got facts!

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

Since I’ve not been to New York I can only imagine the industry over there. There are loads of favourites but The Connaught in Mayfair, London is a special one. If Guide Michelin would do bars, they probably have three stars! Other favourites are Salon 39 in Copenhagen and Lebensstern in Berlin.

Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?

Some people do, some people don’t. Some people deserve it, some people don’t. Some people can handle it, some people can’t.

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

We can not compare us with top cities as London or New York but after that I think we are doing well and are competing with Denmark, Germany and Japan. We got knowledge, good products and great bartenders! One thing we can do better is to support each others bars in Stockholm to improve Stockholm as a cocktail city! There are more great bars than your own.

What inspires you regarding spirits and cocktails?

History, bartenders and random stuff I experience everyday.

As the winner of last weekend’s ABSOLUT Invite competition, you can now call yourself “the best bartender in northern Europe” – please tell me all about it!

It was a tough challenge and anyone could have won. A well planned weekend with professional bartenders, creative mixing on Friday, followed by sensory and knowledge on Saturday. I luckily won this competition but I would not put myself with that title. I think we all Swedes did well in the competition and I´m proud to be one of them. GO TEAM SWEDEN and congratulations Andreas Bergman for the third place! Thank you Absolut, Purfict and all the other competitors for a great weekend!

What’s your opinion on cocktail competitions in general?

I think that they have gone from worthless to excellent. Today you are entering a competition that is well planned, high quality, great competitors and prizepools worth to win! It is also an opportunity for us to improve ourselves since you need to study to win a competition!

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

Rickey´s Garden scored highest in the Havana Club Grand Prix 2011 so I think that must be the best drink I ever created and maybe the only one. I´m most proud of my time in London were I got the opportunity to work and meet great people which I think made me where I am today.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

Drinking Tequila Sazeracs with old friends and celebrating my new family and career!

Would you like to share one of your own recipes?

Rickey´s Garden
50ml Havana Club 3yr
25ml Lime juice
20ml Cucumber Syrup
3 dashes Orange Flower Water
3 Mint leaves
Top up Bundaberg Ginger Beer

Which question would you ask yourself, and what would you answer?

Which is your worst memory in your career? When I got humiliated by Gordon Ramsay himself. Not once for my hair, not twice for my beard but three times for my shoes!

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