Raising the Bar

Alex Simonidis, Head Bartender, The Clumsies.

Published: 28th September 2018

Our exclusive editorial feature series ‘Raising the Bar’ gets behind the bar and meets the head barmen and women at some of the world’s most respected, loved and admired bars in the world. With a focus on Scottish Gin, mixology and more, ‘Raising the Bar’ provides a fascinating and unique insight directly from the people who are at the forefront of global bar culture.

What’s your name and what do you do?

I am Alexis Simonidis, head bartender at The Clumsies and Worldclass Greece bartender of the year 2016.

How did you get into the world of bartending?

The unique mixture of hospitality, creativity and just having fun.

What makes The Clumsies unique?

We pay good attention to every detail, while sustaining a relaxed and fun environment throughout the day, it is an all day bar. For instance, while there is a huge amount of work and sophistication behind every menu and every individual drink, we never overbear our guests; we make it look easy and fun. This transcends to all aspects of the bar, whether it is coffee, food or service. Plus we are uniquely Greek, loud, extrovert, hospitable and fun.

Scotland is famous for its Whisky but are there any Scottish Gins you’ve heard of that you would like to try?

I would like to taste the Strathearn Oaked Highland Gin, to taste how the knowledge and tradition of barrel ageing whisky could fuse with gin. I expect it to have nothing to do aged Genever.

You serve an array of amazing cocktails and drinks but does your clientele have a favourite cocktail?

While we change our menu yearly, we keep some of the guests’ favourites, or best sellers, from previous menus run in a separate menu. Out of these the ‘Highball Gimlet’ appears to have the most devoted fans. It is a concoction of Gin, a cordial made of wild greens, chamomile and lemon verbena, and grapefruit soda.

It currently feels like gin has never been more popular. Have you seen a gin renaissance over the last few years?

I definitely have seen gins takeover whole shelves in backbars, when 15 years ago, when I started working in the industry, we could name less than 5 or 6. I would definitely like to see more of it, however I think it should stay focused on the DNA of the category, working on recipes and sourcing botanicals to express provenance and terroir, and less on creating popular coloured and sweetened alternatives dubbed as Gins.

What’s the best part of your job?

Working my socks off on a Friday night while having fun with my colleagues and guests alike.

Are there any other bars on your tick list to visit?

So many. NoMad, Employees Only and BlackTail in New York; Floreria Atlantico in Buenos Aires; and Schumann’s Bar in Munich, just to name a few. The funny thing is that we have met with most of them under different occasions yet I haven’t manage to visit them.

Who are you bartending heroes?

Tony Conigliaro for his creative genius and Charles Schumann for who he is.

What are the essential ingredients for running a successful bar?

Passion, hard work, a great team and some money is always handy.

What Scottish Gins do you currently have behind your bar?

We work with Hendrick’s, Caorunn, Botanist and Edinburgh Gin. Currently my favourite is Botanist, not only because I love everything Islay, but also because I feel its bouquet of aromas depicts its origin and has a unique island feel.

How important is provenance to you and does this influence the spirits brands that you keep behind the bar?

I truly believe that a spirit or a drink, are the cheapest and fastest ways to travel around the world. A sip can convey terroir, climate and tradition. Therefore to me paying attention to provenance and respecting your origins is very important for a spirits brand. Behind the bar we put effort into developing a spirit list where you can find a genuine expression of most places and spirits of the planet.

You can learn more about The Clumsies here.

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