Master mixology: Cocktail classes with International Bartender of the Year

Alex Kratena's cocktail concoctions have earned him plenty of awards. (Courtesy of The Langham, London)
Alex Kratena’s cocktail concoctions have earned him plenty of awards. (Courtesy of The Langham, London)

Each city’s cocktail scene has its own unique idiosyncrasies and defining characteristics, but the basics of service, standards and hospitality throughout the world are universal. Alex Kratena, head bartender at The Langham’s Artesian cocktail bar in London, will cover those bases as well as demonstrate mixing techniques and recipes at two events at Bond, at Boston’s Langham Hotel, on March 31 and April 1. The first night is a master-mixology class for members of the industry and the second is an event open to the public, where guests will try the four cocktails he’s designed inspired by the four cities where the hotel group have properties.

The Czech-born Kartena, who won “International Bartender of the Year” at Tales of the Cocktail in 2012 and whose bar has garnered numerous best bar in the world-type awards, says the ideals are the same wherever he goes. “First are consistency and focus on the guests. That’s the key to success. You don’t compromise on that in any way. It’s about taking all of the different elements of the operation and doing them 150 percent, but always having the service in the first place.” For the bartender class he’ll cover that concept as well as everything else, from designing bespoke glassware for your bar to the nuts and bolts of mixing.

On the second night he’ll be mixing cocktails for guests, such as a recipe inspired by the floral aesthetic of the city of Pasadena made with vodka, Lillet, vetiver, rose water, and lemon juice. “It’s a beautiful, floral drink, with a really long finish and eclectic flavors thanks to the aromatics, he says. For Boston he chose aquavit, fino sherry, cedarwood syrup, bitters and citrus. “The ingredients are as eclectic as the Boston skyline,” he says. “I wanted something really different with the aquavit. When you see it on paper you think, ‘Oh, that’s not going to work,’ but it really blends well with the other ingredients.”

As for what he forecasts in the year of cocktails, Kartena expects more aging of cocktails in different materials, whether it’s stainless steel or leather. “Also, a lot of people are working with savory ingredients now,” he says, a trend I’m absolutely in favor of. “Many bartenders are realizing, oh, hold on, we haven’t explored so many different areas.” He’s working with mushrooms a lot lately. “A lot of things haven’t been explored yet. I think that’s what we’re tapping into.”

Interesting ingredients aside, he also expects, like many of the bartenders I talk to of late, even more of a return to simplicity, with three or four ingredients carrying the drinks. “I think everyone is done with all the garnishes, and we’re going to see a return to a focus on ingredients,” he says. “Ingredients are the true star of the cocktail, not the bartenders.”

Spoken like a true bartender star.

If you go
BOND at The Langham
250 Franklin St., Boston


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