It’s time for another interview, and today I have the pleasure of presenting Rebecca Almqvist, former bar manager at The Lonsdale in London, now working as brand ambassador for ABSOLUT in the UK. She recently was one of the judges in the ABSOLUT Invite competition, and on Thursday April 5 you can find her doing a guest bartending shift at Reisen Bar here in Stockholm. Be there or be square!
What made you pursue a career in the spirits industry and how did you get your first job in the business?
The interest came from enjoying my father’s passion when growing up. He loves his cooking, wine and fine spirits. He would make pasta from scratch on a Monday and Coq au Vin on a Tuesday. Who has time for that? Maybe that’s why we normally dined at 10 pm..
I did my first season in the summer of 2000 at Grinda Wardshus as a Barback and Food runner. I worked and played hard and loved it! I knew then I would dedicate my life to this industry from that point on.
How did you end up in London, and how did you become a brand ambassador for ABSOLUT?
London is one of the Cocktail capitals of the world. So I packed my bags in 2004 and went to pursue my Cocktail dreams (they came true).
Whilst I was Bar Managing at Lonsdale in Notting Hill, I was asked to apply for the job as ABSOLUT Brand Ambassador. Love that stuff! So I signed up and was grilled for a month and then got the job in October 2009.
Which are your main objectives as brand ambassador and how do you achieve them?
Ultimately, as a Brand Ambassador the importance is to create genuine Brand Advocacy and build relationships in the trade. I’d like Bartenders to love ABSOLUT, buy and consume ABSOLUT and also recommends ABSOLUT. How do I achieve this? I do Brand Ambassadorial stuff.
Where have you worked prior to ABSOLUT, and which place has been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
In Sweden I worked seasons at Grinda, Sandhamn (Alma Grundet at Seglarhotellet) and Fjaderholmarna. Off season I worked in places that no longer exists; Buddha Bar and Stacy’s. (Dr Albans Nightclub- what a character..)
My first job in London in 2004 was at The Sanderson Hotel in The Long Bar, I then moved on to manage PRISM, a Harvey Nichols Bar and Restaurant in the old Bank of New York.
I was the Bar Manager at Lonsdale in Notting Hill after that for over 3 years. Some of the best times of my life! Lonsdale rocked my world and my career. I learnt a lot there. I also had the pleasure of visiting over 20 distilleries around the world during that time. Epic.
What do you like most about your jobs?
The people and the drinks.
Which is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
I love making all drinks. That is what I signed up for!
Do you have a favourite kind of customer?
I love a happy customer. All customers should be happy! The late Gregor de G once said “the quality of any given employee in the service industry should be directly measured by the happiness of his or her customers” Let’s start a movement.
Do you have any special strengths or weaknesses as a bartender?
Like the next bartender, my strength and weakness is the same..
How do you spend your spare time?
In restaurants and bars somewhere in the world with friends enjoying the taste of life.
What do you like to drink when off duty?
Gin and Vodka Martini’s, Peaty Perfect Rob Roy’s, neat single malts, Red wine, Tommy’s, Beer and Shots. And when in Stockholm I like the old Fisherman’s Friend. We don’t have that in London, it’s my guilty pleasure.
Well made cocktails makes me happy.
What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?
Over 800 bottles! I’ve been collecting for 10 years. It’s a mix of rare, fine, delisted/out of production, signed bottles to every day drinking spirits. I’m sound like such a geek, my apologies…
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
I hear the 80’s are back!
Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
The Bar I’m sitting in right now, and the Bartender serving me right now…
Do you think bartenders get the recognition they deserve?
I like Magnus’s answer to this! So mine shall be the same; 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 Sweden compare to London’s?
There are far more hot people in Swedish bars.
What inspires you regarding spirits and cocktails?
What’s your opinion on cocktail competitions in general?
I’ve had some of my best times entering Cocktail Comps. They bring the community together, they spread knowledge and awareness and most important of all they are FUN!
You were one of the judges at this year’s Absolut Invite Northern European finals here in Stockholm, what are your thoughts on the competition as a whole – challenges, performances etc?
It was a well organised and broad Competition that brought together 10 countries. I liked the balance between knowledge and drinks creating.
It’s great to see what people around the world are up to and what inspires them.
I was impressed with the standard of the Swedish Bartenders-They were fantastic!
Which of your signature drinks, if any, and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
Must be when I beat around 20 boys in It’s a Reematch! Beeyatch! – a global phenomenon slash Cocktail competition, about speed and entertainment, where Bartenders put in their own cash to compete and winner takes it all. You have to make 10 different Tiki drinks as fast as you can to a song of your choice. They have to taste good. They have to look good. You have to look good. They have to have all the right ingredients. You have to be funny and fast, or go home.
It’s a non-sponsored comp, so Bartenders and organisers can do and say what they want. It’s the quickest £1000 I made in my life…
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
I like thinking big. I would like at some point to come back home to Stockholm. So in 5 year’s time I wish to continue my career in our fair Country of Sweden and start a family, have a house, cars, a boat, some ponies. So nothing much then!
Would you like to share one of your own recipes?
A few years ago I twisted one of the only two vodka Cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book. (The Russian cocktail) I named it The Swedish Cocktail (see what I did there?)
The Swedish Cocktail
2 parts Absolut
1 part Beefeater
1 part White crème de cacao
1 dash (from bitters bottle) Pernod Absinthe.
Shake and double strain into a frozen coupette glass.
Lemon twist, discard.
Garnish; Star Anis.
On Thursday April 5, you will do a guest bartender appearance at Reisen Bar in Stockholm, what special plans do you have for this evening?
Magnus Pettersson, the Bar Manager at Reisen used to work with me at Lonsdale, he is also a dear friend. We thought it would be fun to get behind the stick together again and do a Homage to Lonsdale and Dick Bradsell. Dick set up Lonsdale back in the day and we had a whole section in the Cocktail List dedicated to him. So I shall be banging out all the Dick favourites. Great things will happen on Thursday, I can tell. See you there x