George Matzaridis - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: 24th August 1979
- Birth place: Gothenburg, Sweden
- Height: 1m 69cm
- Eye colour: Green/brown
- Nationality: Swedish
"I started my career off at family run restaurant in Sweden, I was working there during weekends while I was still in high school. I was working there for 2 years, afterwards I decided to move to London to start studying at University.
During my first 3 years in London, I was working in several restaurants / bars / clubs to support myself during studies. At 2001 when I finished Greenwich University I started to work at newly opened Hakkasan. I was very impressed with the attention to detail and the whole concept. I learnt a lot and had the privilege to work with some great and knowledgeable people. I spent 3 happy years at Hakkasan. During this time I also created an opening menu for Yauatcha, which opened in 2004.
In 2004 I moved to Lisbon with another bartender to open our own bar. After overcoming a lot of challenges and difficulties we opened a Lisbon's premium cocktail bar called Cinco Lounge. Cinco Lounge was a big success in Lisbon - featuring in several articles in Portugal's fashion magazines and also appearing on Portuguese TV. Cinco lounge become a very successful and well known bar.
After a year or so I decided to move back to London were I started to work as an operation manager for Ping Pong group and where I also created the original cocktail menu. The Ping Pong team and I opened seven new restaurants throughout London within two years.
After being away from Hakkasan for three years I came back to help as a bar consultant. It was meant to be only for a short period of time but it has already been four years since I returned. I enjoy my work at Hakkasan, now more than ever. During my years away from Hakkasan I have learnt many new things from which I still benefit.
Recently the Hakkasan Mayfair's been opened, a large project and I'm proud that I was a part of the opening team, which made sure that no detail was left to chance. Some of the achievements that my team and I are very proud of, is creating bespoke glasses and a fine spirits cabinet, an extensive update of the back bar, new cocktails and most importantly creating a great bar team.
During my career, I have been a consultant and have created cocktails for several locations around the world."
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
2002 - Best Bar (Hakkasan) by London Club and Bar Awards
2002 - Best Bar (Hakkasan) by Evening Standard (runner up)
2003 - Best Bar (Hakkasan) by Class Magazine (runner up)
2005 - Best Bar (Cinco Lounge) in Portugal
2006 - George Matzaridis finalist at the Best UK Bartender by Theme bar magazine
2010 - Winner of Diageo UK knowledge competition (Hakkasan team)
2011 - Best London Bartender 2011 by London Club and Bar Awards
Q & A
What do you as mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
There is a time and place for beer, and I do like it. It could also be a great cocktail ingredient.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Never stop improving yourself and the bar, be open-minded. Always try to bring new products to the bar you work, to get inspiration to help you create new cocktails. Last thing to add, have a good time at work, and never cheat the customers.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders? Care to share?
Stubborn and arrogant bartenders is something I do not like too much. Also bartenders who claim credit for other people's creations is something I dislike too.
As a mixologist / consultant you work directly with many restaurants on their drinks menu, describe the process?
Each job is different, based on the brief, I would do some marker research and use high quality products and local flavours (if abroad). After that I would make the menu based on the local drinking habits and also some unusual products as well. Once the drinks are approved then I work closely with bar manager / bartenders to implement the drinks in the restaurant or the bar.
How did you get started?
I was doing a work placement from school, and I ended up in a restaurant and started to show interest in the bar. I eventually got a part time job in that restaurant as a kitchen porter. During this time I was talking a lot to the bartenders and my interest grew stronger and stronger.
How were you trained in bartending?
I worked as a glass collector in a bar in Sweden when I was 18, I was spending a lot of time in the corner of the bar watching the bartenders work. Whenever I could I went behind the bar and made some easy cocktails. Over the time I kept hassling the bartenders until they taught me new drinks. At the same time I was getting cocktail books and reading a lot about the job.
Did you take any courses?
I have never taken any courses, I was very lucky to work with some great people and we learned a lot from each other. The only 2 bar related curses I have done is a molecular course and the WSET level 2.
What are some trends you are seeing in the market?
There are a lot of good places opening up and everybody is trying very hard which is good. I do think that this is a very competitive business, and all the places are trying to be unique.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail?
I look for what is missing on the menu. I always try to get some product, which is not stocked at my bar - just to get some new flavour, it could be a fruit, a herb, a spice, a spirit or a liqueur. After that I try to match the flavour I have in mind. Once I have something good, I leave it for a couple days and go back to it to see if it can be improved.
What's your favourite cocktail to drink? To make?
To drink - Martinez, Mai tai, Daiquiri and Collins. To make - Collins, Negroni, and Bellini.
What are some of your favourite tools?
It must be my shaker, I have a good selection.
What is your favourite mixologist resource?
Internet, books and spending time in nice food shops.
What does success mean to you?
When a place stays open for many years, with low staff turn over - these are great signs of success. There are way too many new places what are opening and closing down all the time. Success is also having a happy staff, happy customers and passion for the job.
What are some current trends you have seen in the cocktail market?
Bars focusing on classic cocktails. Consumers are also becoming much more knowledgeable about cocktails and spirits, there is a lot more brand calling these days. Also the use of local products is more and more important from consumer's point of view.
What is your favourite drink to make?
Collins, Negroni and Bellini.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I will work in the same industry, doing similar work. When you are happy with your job, then there is no point in changing it, and I am happy.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Architect! Or maybe a chef.
Your hangover cure?
Water between the drinks, water before the bed and water the following morning. You might as well have an English breakfast the following morning and go back to bed for a few more hours, that should do it.
Your biggest career influencer?
The bar team I work with.
First drink you ever tried
Vodka with orange juice.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
I got drunk when I was 18 on beer and Pisang Ambon. Please avoid.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
I would bin my computer and take all my staff out for lunch. Then I would go home watch TV and do nothing for 1 week. Then I would take it from there.
Bar or cellar at home?
Defiantly a bar, it has to have a good ice machine and many different glasses.
Tequila - Partida. Rum - El Dorado 15 yrs and Diplomatico Reserva Exculsiva.
I would go for classic Daiquiri and Mai Tai. This varies from time to time as human's flavours change every 6 - 7 years, so in a few years I will have a different favourite cocktail.
I think Purl is a very nice place.
Of course Hakkasan, I have spent 8 years there.
Greek Islands, preferably on a small yacht.
Imbibe - David Wondrich.
Shawn Lee's ping pong orchestra.
Singer / Band