Under the cloudless blue sky, by the tranquility Aegean Sea, this is Greece – cradle of western civilization. A nation full of culture, history, art and an unique creation called Metaxa.Created by Spyros Metaxa in 1888, the name Metaxa means silk in Greek which represents one of its unique character of smoothness.
To celebrate 130 years of Metaxa, Leo Robitschek – lead bartender from The NoMad bar, Nomad hotel, New York joins us for this special occasion and reveals five cocktails inspired by the land of warm sun, soft breeze and sanctuary aromas in a magical setting through the Cyclades.
COCKTAILS TAKING THE CULINARY EXPERIENCE TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Where do you usually get inspirations from creating new cocktails?
For us, it’s important for every cocktail to tell stories. All cocktails are definitely rooted on classics, but we’ve used a lot of modern ways, either kitchen techniques or ingredients to generate more flavors.
We really get inspired a lot by New York and four seasons, so we change menu 4 times a year for every season. For us, every drink should have sort of seasonality on it, either from the ingredients or memories.
For me, traveling definitely gives me a lot of inspirations. The roots of the culture, smell of aromas, tastes of food, desserts especially savory ones contribute to a lot of drinks I create.
What do you think of Metaxa and what are the stories behind the five drinks you created?
This is actually my 5th time in Greece, I absolutely love how this place awakens my senses in an unexpected way every time I visit. When first tasted the 12 Star Metaxa and learnt it’s story, I was very amazed by how smooth and intense the spirit was given its ingredients.
A lot of cocktails are culinary-driven and that’s inspired me to put the ingredients that reminds me of Greece to mix cocktails. Needless to say its unique combination of Muscat Wine and Mediterranean botanic extracts already give you many layers on its own. Metaxa is like a cocktail on its own and a magic ward for us bartenders to whip out as many diﬀerent receipts as we want.
Olive branch: Olive being the biggest export of Greece and one of the most iconic, this is one ingredient cannot be missed. Fine olive oil gives a great aroma even more smooth finish.
Karpouzi: Watermelon tasted so delicious and diﬀerent here than anywhere else in the world, I remember it was in almost everything I ate when I visited Mykonos for the first time. This is a refreshing long drink goes perfectly with the cool Mediterranean breeze.
Arni : Arni came alive when I wanted to create something with more body and texture so I used green tea yogurt, another huge part of everyday diet here.
Blistered in the sun: Peppers and passion fruit reminds me of flavors in Greece, Greek salads and fruit of summer. They really bring out the radiant summer sensations you get from being under the sun.
NYX: A variation I wanted to bring from our bar in Manhattan is NYX which also means the goddess of the night and a play in New York. Inspired by coﬀee beans to create a drink that is a little bit bitter and salty.
EVERY DRINK TELLS A STORY
As a bartender you must meet a lot of interesting people every day. Are
there any memorable stories?
Most people coming to Manhattan are excited about the culinary experience they are about to have and some of my best friends were actually made from people sitting across the bar. One of my signature drinks – The English Heat was indeed inspired by a regular at the NoMad bar. It was this English lady named Jane who came in one day and there was a heat stroke in New York, 37 degrees and she said: “it’s so hot, I want gin and I wanted it fast.” So I did a variant to Cosmos and added some spice to it, she absolutely loved it, so The English Heat was born, it was a drink for a British woman who was hot.
EVERYONE HAS AN IDOL
Who was your idol growing up? How have they shaped who you are now?
I played baseball most of the time when growing up, my step father is a professional baseball player who influenced me a lot. As adult, most inspirations come from the people I respect either musicians or chefs. Before college I had to make a choice between going to medical school or follow my passion, and I remember spending the whole weekend watching No Reservations, by Anthony Bourdain.
I basically fell in love with the whole idea of building experiences for people with food and really found nobility in what we do in this industry because none of us are performing brain surgery or saving lives but for at least a few hours of relax I can give people the experience they can always remember and share. Every time I watch his show not only would I be reinvigorated to eat or drink but just to continue explore which is also another reason for me to stay in this business.
Half an hour with Leo gave me an unique perspective into the life of a well acclaimed bartender, explorer of taste, enhancer of experiences. Just like Spyros Metaxa, a man with a dream to find unique aromas of his homeland and make them last forever in one taste.
——Exclusive interview with Leo Robitschek, by Clare