A significantly large city steeped in history, culture, and hospitality—this is evident in every corner of the city. Athens, I need not expound upon much.
It commenced as an idea, blossoming into a truly engaging project. Its purpose was twofold: to gain firsthand experience beyond The Stockroom and in Groningen at large, and to glean insights into the methods and innovations of fellow bartenders and industry professionals in menu curation, conceptualization, and the utilization of cutting-edge equipment, among other facets.
Our profession is in a perpetual state of evolution, necessitating our unwavering commitment to staying abreast of developments. Given the burgeoning popularity of the cocktail bar scene in the Netherlands, The Stockroom endeavors to maintain a vigilant eye on the latest trends. Thus, The Stockroom embarks on a tour.
Every craftsman aspires to achieve mastery in their craft, and I am no exception. Perhaps, I have been presented with the optimal opportunity to realize this aspiration. My desire extends beyond personal growth; I am eager to share the wealth of experiences and knowledge acquired during my internship at Baba Au Rum with my colleagues.
Why Athens, you ask?
There are several compelling reasons:
Firstly, Greece boasts an extensive and distinguished cocktail bar scene that, in recent years, has showcased a truly distinctive palate. In Athens, one can partake in cocktails virtually everywhere, including those available for take-away.
Secondly, three cocktail bars from Athens grace the prestigious list of the top 50 best bars in the world.
Now, at number 19, we find The Clumsies: Boasting a world-class cocktail repertoire, delectable fare, and warm Greek hospitality, The Clumsies is the kind of bar one would wish to have in their vicinity. This all-day establishment in the heart of Athens effortlessly transitions from a cozy daytime spot to a serene evening venue, culminating in a vibrant nocturnal atmosphere. This ambiance owes much to its layout: from its conspicuous front-facing bar and rear terrace, to the private bar and billiard table situated atop a broad staircase, guests consistently feel at ease. However, the true genius lies in the seamless execution of all elements, attributed to co-owners Vasilis Kyritsis and Nikos Bakoulis, and their team under the adept guidance of head bartender Nick Sourbatis and bar manager Georgia Georgakopoulou.
Baba Au Rum
Now, at number 20, we find Baba Au Rum: This is where I will be undertaking my internship. About Baba Au Rum: Now in its 14th year, Baba au Rum in Athens continues to set trends in what has swiftly become one of the cocktail capitals of Europe. The enduring appeal of this bar can be attributed to the impeccable taste of manager and owner Thanos Prunarus, whose ardor for the modernist movements of Bauhaus, Dada, and the Avant-Garde is palpable in the establishment’s decor and ambiance. While it exudes a tropical ambiance, there is an absence of gaudy elements—Baba projects an urban, vital, and authentic aura. Even the handcrafted menu is a work of art, recently honored with the Greek Design & Typography Awards EVGE 2022. Yet, it is primarily the content and array of offerings that shine. Operating primarily as a specialist rum bar, Baba spares no expense, boasting an impressive selection of up to 400 varieties of rum. The Rum Society menu encompasses classics and post-tropical libations, while the Avant Garde menu looks forward, introducing other potent spirits. Take, for instance, the De Stijl Silver Fizz featuring pisco, cherries, lime, red berry vermouth, and pineapple soda—a refreshing delight. The bar has recently expanded with the introduction of a dedicated coffeehouse and cocktail-inspired patisserie, aptly named “In Love Again,” located opposite the bar, affording patrons the long-awaited opportunity to savor a baba au rhum from Baba au Rum.
Now, at number 31, we have Line Athens: Line represents the brainchild of Vasilis Kyritsis and Nikos Bakoulis (the eminent figures behind The Clumsies), in collaboration with Dimitris Dafopoulos, proprietor of a Greek mix brand. Situated in close proximity to the city center of Athens, the building formerly housed an art gallery and exudes an industrial ambiance characterized by natural materials, extraordinarily high ceilings, and a splendid garden adorned with an abundance of trees. Line draws inspiration from the dynamic and organic process of fermentation, seasonal product availability, sustainability principles, and collaboration with small Greek producers. The emphasis is placed on unexpected ingredients and unconventional processing, giving rise to the production of homemade fruit ‘wines’, beer, and artisanal bread. Ingredients are interchanged across recipes, resulting in a distinctive list of classic cocktails with a unique twist, achieved through the utilization of wine by-products, including dry and sweet vermouths, aligning with the ethos of the zero-waste movement. Line also revolves around fostering a broader community of creative minds—an amalgamation of diverse industries converging under one roof to create something truly exceptional. These accomplishments have been duly recognized through its inclusion in the list of the world’s top 50 bars.
The inaugural week encompassed an orientation on the operational procedures here, including garnishing, menu preparation, and the initiation of bar service. At Baba, the preparatory activities are conducted on a daily basis, overseen by a designated individual. Commencement occurs between 12:00 and 13:00, contingent on the preceding night’s activity levels. Additionally, I dedicated time to familiarizing myself with their laboratory facilities, which constitute the linchpin of my internship, as I am keen on acquiring proficiency in the operation of a rotovap and other advanced equipment.
What did I learn from my initial week?
A portion of my time was allocated to menu preparation, with another segment dedicated to garnishing.
Today, I am slated to visit the laboratory alongside Niko. I am deeply intrigued to witness the creative capabilities demonstrated by this individual in utilizing a rotovap.
Furthermore, today witnessed comprehensive preparations for all syrups and in-house soda creations.
In summation, this inaugural week proved to be both inspirational and instructive. I eagerly anticipate the forthcoming weeks of my internship, during which I envisage further refinement and the opportunity to share my newfound knowledge and skills with my colleagues at The Stockroom.