Greece, the home of philosophy, democracy, more or less Western civilization and not to be out done, quite a rich tradition of mixology as my recent discussion with Athenian legend Alexandros Efstratiadis revealed.
Alex, how long have you been behind the bar?
I have been in the bar business for the last 15 years working at major bars and hotels throughout Greece, including the islands.
What was your first job?
I was a bar assistant at a night club, and I was soon promoted to a bartender. It was fun but pure chaos!
It seems like your current gig as Bar Manager of a 5-star hotel is a big change from your beginnings.
Yeah, I really like working in hotels as it gives me a chance to meet people from around the world. Also, there is an aspect to a classier hotel that allows me to spend more time with a customer and present them drinks as they should be presented—simple with a twist.
Can you tell what people will order from you based on their country of origin?
I used to be able to but now with the spread of so many amazing spirits and people’s interest in cocktails, I cannot tell any more. It’s a great thing to see that so many people are trying different spirits and cocktails.
Now I found you on your highly regarded Instagram page—Cocktail.Alchemists. Tell me about how that began.
I had started working with a group of bartenders, and we were doing consulting with bars and restaurants, helping them create menus, doing events and training staff. We wanted to create a platform that we could share our creations and learn from others doing amazing things around the world.
Is that the best part about being a bartender—the people you meet and work with?
Absolutely. From my Instagram page, I have made friends from around the world in my profession, and we learn from each other. Plus, every day someone walks into the hotel with an interesting story from an interesting place that I get to listen to.
Alex, now I can’t be there, but if I asked you to make me a drink, what are you making me?
Do you like whiskey?
Right! One cocktail that I love is of course the Old Fashioned, as I am a fan of the classics, and I want to make a twist on it using Rye Whiskey, infused with cloves and cinnamon with a Talisker spray on top and a citrus cordial on the side.
Yeah, that sounds stellar.
Well, I am not a big fan of fancy contraptions and lights and bells and whistles. If you have a good spirit, that should be the headliner and flavours should be brought out from the spirit and not mask the spirit.
Full confession to my readers, I have given you a sample of our spirits as I have with many master mixologists because we want feedback—honest feedback. So what did you think?
Well, I haven’t tried your whole collection, but I loved the white rum, and I thought it was one of the best I have ever tasted. I know exactly what I want to make with it. Do a twist of a Hemingway daiquiri with pink grapefruit and my home-made triple sec.
Ok, you had me at Daiquiri, count me in.
Come on over for a visit. I will have a good pour ready for you.
Everyone go to Greece now for the history, the food, the islands, and also Alex at the Divani Caravel Hotel for a master class in classic cocktails with a twist. Also follow him on Instagram like I do @Cocktail.Alchemists.