He is Barkeeper of the Year 2016 and has been Senior Barkeeper at The Bank Bar in the Park Hyatt Vienna since March. The self-taught 25-year-old creates the signature drinks that well and truly live up to the spirit of the hotel: they are well-kept treasures of drinking culture. In order to enjoy them, guests have to study something resembling a treasure map. With his drink Bitter Sweet Victory, Stefan Bauer made it to the finals of the Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition 2016. And of course you can try just what makes the beverage so special at The Bank Bar.
Occupation Senior Barkeeper at The Bank Bar
Favourite soft drink as a child Raspberry pop
Favourite essence Chocolate mint with lemon zest, vanilla pods and cardamom, homemade.
Hobby Building furniture. But only when he’s not busy inventing new drinks.
Mixing cocktails has developed into a science over recent years. Mixologists create drinks with their own essences, aroma extracts, adventurous taste combinations and ingredients ranging from sweet potatoes to fish. Are the classics like pina colada at risk of extinction?
I hope it becomes extinct soon. Or at least the way it was butchered in the ’70s and ’80s. Back then, especially in Europe, cocktails were changed so much that they bore almost no resemblance to the originals.
So we don’t really know the true classics at all?
No. The originals stem from the ’30s to ’50s. Prohibition in the US was a great period when most of the classics emerged. People are now going back to those recipes. With freshly squeezed juices, high-quality alcohol. Lots was Europeanized over here. A hash was made of pina colada with whipped cream. The original is made of rum, lime, fresh pineapple and coconut pulp. Or caipirinha. Over here: mashed lime, coarse brown sugar, a bit of cachaça and crushed ice on top. In Brazil: slice a lime, slightly squeeze it in a shaker, add fine white cane sugar, lots of cachaça and shake it all over ice cubes. That tastes completely different.
So I take it you serve a Brazilian caipirinha?
Exclusively. In their original recipes, all drinks are made very strong. They have power behind them. Later they were made into drinks for the masses, the alcohol became worse, the glasses ever larger, the decoration ever more flamboyant, but there wasn’t really anything to them any more. Our creations are honed; we work with top-end ingredients. And then we experiment. For Bitter Sweet Victory, the competition stipulated that we should create a new classic. That’s really difficult nowadays, simply because pretty much every combination already exists in some form or another. Incidentally, the winning drink by Gn Chan from New York was a pina colada variation. With Bacardi, pineapple juice, cucumber juice, coconut, sesame oil and lime juice.
You get the impression that there’s an unending stream of unheard-of drinks.
That’s down to the trend for homemade essences and syrups. And then there are lots of products that you can’t get in other countries or if you can, they taste different. A true classic should be something that everyone around the world can mix themselves at home.
So an interested drinker could try Mr Chan’s drink at your bar and, if they’re brave enough, compare it with your entry, the Bitter Sweet Victory?
(Laughs) Yes. We should have sesame oil somewhere.
What would you say is a truly Viennese cocktail?
The Franz: Duke Gin from Munich, Ingwerer (Ed.: ginger liqueur) from Austria, Franzi (an apple juice flavoured with various spices) and elderberry tonic.
Are there men’s and women’s cocktails?
Every cocktail is unisex. We don’t categorize. Which is why our menu conveys flavours rather than combinations, which you can’t really imagine. In our Mr. Chesterfield, a dark, musty cocktail, there is patchouli. Or beetroot syrup. No one likes beetroot, but nevertheless it’s in one of our signature drinks. Of course I won’t reveal which. It’s better not to know too much about the ingredients, but rather to make your choice based on flavour and aroma: from light to bitter, from refreshing to full-bodied, complex.
The best bar you’ve ever been?
Are we talking for work or a drink?
For a drink.
The Melrose Umbrella in LA. I went in after walking past it five times because it looks like a barn from the outside, and straightaway I felt right at home.
Why do people love going to hotel bars?
Because they always have a great atmosphere, good service and lots of creative potential. All over the world, hotel bars are somewhere to go and a meeting place for the locals because they love how international they are: you’re at home but you meet people from all around the world. Which is why we also have a separate entrance on the Bognergasse. You don’t have to walk through the hotel lobby. And we don’t insist upon a suit and shirt. I want a relaxed bar with a hotel in the background. Sometimes people even come in a cap and shorts.
Which cocktails should we be trying right now?
The arrack passion fizz or the cherry berry. With Amarena cherry syrup, pomegranate liqueur and Austrian whiskey. Our seasonal cocktails change every week or fortnight. Just like in the kitchen, we use what’s fresh in the area at the moment. Berries, apricots, cherries.
Don’t people stay true to one life-long drink any more, like James Bond?
Yes, people still do that. But that’s more true of more mature drinkers. Young people are still open to new things.