An interview with Berlin-based Mixologist, Maria.
(4 MINUTE READ)
Maria tell us – how did you end up as a bartender and Mixologist?
I have always loved to invite my friends over for huge, exorbitant dinners with lots of courses and started to experiment with drink pairing. Cooking, creating recipes, and combining different flavors were more of a hobby first. I studied product design at the University of the Arts and as I loved fine food, expensive wine and travel, I started to work in gastronomy. I loved the hospitality, the sensuality of flavors, the physical work and the endless opportunities to educate myself. I came to Green Door about 4 years ago and worked my way up from service to Bar Manager.
Do your background and personality influence your work as a Mixologist?
“For me form follows function in both product design and mixology.”
I work rather technically and focus on what is best for the taste. A perfect drink requires a lot of preparation, thought, and iteration – a process I know from product development. And of course the sense for aesthetics is something both disciplines have in common; for me, that’s less is more. The UdK taught me the idea of free thought and creativity and Berlin nightlife the art of curating and hosting a good night. I love the night and the encounters at the bar, but also aesthetics and style. I see myself both as a punk and a dandy, and I created a work where I can bring in all of it, all of me. There is a lot of room for individuality in my industry and I love to challenge and exhaust it.
Where do you find inspiration?
I have a curious mind and draw inspiration from everything – from design and architecture, movies, music and literature, from history, and of course from nature and travel. I am super enthusiastic and love to soak up everything around me, to abstract ideas and set them together in new ways. That is part of my creative process and I am currently working on a new project launching later this year to make my mixology work more visible.
Having elaborate senses seem to be crucial for your work?
I do have a fine palate. Which is partly innate but has also been trained and refined over the years. I have been cooking and working with flavors all my life but it was just a few years ago that I became really aware of my good senses and train and sharpen it explicitly now. I used to think it’s normal and everyone can taste that well!
How can we picture the process of creating a bar menu and new drinks?
Sometimes I begin with a certain ingredient, sometimes with a world around flavor, sometimes with an abstract idea. I imagine the aroma profile or distinct feeling a drink should cause and work in that direction. Teamwork is crucial and I open each step for new ideas and discussion with my colleagues. The menu is a mirror of our process, it is ever changing and a balancing act of different flavors and styles, of classic and modern cocktails.
What makes the perfect bar?
Ask one hundred bar goers and you will get one hundred names. When we enter a bar we seek a certain atmosphere, a thrust for our encounters and conversations. Music, bar staff and behavior and drinks must be in sync with the space and the concept.
“The perfect bar does not exist.”
If the light is too bright or too dark the whole bar can shift. It is commanding to develop an intuition and sense for each detail; good drinks are only a part of the whole experience.
And does the perfect drink exist?
It needs a refined balance and that it is interesting until the very last sip. But as each taste is different it is my job to find the perfect drink for every guest.
And how do you do that?
It requires experience and a lot of intuition, empathy. A guest that loves a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri would be simply overwhelmed by a Dry Martini Variation, whereas someone with a three-piece suit and a soft spot for Manhattans probably will not be satisfied with a sweet and colorful umbrella drink. As a bartender I try to make out preferences and no-goes then recommend a drink on that base. I encourage my guests to be frank about their taste and likes and not order what they assume is expected, or trending.
So it takes a lot to be a really good bartender?
Definitely! Refined taste sense, curiosity and creativity, swiftness, intuition, courtesy and an overall interest in people, a little ego and able to work as a team. A broad knowledge of the recipes, the products and techniques and a good memory as you know and mix a hundred drinks by heart. It is not hard to be a mediocre bartender, but it is extremely hard to be a really good one.
Is it tough being a female bartender?
That’s something guests consider more than industry people and colleagues. Especially in Berlin there are so many female bar owners, bar managers and bartenders. Guests that talk big or comment stupidly are mostly male and over fifty. From younger men and my regular guests, I experience rather reflective talks and have open, positive discussions, rather than any sexism. That is something for yesterday’s men and I almost feel sorry for them.
Naturally, you work mostly at night. How do you keep your personal balance?
At Green Door everyone is working maximum four times a week and never three nights in a row. That is quite uncommon in the industry but important for us in terms of staff wellbeing. I do a lot of research and development in the daytime, too. At work I never drink and sleep in after each bar shift. And for my personal balance I do yoga and eat healthy, fresh and vegetarian. A healthy lifestyle in combination with travels and quiet evenings with my partner and friends are the perfect balance to the hurly burly of the bar.
Find Maria at Green Door Bar in Berlin Schöneberg or stay tuned for a drink recipe and cocktail workshop that we will be hosting at YUN soon.