Sapparot Group, looking to strengthen its team of skilled bartenders, as the owners increasingly have to manage, and let go of their favourite function of being hands-on cocktail shakers, has hand-picked the Swedish ‘tiki’ expert Sebastian De La Cruz (plus another Swede; Philip Stefanescu).
Sebastian’s claim to fame is having worked at Sweden’s only genuine tiki bar (and also a stint at legendary Berns Salonger in Stockholm gives merits to his CV).
“Tiki is a very special genre within cocktails originating from the U.S in the early 1940s. They created an entirely imaginary world – a tropical, Polynesian setting,” says Sebastian.
It enabled Americans to experience an entirely new exotic world – but without travelling. It’s all about escaping to the tropics, with fruity rum cocktails and the good island life under the sun.
“Nobody was really doing that in Stockholm so I had a niche where I could profile myself as the Tiki guy in town. In addition I am very fund of rum, which is what made me hook on it, aside the lifestyle; the relaxed Caribbean culture.”
He describes himself as self-trained and very dedicated. In the early days he read a lot and searched for information.
“Gradually I understood the difference between an ordinary nightclub’s drinks compared to cocktails and began to befriend skilled bartenders in Stockholm. Heading down that road I could learn from those leading the scene.”
In 2010 he chose to make it hole-heartedly into his full time job. A trip to New York, where he got very inspired by the bartenders in action, was the real game-changer.
“I left university to follow my passion. Like: follow your path and do what you like to be doing. Then my learning curve started showing great progress, and I joined competitions.”
Sebastian finds the restaurant environs interesting, a very special work place.
“It sounds like a cliché, but you don’t find the restaurant business – it finds you. One must have a certain character to work within this. It suited me very well.”
How he found his way to Bangkok is a bit of a coincidence. He knew another Swedish bartender that worked for the group, whom he replaced. He let Sapparot Group know that he was interested in coming here.
Most stimulating about being here he thinks are the incredibly varied people he encounters.
“It feels like living in a place with an international population – much more so than in Stockholm, and anyone from local Thais to extremely well travelled people who have been around the world. It’s great fun.”
On the other hand what he could bring along from Stockholm was the knowledge gained, based on the Nordic city being cocktail-wise so much more in the forefront, and “a bit more minimalist-thinking”.
The next step was to adapt that to the local market.
“Here, our Thai guests appreciate more the looks and they want to have a show. So we’ve had to change our thinking a bit, as we go about introducing our style that may not fully work. Here it’s so much more; they get the wow feeling if the cocktail is good-looking. At the same time we want to educate our guests on the international cocktail scene.”
On the agenda onwards: Increasingly doing also catering and events. And continuing the creative process: “The rethinking: conjuring up new cocktails and never resting on one’s laurels but dreaming up new things”.