- interview by Sara Gorelick
Sara spoke with George Megalokonomos, a bartender from Greece who is currently working at Noel Bar in the center of Athens. George was just named a finalist for the Bacardi Legacy competition in Greece. If he wins the competition in Greece on February 29th, he will be traveling to San Francisco in April to compete for the Global Finals.
Originally born in Athens, George enjoys spending time with his wife and cat when not at the bar. He can also be found watching football, basketball or movies when not mixing up fantastic drinks. Read on to learn about George and his work in Greece.
SG: How did you get into the industry?
GM: My background is in business administration, where I studied at the University of Aegean. My postgraduate studies were in tourism, but I had never before worked in this industry. I have been working for a bartender for almost 10 years. I got into bartending in the usual way - trying to make some extra money! After a short period of time this (bartending) was my second skin.
SG: Tell us about Noel Bar.
GM: I work at Noel Bar, in the center of Athens. Every day is like Christmas! The special concept here is that bartenders are also 'floortenders' and they even make and serve drinks. So in some shifts I am behind the stick, and other times I am in service. This is a good way to explain the full drink menu to the customers!
SG: How would you describe your career?
GM: I am very happy with my career. I am making steps forward every time I am working for a really great bar, which is also the best new bar in Greece this year. I enjoy every moment I work. I am still learning every day! I would loike to work for the industry in any position I can.
SG: What is the best part of your job? The worst?
GM: The best part of my job is when I see happy faces in front of the bar, and having good times! The worst is when I have to deal with rude, drunk customers.
SG: What is your favorite spirit? Favorite cocktail?
GM: My favorite spirits are rum and Tequila. I love daiquiris and Palomas. After my shift I enjoy a beer or a shot of Blanco Tequila.
SG: What are you most proud of?
GM: I am proud of my family and my wife. I love them!
SG: What do you want people to walk away from your bar saying?
GM: I love when people say that they will come again to my bar because they had a good time. That's the reason that we work for.
SG: Tell us about the Bacardi competition. How far along in the competition are you?
GM: The Bacardi Legacy competition is a big deal for me. It's a four month project that I have to promote my drink through my own marketing plan. I have a Facebook page for my drink (Smyra for Bacardi Legacy 2016), an Instagram account, I travel abroad for guest shifts in other bars, I donate to charity and also participate in consumer events. I have also made some merchandise like stickers and buttons - everything that can make buzz around my drink!
SG: What would it mean to you to win this competition?
GM: It would be a great honor to win such a big and famous competition that will give some extra awareness about my job and future. I will also have the opportunity to travel abroad more. It's also about representing a big brand and respecting their history.
SG: What is the drink you made, and why did you make it?
GM: I made a boozy style drink with distinctive aromas and taste. My recipe for the contest is very simple.
The name is "SMYRNA" and calls for:
It has a bittersweet taste, and was inspired from the homonymous city of Smyrna and its catastrophe in 1922. It is dedicated to the Greeks who lived there until 1922. The events of Smyrna bear great resemblance with the eviction of the Bacardi family from Cuba in 1960.
SG: What is your best advice for someone who is new to competitions?
GM: Just be yourself and believe in your drink and your story. Nothing less, nothing more.
We wish George the best of luck in the upcoming competition.