Bartender Of The Month: Timo Siitonen
Timo is like a godfather of cocktail to Finns. His highly successful first bar, A21, operated for over a decade in Helsinki and paved the way for many other openings and ambitious projects. The latest of which, a bar/event space/flavour museum going by the name of Flavorium is set to open during this month. Here are some of Timos thoughts on Nordic drinks and lifestyle.
Hi Timo! Describe yourself with three adjectives.
Happy, optimistic and passionate.
What inspires you?
Moments. Things around me. Flavours, but less than the first two. Surprising and unusual flavours I haven’t tasted before. My inspirations stems more from what I see and the feelings I get from that. Like for an example when I travel I like to turn my experiences and environments into flavours.
In your own work, what would you describe as specifically Nordic?
When it comes to technical stuff, you see very little double shaking [using two shakers and shaking them both simultaneously] outside of the Nordics. I’ve been getting comments from foreigners about the fact that you can see double shakes being done a lot more in the Nordics than elsewhere. Another thing is using measures. When I was working in London I learned that practically nothing was measured, unlike in here where everything has to be precise because of the laws. In a way, especially in us Finns, we have this tendency to be almost overly about that pedantic sometimes. It’s like, “this is how things are done, you should not go and improvise on it”. Which is a good thing when it comes to cocktails, you have a more stable quality.
I also believe that the future is about fusion and fusing the Nordic things with international influences. By doing that I think we can create something that is very appealing and sexy.
In regards to service, our style in all countries is kind of similar. We are friendly, but not overly friendly like for an example US servers can be. We focus on listening, we serve but know how to give enough personal space and time to customers as well. Finns are sometimes grumpy beasts who don’t want to chat, so it’s important to give them space.
I like to use local ingredients in my drinks. From the beginning of A21, we have always done that, especially focusing on Finnish produce. Things that we have right here. We have wanted to focus on things that are familiar, what can be created from those things and how to work them further so that they taste as good as possible in drinks. That has proved to be difficult as well. When you have unique but beautiful flavours, mixing them into a drink is not always that straightforward. But, even though I believe that we should focus more and more on local ingredients, I also believe that the future is about fusion and fusing the Nordic things with international influences. By doing that I think we can create something that is very appealing and sexy.
Follow @flavoriumhelsinki to find out more about Timos ambitious new project. His personal classic drink known as “Uuniomena” is also included in the Drink Nordic book.