Spoiled – Free your mind
I did it again and travelled to Athens for the annual Athens Bar Show. The sincerity and the warm welcome you receive in the Greek bar world makes a difference and some claim that this is the best European bar show. Visitors from all over the world came and numerous events took place. I stayed a whole week and finally managed to visit a bar that has already been open for five years.
Spoiled, a cosy bar and, to come swiftly to the point, a place I left with a big smile and the feeling that I’ll be back. The reason why it has taken so long to visit this bar is that Spoiled is located outside the city centre but, in reality, this is no reason at all: it is only a 10 minute ride by metro to Dafni station.
An excellent mix of a relaxed neighbourhood bar and a creative cocktail bar, paired with exceptional hospitality and originality is waiting for you.
When I arrived at Megalou Alexandrou 18 I found two similar looking spaces both with a huge glass front. At the same moment, I saw George Kavaklis, co-owner and head bartender leaving one place which was obviously the bar. He welcomed me and took me with him to the place opposite the bar. It is the “LAB”, as a red neon sign says, an open venue, where creative research takes place and all inspirational processes are carried out. It is fully-equipped with modern technical devices, lots of herbs and spices, books, and a huge table for preparation and workshops. I am really fascinated by the scientific approach of the new cocktail generation and I was very curious about the results served in the bar opposite the lab. I like the fact that they divided the bar and lab and that both are observable, no secrets.
The bar itself is a cosy and comfortable place. Along one side you will find the bar counter with a huge well-stocked backbar. They have a good list of spirits and also their own spiced rum. In November, they are going to start to renovate the bar and George showed me the plans, it will be great. The idea of having the open lab on the other side will stay the same. Improving and not standing still, something all the great bars in Athens have in common.
The focus of the bar is the homemade individual ingredients and infusions. The idea is to think beyond the ordinary, broadening our horizons and imagination, just like a bird left out of its cage. “The Bird Cage” is the name of the menu that comes as a small booklet. 12 signature drinks with a nice illustration of a bird in a cage. It is a great pleasure to take a look at the changing picture if you flip through the menu. With each drink the bird leaves the cage more and more until at the end it is free, a nice animation. The menu starts with the words of the writer Stephen King: “Some birds are not meant to be caged. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go…”
The bar team uses complex techniques, homemade ingredients and plays with quite unusual flavours that, surprisingly, become a harmonious libation.
It was time to work on my imagination. I would have loved to try all the temptations but together with George I picked out three of them. Uncertain Reality, the door of the bird cage is open but the bird is still inside. Irish whiskey, mezcal, shiso leaves, Suze, Manzanilla Sherry, soy sauce, bergamot, mandarin soda with caper powder on the rim of the glass. It might sound a bit weird but the drink’s unexpected elements find a harmonious balance. All the flavours are there, from herbal to smoky, from bitter to sweet, lovely. Every sip brought new excitement.
The menu itself is playful and easy to understand, and so I tried the next concoction. Purple Rain, a drink that frees the bird. Cachaça, pickled beetroot for the amazing colour, pistachio for the smooth texture, lime and raspberry powder on the glass. George gave me every single ingredient to get the original taste. None of them were lost in the whole composition. George is a great mixologist and fabulous host.
Nice people go to this bar, the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. I stayed for a bitter sweet and fizzy last drink. Marabou is a play on a traditional Paloma with tequila, vermouth and strawberry, a Greek plant called earth broth, absinthe and lemon tonic.
Everything is made with love to detail, the preparation and presentation of the drinks and also the decoration of the place. This place spoiled me with amazing cocktails and kindness. Extremely recommended!