011 | Athens bar scene thriving

Photo by Lefteris Sariapis

Photo by Lefteris Sariapis

It’s no secret that Athenians like to have a good time. This ancient city comes alive at night and you never have to venture too far to find a good party.

Over the last few years the bar scene in Athens has developed into one of the most exciting in Europe, with many unique drinking spots opening up around the city. A thriving cocktail scene has been growing here, with many young Greeks bringing their own unique creativity to the art of mixing drinks.

Penelopi Zaoudi is as passionate about cocktails as she is about Athens, which is why she is championing a new event that aims to promote both the city and it’s bar scene. Lost Athina caught up with her to discuss Athens Fine Drinking.

It seems like the cocktail scene in Athens is experiencing quite a boom with many new quality cocktail bars springing up around the city over the last five years. How do you explain this?
Athens bar scene has been interesting many years now and through the years it has managed to build a strong and solid background in terms of professionals who love what they do and in terms of people who have an appetite to offer high quality services in the hospitality industry. We can’t ignore that the bartending is evolving immensely across the globe and so are the consumers’ habits who seek pleasurable experiences in their drinking occasions. Athens could not but follow this trend. And by follow, I mean being in the front row close to the leaders.

You travel the world for work and get to visit some of the best bars around the globe. How does the scene in Athens compare to the likes of New York, London, Berlin, Milan?
Well, I may travel but not that much so that I can make a comparison with all these cities. However, working in the industry helps me being connected with colleagues from across Europe and I can confidently claim that Athens has nothing to be jealous of in terms of the bar scene. Bars in Athens are true jewels and we have brilliant professionals ready to offer high quality services.

It seems bartenders have become the new celebrities. What makes a good bartender, and how do Greek bartenders stack up to their counterparts around the world?
I don’t particularly like the word celebrity, but yes there has definitely been more glam thrown the profession. I think (and I like that) bartenders start to get recognised in the same way chefs are. After all, they are creators and curators. What makes a good bartender? Creativity and attention to detail is key. Listening and attending your customer is also vital.

Which spirit would you say is the most popular base for cocktails in Athens?
Well, I cannot distinguish between rum, gin or tequila. I think they are all popular as cocktail bases. One thing I am particularly happy with is that blended whisky, waiving off old perceptions, is starting to gain in popularity in the cocktail making. There are some great recipes among the Athenian bars, worth giving them a try, be it blended Scotch, Malt or American whisky.

I can confidently claim that Athens has nothing to be jealous of in terms of the bar scene.

What is the best cocktail you’ve ever had, and where?
Well the best cocktail is the one you enjoy with the best of company. There are plenty, but the ones I enjoy the most are the one with the RESERVE colleagues after a successful activation.

What is the concept behind Athens Fine Drinking?
Athens Fine Drinking by World Class, is the first ever celebration of fine drinking culture in Greece.

Fine drinking is a concept parallel to fine dining. We have noticed that people start getting interested in their drinks in the same way they do about food. They love to know about raw materials, process making, the rituals, the story behind their drink and they pay particular attention in the way the drink is presented to them, the way that they are served and also the venues’ set up, atmosphere, music within which they are called to enjoy their drinks. All of these constitute the fine drinking experience.

So, from the 1st to the 4th of June, the heart of the historic centre of Athens is going to beat like a shaker, with the old Stock Exchange building being transformed to a big pop-up bar and the participation of 23 top bars in the centre of Athens. At the Athens Fine Drinking by World Class, every day is going to be full of tasting experiences. The celebration starts at the old Stock Exchange pop-up bar, where visitors will have the chance to visit six smaller pop-up bars, and they will taste unique cocktails based on premium spirits but also will participate in mentoring and presentations dedicated to the fine drinking culture, hosted by professional mixologists and gurus. But the celebration is not stopping there: at the venues of the 23 participating bars you can enjoy signature cocktails specially created for Athens Fine Drinking, at a discount. In the meantime, the bars will host independent events exploring ideas on fine drinking.

Why did you choose the Old Stock Exchange as the venue?
Well, the Old Stock Exchange Market is undoubtedly a beautiful building and has not been massively used or connected with any other big event. Plus, it is right in the centre, within walking distance from the bars, making it an ideal location.

For more information visit Athens Fine Drinking.

All photos provided by Penelope Zaoudi.

All photos provided by Penelope Zaoudi.



Deena Kiswoyo