When you visit the Americain cocktail bar inside the beautiful new Haymarket by Scandic hotel, you’re served by some of the best bartenders in town, wearing suits and ties to match the sophisticated art déco environment. Meet Oscar Bekric, who behind the formal attire is one crazy dude who learned the trade at some of the more acclaimed London establishments before moving back to Sweden and Stockholm.
|Oscar Bekric, photo ©|
What made you pursue a career in hospitality and how did you get your first job?
When I finished school I had no clue what to do. My parents moved to Madrid so I couldn’t slack of them so I decided to move to London, England. The first month I was just fucking around having the time of my life, doing everything that Jesus wouldn’t approve of. I started to run out of cash and realised that I needed a job. I got a trial shift at Wagamama Leicester Square. They sent me out the door after 40 minutes. Luckily for me a guy I lived with at the time was working as a waiter at Cafe Pacifico (the home of Thomas Estes and the land of tequila) and he got me a gig as a bar back. That was the start of a rock’n’roll roller coaster and liver failure, drinking the nectar of the gods with no seat belt on.
Where are you originally from, and how did you end up at Haymarket by Scandic?
I’m from the sunshine asshole of Sweden in a different language called Helsingborg. After my time in London I decided to do something grown up and started to study. Since I got lucky and hooked myself a fine English bird before moving back home I wanted to move to a city that actually gave her a fair chance to take on Swedish lifestyle. So Stockholm it was (probably the only city that could take me, my style and my way of expressing myself). During my time back in school I worked part time at Gondolen (a fine establishment) and while being there I got to meet the great Christian. What can I say, we share the same mentality. He asked me to join Haymarket by Scandic and I was up for it. But if you really want to do it you have to go all the way. You don’t want to dance if you can’t rub some titties. And that is how the beautiful dance began.
Can you describe the cocktail concept at Americain and the story behind it?
The concept of Americain is not that complicated. 1920’s – but no prohibition bar with secret doors, and stiff moonshine drinks. The other side of American prohibition. The wealthy side. Europe meets the West Indies and make a baby. It’s all about the pineapple, baby. We want to make drinks that is for the public. What is the point of making drinks that only cocktail fanatics understand when you are trying to reach out to your everyday Joe? To take the game to a new level is what drives us as bartenders but drinking cocktails should be fun. I’m not talking about slinging slag punch but good interactive quality drinks that make you cream your knickers.
Which place/places has/have been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
The places that have given me the most are two. Where I started. Cafe Pacifico gave me the understanding and the passion for the game. Listening to legends sharing stories and some old school tricks. But where I learned the most was at All Star Lanes. Having Joe Stokoe hiring me and my good friend Abdulai Kpekawa teaching me. Not just how to run a bar but how to be a bar. I mostly thank hurricane Mitch West for sorting me out.
Which is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
When it comes to drinks I don’t really have a favourite. All drinks have their moments. It all comes down to the day and your mood. Some days it’s a Martini day and sometimes you just want a frozen Grasshopper with a side. A person should always get what they are in the mood for (as long as it’s no Lennart and Ragnar) but when it comes to it, I really like to make a good Mai Tai. I’m not saying the ones I make are the best. A good measure of Wray & Nephew so your costumer will walk away from your bar as a cowboy through quicksand. That puts a smile on my face and that warm feeling in my heart.
How would you describe the perfect customer?
All customers are the best. Other bollocks that is. I don’t want to step on my fellow countrymen’s toes but swedes are shit when it comes to bars. We should learn from the Americans. They might have a shit president, but fuck me they know how to order a drink. Not everything has to be sweet and sour with a touch of ginger.
How do you spend your spare time?
How I spend my spare time? Like the rest. Paying bills and trying to be as good partner as I can. And a bit of naughty of course.
What do you drink when off duty?
If I fancy a drink when I’m off I let the mood take me but nothing beats a cold light brew and a big glass of whisky.
What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?
Come over for some tacos and I show you mate.
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
It’s hard when it comes to trends in drinks. I hope and believe that the “no waste style” is going to be coming on in Sweden as well. Since the whole bartender world is so great at making and creating drinks and styles maybe we should try to make something new. Maybe walk down memory lane and have a fresh look at it or drag a magical wand out of our asses and make that magic we are so famous for. I’m not one of those. I just have strong belief that they will show us the light.
Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
Bartenders. Abdulai Kpekawa, Nico de Soto and Sonny Hall.
Abdulai is a close friend and the one who told me how to be a bartender. Nico I don’t know personally but what he does with flavours is amazing. And Sonny. He puts the b into bartending.
In your opinon, how do bars in Sweden compare internationally, for instance to London?
How Sweden stands? The world is our oyster. I just think during the short time I’ve been bartending In Sweden, everyone has forgot why we are bartending. We are not here to be the dog’s bollocks. We are here to make sure that the costumers have the best time ever. That is what we are lacking. We are not better than the people we serve. Serving drinks is about having fun or easing out the pain. Bartenders are the working man’s hero or devil. Working bar is about the fun.
Which of your signature drinks, if any, and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
I have made a few drinks. Of course I think the drinks I made are tasty otherwise I wouldn’t have made them in the first place. I made a drink for Americains latest menu that I really like just because my friend Oscar Tamker likes it a lot. It’s called (apples and pear).
How do you come up with new cocktail recipes and what inspires you?
Life is inspiring me when I make drinks. And drinking of course.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
I hope in five years time that I will still be a loving, warm human living being. Peace out hombres!