Dmitry was trained at the legendary Savoy American Bar, Nightjar, Fifth Floor and Colebrook Row 69. Moreover, he is Diageo Brand Ambassador in Ukraine, the finalist of mixology championship and one of the most famous bartenders of Kiev. “Destinations” met with Dima Shovkoplyas to talk about bar culture of the capital and his personal attitude to the bartender profession.
We’ve had the interview with Dmitry on that very day when his favorite bar, “Parovoz speak easy”, the place where he works now, has been celebrating its birthday. We congratulate the bar and its employees and we wish them to continue to be a trendsetter of city's best bars!
I recently read somewhere on Facebook about Huanito, the owner of one of the best tapas bars in Barcelona at the Boqueria market. The bar is always full of visitors, despite the fact that it is not special in terms of the interior or unique in terms of cuisine. The regulars of the bar come to Huanito, who has been working here for decades. Huatino is 80, he does not hear anything even in spite of his two hearing aids, but he always smiles telling funny stories and jokes. The regulars of the bar, as well as Huanito’s assistants are not going to change this location for any reason, because this place is really special.
What are the components of a successful bar and what “a successful bartender” means?
Successful bar is a place where everyone knows the goal and creates a special atmosphere. Everybody should move in the same direction. And if some of the ideas and initiatives appear, they should not die somewhere midway. From the guest’s point of view the successful bar is a place of comfort. People come to the bar to have rest, to listen to some funny stories, to drink and relax. The design should be nice and the prices should not be high.
Do people come to a certain bartender?
Yes, it happens. Some foreign friends visit Kiev for a couple of days and they ask in advance when I’m off, and when I work to make an appointment. It is normal practice. The same parallel can be made with the chefs.
Besides the fact that the bartender has to be a professional, he also has to have a certain charisma. He is a man with his special character. This is the background needed to develop relationships with the visitors. At the same time everything should be natural. Experience shows that successful bartenders are very natural and easy going people.
Tell us, please, about the profession of a bartender. What are its pros and cons?
Cons: a physiological harm, bad nutrition, bad sleep. Hundreds of people in different moods come to a bar and you absorb this. There are also conflicts in the bar, not often, but it happens. Alcohol loosens people. Therefore, we are trying to instill a culture of proper drinking alcoholic beverages, where the quality is important, not the quantity.
In our country we only start to appreciate this profession, so in many places managers still think that the bartender is a kind of part time working student. Sometimes bartenders think about this profession as a temporary one. But it’s different abroad and Huanito example is a nice illustration of this fact. The bartenders are 50-60 years old there and their income allows them to support their families and live comfortably. The situation is slowly changing for better in our country as well.
Why do you love this profession?
Communication with different people is one and the same factor, which can be both a plus and a minus. Most often this is a plus. When dealing with people, you develop, you try to do it well and you get this positive energy exchange. In addition to that the compilation of beverages from different components is a kind of creativity. It is very interesting. You develop all the time. There is no limit in this profession. This atmosphere and the gratitude of people plus creativity are the most pleasant things.
You also mentioned minuses of this profession. And how do you succeed to stay healthy and strong?
Well, for some time I played football, but it requires a certain schedule to adapt to everyone. Gym is better in this sense.
Do the bartenders drink alcohol?
Yes, bartenders drink, testing on themselves some new taste sensations of the beverages. But I must say that the early years in this profession will show whether a person is able to resist the temptation of alcohol, taking into account the fact that there are hundreds of different bottles behind your back every day, or not. A true professional is aware of where he is and what he does. Everything has its time and place. If you want, you may have a drink after work.
In the morning? :-)
Yes, for breakfast porridge with whiskey :-)
You are the person who had a hand in the formation of the bar culture in Kiev. How can you describe it today?
