Crikey, it’s been absolutely ages since we featured one of our favourite bartenders but we’re back with Alex Kratena in the hotseat. No one has a bad word to say about Alex – how could they? He’s one of the nicest guys in the business. He also makes cocktails to die for – each crafted with precision, passion and a generous dollop of pride. He and his team make every guest feel like the super-swish Artesian Bar at The Langham is their home rather than a five-star hotel – no wonder it picked up World’s Best Cocktail Menu at the prestigious Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail last year…
Where did you learn your craft?
I’ve worked at a number of establishments around the world and each one has introduced me to something new and interesting. Most of the people showed me how not to do things and I am grateful for that. I must admit, I still keep learning…
Name a few of the places you’ve worked
I’ve done absolutely everything from cafés, pubs and bars, to discos, strip clubs and Michelin-starred restaurants – not all of them were strictly speaking legal, so I’ll keep the names to myself. My last job before joining Langham Hospitality Group was Orrery, a wonderful restaurant in the heart of Marylebone.
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with and why?
I used to work in USA with a guy called Arnold. He not only taught me the English language while washing dishes, but he also showed me that if you are hungry to succeed and stay focused, you will eventually make it.
What makes a good bartender?
I believe the ultimate foundation of a good bartender is a good personality! Everything else you can study, learn, or improve…
Which bartender/s do you admire and why?
I admire the old school guys, the ones who have been there, done it all and worked their way up. But if you ask them for help, they are ready to wash glasses, or clean toilets.
What’s your proudest moment as a bartender?
When it’s super busy in the bar and I just look into eyes of my colleagues: we don’t need to talk because the whole shift runs like a well-orchestrated ballet.
Shaken or stirred?
That depends on the drink and what I want to achieve with that particular liquid.
What’s your favourite drink:
A Negroni with a small beer on the side.
On your menu?
What’s your definition of a bartender and a mixologist and where do you fit in?
At the end of the day, it’s pretty much the same job. People started to use the term Mixologist to distinguish themselves and make it something special, today the very same people diss it and the word ‘mixologist’ has become almost a pejorative. Bar business is like fashion: trends come and go like seasons and I wonder what those people will call themselves in the next ten years. In the meantime I’ll do the same job I’ve always been doing…
What’s your favourite ingredient?
Ice, it’s the only element which stands as an ingredient and tool at the same time.
Where do you drink off duty?
I don’t go to bars, I go to see my favourite bartenders!
What’s your essential piece of bar kit?
What’s your failsafe recipe to mix at home?
I don’t drink at home.
If you could mix a cocktail for anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, ritual madness and ecstasy – he must have been a really cool guy!
What’s your definitive cocktail to add to our collection?
An original of your own:
25ml fresh lime juice
2 pieces shiso leaf
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
2 dashes sesame oil (toasted)
Shake first five ingredients, fine strain and finish with a float of sesame oil. Serve in a Martini glass and garnish with 2 pages from a Naruto comic book.
Your variation on a classic:
Prosperity (a twist on El Presidente)
30ml Angostura 1919
30ml Mount Gay Eclipse
15ml Noilly Prat Dry
1 dash Artesian Yuzu bitters
‘Throw’ all ingredients together and serve in a Masu cup. Garnish with mandarin zest and discard.