Next up in my series of interviews with Swedish bartenders is Mattias Skoog, who can be found at The Gold Bar/Nobis Hotel – winner of “best cocktail list” at Bartenders’ Choice Awards 2011. Soon they might have another award to brag with, as Mattias is one of three bartenders who won the Swedish qualifying rounds of the Diageo Reserve World Class competition, and will compete at the European finals in London in the end of May.
What made you pursue a career in bartending and how did you get your first bartender job?
Stone cold cash, party and acknowledgment obviously.
Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?
Yes and no. There are a bunch of bartenders, members of the Swedish SBG (Sveriges Bartenders Gille), who get loads of attention from the media etc.. Ex. “Bartender of the Year 2010” uses 4 different flavoured vodkas together with sour mixes and purees in the winning cocktail. These guys together with TV-shows like “Bartenderskolan”, kinda makes it hard for us to get the recognition we most often deserve.
Other than that I really do think people are on the right way seeing bartending as a profession. It’s because of the hard work people before me/us did. Starting up cocktail bars here in stockholm 10-15 years ago when people didn’t even know about the Mojito. Having those guests ordering Old Fashioneds like it was GTs is great!
Having that said one must always know that what we do is not brain surgery or nuclear research. We’re bartenders tending a bar.
“And if the guest acts like a guest, we will act like hosts”. Quote from Andrea Patelli I think. Or Björn Kjellberg.
Where have you worked prior to The Gold Bar/Nobis Hotel and which place has been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
Started my career in Nyköping, working nightclubs. I’ve been in Stockholm for about 3½yr working at F12 Terrassen, Collage, Berns, Kåken and now Nobis.
I would say all places taught me a lot in different ways. I met great people at Collage who showed me that great cocktails don’t have to take forever to make. Micke Karlsson once told me that I just couldn’t work behind a bar if I couldn’t even take a simple beer order while I was stirring an Old Fashioned. Something I tried to make use of at Berns where you really don’t have time for anything other than what you have to.
Kåken I would say was the place I learned the most. But I keep learning new things all the time.
Can you describe the current cocktail concept at The Gold Bar/Nobis Hotel?
It’s pretty simple, we try to showcase all different types of cocktails. Not really having a niche. We work hard with the presentations of our cocktails, using many different signature glassware, cool ice, fun garnish etc. We take lots of inspiration from hotel bars in London but also looks at the opposite style of cocktail bars such as Dutch Kills, NY.
What do you think about the International Bartender Management education?
Fucking great! Hans Bihl kicks ass. Without him I wouldn’t have been where I am today. Former IBM students are almost everywhere in the city. That’s great.
What is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
Have none really. Not so fond of coffee drinks though.
Do you have a favourite kind of customer?
Someone polite and who cares about what they drink.
What do you like most about your job?
Being able to create a great experience for someone.
Do you have any special strengths or weaknesses as a bartender?
So many of them both. I guess I’m just pretty good in general.
How do you spend your spare time?
Dining, drinking. Preparing for work.
What do you like to drink when off duty?
Depends on my mood. I like Manhattans, Martinis but sometimes a beer and a shot is all it takes to make me happy.
What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?
Some vodkas, gins, tequilas, mezcals. One Blue label from the World Class. Nothing spectacular, I barely drink at home.
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
Clearer concept bars.
Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
I really admire the work the guys at Calloh Callay, London, do. Where every drink is made unpretentious and super fast, but still awesome quality. They pair that with great service, which is really cool.
In your opinon, how do bars in Stockholm/Sweden compare internationally?
We are as good as anyone else. But I guess one of the things holding us down is the high cost of hiring staff.
What inspires you regarding spirits and cocktails?
Everything in life I presume. Different lifestyles, my guests, my colleagues, my girlfriend, my friends, my family etc.
You just won the second Swedish qualifying round of the prestigious Diageo Reserve World Class competition – tell me all about it!
The challenge was called “The Gentleman cocktail and its serve”. You got to come up with a drink that you thought would represent a gentleman cocktail and serve it as such. I just made my interpretation of it and apparently the judges liked it. Lucky me.
Which of your signature drinks and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud of myself getting this far on such a short period of time. But I would say I’m more thankful for the opportunity to learn from the people I have and still work with. Without guys like M2, Åsa, Dymott, Radovic etc. awaking the cocktail scene in Stockholm people like me wouldn’t have had anywhere to start.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Either moved to London to kick ass or stay here and do the same.
Would you like to share one of your own recipes?
Yeah sure. My drink at the World Class Comp.
The Orchid Royalty Cocktail
50 ml Zacapa 23
20 ml Punt e Mes
6 ml Don PX (Pedro Ximenes)
3 drops The Horror of Bitters BCA 2011 bitters (Bergamot & Elderflower)
Stir and Strain
Orange zest, discard
Garnish with bergamot and musk clouds;
Which question would you ask yourself, and what would you answer?
Is it worth it? Hell yes!