Alex Kratena - Mixologist of the Month
- Name: Alex Kratena
- Date of Birth: 11th September 1981
- Birth place: Czech Republic
- Height: 1m 92cm
- Eye colour: Blue or green, depending on the mood
- Nationality: Czech Republic
I got into bartending simply out of necessity to make a living. Going to school during the day and working in hospitality in the afternoon, evenings and nights, since an early age does not really go together! One can't be sitting on two chairs, and I had to decide whether to go to school, or live an exciting life.
Always being in trouble as a kid, straight after reaching eighteen, I left myn mother land and went to New York, where I did all kinds of different jobs in bars, hotels and restaurants. Working extremely long hours, seven days a week, and I ended up bartending.
Bartending took me all around the world. Having worked on three different continents, in all the different kinds of establishments, anything from a strip bar, Japanese cyber trance club, and five star deluxe hotels. Currently I am living in London and working for one of the greatest companies in the business, The Langham Hotels International.
The Langham London opened its doors in 1865 and was the first Grand Hotel in Europe. Many, nowadays, have widely accepted standards across hospitality, including traditional afternoon teas. The Langham London was also the first hotel in the world which installed hydraulic lifts, and also the first place with running water in the rooms, hot and cold.
I am very passionate about genever, and it is incredible to see this great category on the rise again. As Bols Genever Brand Ambassador, I feel it is my duty not only to promote the brand, but genever as an entire category. Kopstoot, or butthead, the traditional Dutch serve, consisting of genever and beer, will always remain my favourite number one.
I am privileged to work and meet with some of the best people in the industry, which is a real inspiration and instantly makes me want to improve and learn something new every day.
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
2009 Best classic hotel bar awards, Winner, Imbibe Magazine Best Hotel Bar Awards.
2009 Bacardi Dominos & Daiquiris Cocktail Competition, 1st Place.
2009 WCB vodka, 1st Place.
2008 Annual Flor De Cana rum cocktail competition, 1st Place.
2008 Cabana cachaca cocktail competition, 1st Place.
2008 Icon cocktail competition, 1st Place.
2008 Bartender of the year Theme Magazine, nominated for Bartender of the Year award.
2008 Class Magazine bar awards, nominated for Bartender of the Year award.
2008 Free spirit competition, Boutique Bar Show, 2nd Place.
2008 Bombay Sapphire Inspiring Creations, Finalist.
2008 UKBG grappa Nonino cocktail competition, 3rd Place.
2008 Star of the department, Artesian.
2007 UKBG national competition, finalist.
2007 Angosture Challenge, 5th Place.
Claim To Fame
I am confident to say I drink the most genever in UK!
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Coming from the Czech Republic I obviously love beer. Over the time I've learned that you can find great beers all around the world, which is different from what we are taught in school back home. We are told that Czech beer is the best. It is not, I always tend to drink local stuff, no matter which part of the world I am at.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Always smile and always aim to do your best, no matter whether you are cleaning bar after long shift, pouring glass of tap water, or stirring vintage cocktail.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Bartenders (including myself) are generally a very pretentious bunch of ego maniacs following any kind of fashion which is out there.
How did you get started?
I started as a kitchen porter.
How were you trained in bartending?
Stealing other people's ideas, styles and knowledge.
Did you take any courses?
I did take some courses, trainings and seminars, but still believe that most important is willingness to learn. Large proportions of things I've learned about bartending were actually not connected with the craft itself. It's mostly social skills, sheer logic and common sense.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
What's your process for creating a new cocktail?
Always make sure I understand the requirements correctly. Source good quality ingredients and don't go to crazy and trendy. It is crucial to understand basic cocktail categories and ingredients I am working with. That enables me to mix anything you desire and gives broad space to seek, build and combine interesting flavour combinations and spectacular presentations.
What is your favorite cocktail to drink?
It's the same like with food. I always have different meals on different times of the day, depending on situation, country, and mood and the person or people I am with.
What are some of your favourite tools?
Blackberry, but every tool becomes at certain stage a hammer.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Going to bars.
What does success mean for you?
Happy, healthy, wealthy.
What are some current trends you've seen in the cocktail market?
Bartenders who don't actually work behind the bar, got house full of vintage books, shakers, glassware and mouth full of bullshit about all things old school. At the same time apart from being very particular about 'this and that cocktail' they are not well presented, well dressed, don't shave, wear hat in the room and generally don't have anything of the old school bartenders. Everyone seems to be consultant and forgets that the most important is those 5-6 nights a week, where they should be tending their bars.
What goes into creating a cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
The most important is to understand what is required. All inspiration comes from women.
What is your favourite drink to make?
As long as bill & service charge is paid, anything could be favorite drink. At the end of the day we are business, not communist. Love serving £345 cognac with diet coke and not too much ice.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years time I see myself even happier!
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Professional thief, apart from that and bartending all other jobs are boring.
Your hangover cure?
In particular order > Super spicy Bloody Mary, espresso and water with Berroca multivitamin.
In no particular order > Rio de Janeiro, New York, Tokyo, Barcelona and anywhere in Greece.
Your biggest career influencer?
The people who showed me how not to do things.
First drink you ever tried?
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Vodka I've drunk in Russia called Kazachskaja.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Drugs, sex & rock 'n' roll.
Bar or cellar at home?
Bar and cellar.
The one in my glass.
The one and only Connaught Bar!!!!
Hostinec U Blahovky.
The Godfather by Mario Puzzo.
Come back to Japan, DJ Tai Ikezawa.
Absolutely any singer and any band remixed by Todd 'The God' Edwards.