The concept of "bar culture" had recently appeared in our country. Therefore, this process of formation is a very long lasting one. It will develop in the coming years for sure. There is a mismatch in terms of educational projects. Business owners love bars and rush to open them without realizing the idea that we should start with bartenders’ education. The other problem is economical and political situation due to which the world-known alcoholic companies may not conduct some academic projects here. I think in 2016 everything will change. I feel that everything will explode. Alcohol companies see great potential and will invest in it and will lobby their interests.
Tell us, please, about your school for bartenders.
We started the Parovoz Mixology Course at “Parovoz speak easy”. We offer a course once a season; a two-week course is short, but very intense. This course is designed for those who have basic knowledge already. The idea behind is to develop practical skills in terms of how to control inventory in stock, how to make purchases, which alcohol is better to choose, how to arrange the workplace, how to combine food with cocktails, how to create the menu and, of course, how to make cocktails. We do not enroll more than 10 people. We can split them into groups and give spontaneous tasks that are not in the curriculum. Training takes place every weekday, 10 sessions within 2 weeks. At the end the student gets a diploma. There is a big demand now for training, especially from the regions. The third course will start on May 9th.
What do locals and foreigners order in the bar? Is there any difference of tastes?
Yes, the difference exists. Due to the fact that the drinking culture in our country is young, the tastes are being formed now. From the start many people have to go through the sweet-sour drinks that almost everyone likes; it is so called sour category. Then people begin to learn the bitter-sweet beverages in Negroni style, medium strength. And then the person can plunge into strong, sophisticated tastes of cocktails, such as Dry Martini, Old Fashioned and similar ones. We must go through such an evolution. In Europe it took a long time. Foreign cocktail lovers prefer complicated tastes. They can come and drink one cocktail. This is an indication of the fact that the person has found his taste and he knows when to stop.
What do you think of Kiev bars’ visitors and their tastes? What is the percentage of men and women among them?
I think that there are 60% of women, and 40% of men. Women love sweet-sour and tropical cocktails. But we don’t offer absolutely sweet cocktails. Now people care of what they have on their plates and in their glasses. And this is good. But stereotypes still exist: for example, if you drink cocktail you will have a headache in the morning. Of course, it matters what kind of cocktail you drink, where and how much. Once a lady told me: “I do not drink cocktails, I have a headache, there are so many things mixed up. Please give me whiskey and cola.” Well, dear lady, actually your choice is even worse: sweet drinks with whiskey will damage your health a lot.
What is your favorite drink?
I prefer strong ones, but there is no favorite one. The original basis of the beverage taste is felt well in the strong cocktail; sweet and sour drinks are more balanced, but it is impossible to feel their depth.
Which bar do you visit usually except for Parovoz?
There is always lack of time for this. But occasionally I go to Bottega, wine and tapas restaurant with a very strong bar, near the Shevchenko park. Pink Freud is also good, they have two bars and unusual atmosphere. I used to sit there at the bar. The most interesting things are happening there. True Burger and Hendrick's - these are two bars in one place. Well, bartenders usually drink in places they really trust.
Do you have a favorite ingredient with which you can prepare a delicious cocktail?
In fact it depends not only on the ingredients, but also on proportions and technology. Coconut and passion fruit are always a win. But there is no such magic component for me. Everything is always different. You can talk to a guest and to get know more about his preferences.
Please, describe your dream bar.
It is the one I work in. And I try to develop it. This is a very interesting project that gives me energy and I am happy to share it.
Can you give a simple recipe of a good cocktail, please?
- It depends upon your preferences.
-Well, I don’t like sweet, but bitter beverages.
-Ok. There is such a good cocktail that existed before Negroni. It is called Americano, like coffee. You use Campari, sweet red vermouth and soda. It is refreshing, bitter taste with the wine structure. Serve it with a slice of orange. We don’t have it in our menu in Parovoz, but if you ask, we can do it for you. I also like Negroni Sbagliato – wrong Negroni; here prosesso is used instead of gin. And we created Ameratto Sbagliato: amareto, Campari, Prosecco and a bit of bitter. It is simple, but good one. Enjoy!
Photos: Parovoz speak easy' Facebook page and Dima Shovkoplyas
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak