We spoke to Ivan Mandarić, Head Bartender at Aperitivo bar, one of the hottest bars in Zagreb right now which specialises in truly fabulous cocktails. He tells us what inspires him and gives us some insider tips on what’s new.
The Zagreb mixology scene gets better and more diverse each day, and there are more and more talented young bartenders. One of them is Ivan Mandarić whom you can meet behind the bar at Aperitivo. In this interview he tells us what inspires him when he creates new cocktails and what we can look forward to this Autumn in the Aperitivo bar.
Ivan Mandarić, Photo by Martin Hudak
ZIYP: When was the first time you stood behind a bar, and why did you decide to become a bartender?
Ivan: I first stood behind a bar in 2005 at my father’s restaurant on the coast. I did simple jobs like washing dishes, pouring beer and wine, making coffees and so on. The relationships with people, interactions with guests from all around the world are what inspired me to remain behind that special side of the bar.
ZIYP: Which skills are most important for a bartender?
Ivan: A bartender must be communicative, must not be shy, and must focus on the level of service they provide and the way in which they transfer their energy to the guests sitting in front of them at the bar. Of course, theoretical and practical knowledge are crucial for survival at the higher levels in this industry. Hospitality is a popular loanword among people working in tourism in Croatia and for me it really is the most important thing and a necessary condition for success.
ZIYP: What inspires you when you are creating new cocktails?
Ivan: It depends, sometimes it’s the theme of the drinks menu which I decide on myself or together with the team. Sometimes it’s simply a moment when an idea comes to me which I immediately try to recreate in a glass. Recently I have most often gained inspiration when I have tried to put together a cocktail with a base which I generally don’t drink (or rather I am not a fan of that particular alcoholic drink), and try to make that cocktail tasty and drinkable. That then means that I have done a good job.
Ivan Mandarić, Photo by Martin Hudak
ZIYP: Which ingredients do you most like to work with?
Ivan: Of base spirits, definitely rum and gin. But my favourite ingredients are different kinds of vermouth, Amaro, the popular Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, and of course the one and only Campari.
ZIYP: What is your favourite drink or cocktail?
Ivan: It very much depends on the season. In winter, my first choice is one of the greatest classics in the world of cocktails, Negroni, or in certain situations a glass of fuller-bodied red wine. In summer I most enjoy a good lager.
ZIYP: Where do you like to go for a drink in Zagreb when you have a free evening?
Ivan: Bartending is one of the few professions where the majority, and I mean the vast majority (at least 90%) unreservedly supports each other and sticks together at all costs, both at work and privately. Regardless of who works where, we are simply as one. For that reason, my favourite place is wherever I can find my bartending family.
ZIYP: Which cocktail in Aperitivo do you most enjoy making?
Ivan: Of the legendary classics, definitely a Dry Martini, which you really have to know how to make because it’s a very tricky cocktail to make properly. I have many signature cocktails, but there is one I am particularly proud of. It’s a combination of Amaro Montenegro, Campari and Prosecco. I named it Volta after the famous Italian physicist.
ZIYP: Which drinks do you recommend we definitely try in the Aperitivo bar?
Ivan: Cocktails, of course. We are very proud of all of them.
ZIYP: What’s new at Aperitivo bar this autumn?
Ivan: This autumn we are changing our strategy and positioning Aperitivo as THE place for socialising after work and for nights out from Wednesday to Saturday. With excellent cocktails from the signature cocktail menu, a wide range of drinks in the bar and live music and DJs at weekends, autumn at Aperitivo is definitely not to be missed!
Croatian Modern Classic 2018
A new drinks competition for this Autumn
Kruno Rozić and Ivan Mandarić
ZIYP: Ivan, could you please tell us a little about the competition?
Ivan: It’s a project started by my dear colleague, one of the best Croatian bartenders, Kruno Rozić, and me. We had the idea of a competition without home-made ingredients, i.e. infusions, syrups, bitters or other home made products. A cocktail must be simple and easy to replicate in any bar in Croatia, of course using ingredients which you can get hold of here. Kruno and I believe that blending ingredients exclusively from the retro bar is high mixology, which requires a good knowledge of alcoholic drinks. And finally, we love minimalism and want to promote that style among our colleagues.
ZIYP: Kruno, can you tell us more about the rules of the competition, when it will be and when we can taste the winner’s cocktails?
Kruno: Of course. The competition itself will be held on Monday 22 October in the wonderful space of the Aperitivo bar, and of course I would like to invite all cocktail enthusiasts to join us at this great event. As far as the rules are concerned, Ivan and I have been guided by all our shared positive and negative impressions from other competitions and have, I believe, created a competition format which is very clear and objective.
We have explained to competitors in the rules: which kinds of ingredients they cannot use, and that that all cocktails must be prepared in designated glasses to remove any focus on visually attractive decorations and back to what is important in our work – flavour. Our primary aim was bring together for the first time the best bartenders in Croatia who share the same aim: to improve their knowledge and promote the cocktail scene.
I also consider noteworthy that this project of ours is not sponsored by any alcoholic drinks companies (there are other competitions in Croatia which are), that is has been created by bartenders for bartenders and for that reason it does not limit competitors to any brand or any portfolio, but they are able to choose the ingredients which best suit them for their cocktails.
There are currently over 17 excellent bars which have agreed to be partners for this competition and we would like to thank them for their direct contributions to the main prize for the winner. That winner will be able to say that people can enjoy his or her creation in the best bars, hotels and restaurants all over Croatia, which, in our opinion, is more meaningful than any other currency.
As regards objective judging, I think it is fair to mention the people who will be joining Ivan and I as judges. They are Marijan Maksan, Mišel Posavac and Saša Lovrenščak, each of whom is a connoisseur and a legend on the Croatian cocktail scene.