A Fine Time in Athens

World Class landed in Athens in June with Athens Fine Drinking for the very first time. This celebration of bartending was a new departure for World Class, marking the flowering of a premium drinking culture in the Greek city.

It was a real success, building a bridge between us and the guest.

With around 600 people attending every day, crowds queuing to learn about the right way to shake cocktails, and all seven Greece World Class country-winning bartenders in attendance, Athens Fine Drinking was another step forward for top-end bartending.

According to Greece World Class winner 2013 Thodoris Pirillos  “It was a real success, building a bridge between us and the guest. The whole idea was to communicate good bartending, and that’s exactly what we got.”

Pirillos is head bartender at A for Athens, and he gave a talk on ‘How to look cool in a cocktail bar’ – not as it suggests a series of fashion tips, but a lowdown on different styles of drinks. Thodoris took his audience through shrubs, cordials, sours and the ‘Gentleman’s formula’ – spirits, vermouth and bitters – all so that people can impress when they’re out with friends.

Thodoris also went back to the golden age of bartending in New York in the 1880s, 1950s London and Singapore in the 1970s with a ‘Time Machine’ talk that went down a storm.

“The 1880s were a period of elegant drinks, elegant garnishes, Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson, and cocktail-making driven into hotel bars. Most formulas were discovered in that period – juleps, daisys, fixes, flips – and that’s where we get inspiration from.”

However, our bartenders weren’t only teaching people how to enhance their bar-going experience. It was also about bringing that expert knowledge from the world’s best bartenders into the home. Greece World Class winner from 2014, Teo Spyropoulos, took people through how to enjoy malt whisky at home – whether to add ice and water or to drink it neat. As a bartender at CV Distiller with its 500 malt whiskies, Teo was the ideal candidate for the job.

“Everybody thinks they know about whisky in Greece, but they only drink blends, when there is so much more to discover! When they start trying malts it’s really something new for them.”

Using Lagavulin Distillers Edition, Teo educated on the age dating, the location the whisky came from and the smokiness of Islay whisky, plus the look and the colour.

“I didn’t want to come across as a whisky sommelier with all the jargon, but I showed that if you add water, you can get more rounded flavours and that you can also add ice to the liquid. They seemed surprised by this, but could see from the demo how it worked.”

With over 500 watching he felt “a great atmosphere in the hall. As bartenders we had to run around a lot so we couldn’t necessarily enjoy everything we were doing. There was pressure on us to make it work. But all our customers seemed really happy. Everybody wanted to ask questions, to know more, and that’s great.”

Athens Fine Drinking had other events taking place alongside this main pop-up fixture. A bar dedicated to Zacapa showed how the Guatemalan rum combines so well with premium Valhrona chocolate. Meanwhile, World Class Spirits Brand Ambassadors showed off the best of great Reserve brands and representatives from Difford’s Guide Greece demonstrated useful tips and tricks. Plus, at 23 bars around the city, World Class signature cocktails created for Athens Fine Drinking were served.

According to Teo: “It was a big celebration of bartending, and we look forward to an even bigger one next year!”

The participating bars

#7 Jokers, 42, 360°, Α For Athens, Baba au Rum, Bank Job, Bar De Τhéâtre, Barreldier, Grand Bretagne (Alexander’s Bar, Alexander’s Cigar Lounge, Roof Garden Bar & Bar 8), Dizzy Mo, Drunk Sinatra, Faust, Odori, Rehab, Six d.o.g.s, Tailor Made, The Trap, The Clumsies, Toy Café, Zonars, ΦΟΥΑΡ