Frequently listed as one of the World’s Top 50 Bars, The Clumsies is nothing short of an institution in the Greek capital, Athens. We spoke to Georgia Georgakopoulou, mixologist at The Clumsies, about the changing food and beverage industry in Athens, what makes The Clumsies so special, and what exactly goes on in their famous ‘laboratory’.
First Georgia, it’d be great to hear your background – how long have you been a mixologist, and how long have you worked with The Clumsies team?
I graduated from university and became a primary school teacher but soon realised that this wasn’t my true passion. I decided to follow what I loved and since 2014, I have been a mixologist behind bars. I’ve been part of The Clumsies Bar team for two years now and look forward to many more!
What got you interested in bartending and cocktail making in the first place? What do you love about it now?
My interest in making drinks started small. I remember being young and searching for classic recipes to make drinks for my family in our backyard in a small town in Arcadia. I guess I just really love exploring new tastes and putting a smile on people’s faces. When our guests get exactly what they want, or what they didn’t even know they wanted – now that’s hospitality!
What’s your favourite cocktail?
That’s so hard to answer! But I am definitely a gin lover so as it stands I would say a Gin Basil Smash or Last Word.
How are the cocktails at The Clumsies created? I’d love to know all about the laboratory!
Every year we have new ideas so we change our cocktail list annually to keep it fresh. It comes together through teamwork. We all work together to explore, invent and innovate drinks, textures and techniques. We work on every menu for half a year before it is released to our guests. Every two months, we get together and gather ideas and techniques, judging each other’s new concepts and helping to achieve the perfect results. We like to think of our lab as a ‘playroom’ because that’s essentially what it is – it’s where we mix, cook, invent, pre-batch and create. Without this, there would be no way for our ideas to become a reality so it’s really valuable to us.
How many cocktails have you invented? Where does your inspiration come from?
There isn’t an exact number for that because behind every recipe is team effort. When I am looking for inspiration for a new recipe, I start by searching for ingredients that will give new tastes and flavours. I use cookbooks a lot for a source of inspiration because that’s essentially what we do, we ‘cook’.
Do the cocktails at The Clumsies take inspiration from Greek ingredients, or other ingredients from around the world?
Our cocktails are made mostly with Greek ingredients and products because we love to support our local culture and flavours. We also use some ingredients from around the world, but we always keep it Greek by putting a spin on it. For example, we have a cocktail that tastes like a Greek Salad – isn’t that amazing?!
The Clumsies Aegean Negroni was voted TimeOut’s best cocktail in the world in 2019. What do you think makes it so special?
When we eat and drink, it’s not only taste that’s involved in the experience, it’s all of the senses so we always keep that in mind when we design our drinks. The first thing that makes our Aegean Negroni so special is its colour. From the moment it’s served to you, you can see that it is blue like the sea. Next of course, is the taste. We use Greek herbs which make the drink botanical and unique (and give it a fresh scent). And of course, beyond the ingredients – it’s our expert techniques that bring the magic together.
When you’re not working, what’s your favourite thing to do in Athens that you would recommend?
Athens offers everything you need for a day of exploring. I love to walk around the city centre and find new places – especially restaurants or bars where I can be inspired by unique tastes. The food and beverage industry in the city has reached a peak level these days so it’s an amazing place to try new things.
When you’re not enjoying your own cocktails, what are your favourite local places for food and drink?
Baba Au Rum, Barreldier, Frater and Soror, Kyrios and Lot51 are my top choices for coffee and drinks in the city centre. For food, I would recommend Odori, Ergon House, Fita, CTC, Oinocent – all of which are also in the city centre.
Have you travelled a lot outside of Greece? Have you ever come across another cocktail, or another cocktail bar in a different country that you loved? We’d love to know!
I have travelled around Europe and India so far but would love to travel more and further as I do consider myself a real explorer. In Mumbai, I loved The Bombay Canteen and in Kiev, Barman Dictat, Loggerhead and Parovoz are all amazing bars. In London, the list is so long but I will stick to my top 3; “Bar Swift”, “Three Sheets” and “Termini Bar”.
Why is The Clumsies such a special, unique place? How does it fit in to the culture of Athens, and of Greece?
The Clumsies is an urban, speakeasy-style bar in the heart of Athens. Our unique and innovative character and playful approach to spirits and drinks put it at the top of a lot of visitor’s lists. We love that we appeal to people from across the globe and are proud of how we stay true to Greek Athenian culture by championing and using local ingredients while also paving the way for a new wave of Greek culture in the local food and beverage industry.