Bartender of the month: Morgan Karlsson
Morgan Karlsson is a Stockholm based bartender. He just recently spent a year working in Australia and is now back in the Nordics. His drink "Bär och Blad" is one of the cocktails that made its way into the Drink Nordic book.
Morgan is quite active on social media and his Instagram account @drinkaren has almost 10 000 followers. Here are some of his thoughts on Nordic drinks and local bartending.
What inspires you?
People in the industry, especially my seniors, ones who have worked really hard for a long time. I’m also inspired by art, nature and especially now after returning to Sweden the local culture. There’s so much food and drink culture that has gone undocumented, especially because we have turned into such an import country. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but we are losing some as well.
In your own work as a bartender, what would you describe as specifically Nordic?
It’s probably just the style of service we do. I’ve been working and visiting in a lot of different places, and what is different about the Nordic service style is that we are very observant people. We look before we act. Our style is not as hands on, and sometimes a bit reserved, but we build it from what the customer is in need of right now. Reserved, very gentle style. That’s what I would describe as Nordic.
When it comes to ingredients, we use a lot of purees and marmalades, and lot of these drinks are catering to especially people with sweet tooth or who like amaro style cocktails. But overall… As in the quote “Sell the berries you have, because they are the only berries you can sell”, I think that’s a very Nordic thing, like, we have these things, let’s use these things, let’s not go extremely out our way to get something that might slightly improve (a drink). It’s a very hands-on approach, I like that.
Reserved, very gentle style. That’s what I would describe as Nordic.
In your opinion, what should be done to make Nordic bartending more visible globally?
I think it’s something that should grow organically. Every day we are knitting the Nordic community tighter and tighter and I think it is already quite tightly knit. For example, we are very open about sharing drinks, industry tips, every day you see a bartender on social media asking about what bar should they should visit or "I need 400 pieces of this glass where should I get it", and the community instantly jumps on it. I think we should not force it out there, because it’s going to get out there eventually. It’s like there’s this little plug that just needs to be unplugged and then it’ll all just come pouring out. Because all the ingredients are already in the pot, they’re cooking up, so eventually it’s just going to happen on it’s own. So I think that we should just make sure the momentum stays good and make sure that things are progressing the way we want.
How is locality visible in the ways of drinking here in Sweden?
They always say abroad that we drink really fast. But we have this sort of bar-crawl style of drinking, like if you go out with your mates you’re not going to be stuck in one bar the whole night. We are sort of nomadic in that sense. And that is also visible in the service industry as well. A bartender usually picks up if you’re going to stay all night or if you’re just having one drink and then onto the next one. I think that’s definitely a local thing in bigger cities. In small cities, the pace is very different, people take their time more.
They always say abroad that we drink really fast.
But people are also increasingly conscious about their choices. Abroad people do much more research on their own, knowing what they want to order when they head to the bar, but I feel here in Stockholm and Sweden is that people are not afraid to ask “what’s this, what’s that, is this good, do you have any local beers, is that a new one from that brand etc.” People are curious, and they’re making an active choice.
Has something changed in the drink scene recently?
For sure. If we skip the whole trends section, like obviously Aperol Spritz during the summer etc, yeah for sure. For example if you went to a sports bar before I left (to Australia), every one of them had the same line-up of three different lagers and that would be it. But now you can’t really find a sports bar that has more than the one lager because they are all switching to pale-ale style beers, and people are getting more into advanced stuff. And I think that people are making more conscious choices than when I left. This also shows in Systembolaget. Before their sortiment was locked-in, very stale and stiff, but now they have this program when they introduce new stuff twice a month, from all over the world, and they help local companies with transportation costs if you’re a certain size of a company. So I think a lot of things have changed lately.
I think that people are making more conscious choices.
What’s the number one thing in drinks in Stockholm right now?
I’m going with Cava. It’s just huge. Twice what prosecco was last year.