Head Bartender @ Swanky Monkey Garden
ZIYP: Please tell us a little about yourself, who is Filip Lipnik and what do you do?
Filip: I have been doing this job for 16 years now, and I do it purely out of love. When I started working I had to teach myself and I really had to love the job. There was no YouTube, you couldn’t find out stuff on the Internet. My professional aim was always to find work in bars and cafés which had good bar staff so that I could learn from them on the job. The first bar in which I started to work with cocktails professionally was Papaya in Zagreb’s Šalata neighbourhood. There I worked as a waiter outdoors, I would do my morning shift, go home and grab something to eat and go back in the evening so that I could watch the bartenders making cocktails, and that was brilliant for me. When after a month and a half one of the barmen suggested I get behind the bar and make a cocktail it was as if I was given the whole world. And I fell in love with cocktails, I was inspired and carried on educating myself in the well-known bars, it was important to me to learn as much as I could because you could not do it anywhere else. And later I realised that I would love to pass on what I learned to the younger generations, together with my love for this work, and today I can say I am most proud of the kids who graduate from the school I teach in and who can go on to progress in that work.
ZIYP: When did you first get behind the bar, when did you decide to become a bartender?
Filip: I first got behind a bar in 2004 and in 2005 I started working as a some kind of bartender, but I always say that you only become a real bartender after 5-6 years of working behind the bar.
ZIYP: Can you describe a typical evening in Swanky Monkey Garden?
Filip: My evening actually begins at 4 pm. I personally think that a bartender is responsible for the whole bar, from checking the menus which are on the tables to checking that everything is clean and that the atmosphere is OK (I’m thinking about lighting and music here). After that comes the work behind the bar which consists of taking care of the ingredients, the drinks and syrups which are important for that day. You make sure the bar and the glasses are clean; it’s important that the fruit is washed and cut the right way. Preparation before work starts is important in any job, but especially in this job preparation is 90% of the work. So the bartender is the person who, in my opinion, must work the hardest and must lead the rest of the staff. Everything must be in its place; when we finish preparing the ingredients and drinks we have to check the upper work station; I consider that when you come here you look at that bar as if it is a big stage, and we are the actors performing. So everything from the look of the front of the bar itself, behind the bar and the cocktails themselves must be ready for work to start.
ZIYP: What inspires you when you are creating a new cocktail? What is unique about the way you create cocktails?
Filip: When I was younger I was inspired by all sorts of things, they inspired me to be better than the rest, to use some things which others maybe didn’t use. Today that has remained my true love, as I look forward to it regardless of whether I am cutting fruit or making a cocktail. I have a style of my own which is quite unusual, I wear an English cap and apron or waistcoat, my style is inspired by British drama series Peaky Blinders, as our menu is also named Fakin’ Blinders. Each bartender has their own way of making cocktails, I’m the sweet guy so my cocktails are quite sweet. Of course we have to combine our differences, there has to be bitterness and everything, but I’m quite well known among bartenders as the sweet guy. As for techniques, I often use certain flourishes so I take out the bottles in a certain way, pour the drinks in a special way. These are some of the main elements
ZIYP: Apart from Swanky Monkey Garden which is your favourite bar?
Filip: Kultura Bar in Belgrade is perhaps my favourite, and after that comes Druid Bar in Belgrade, that’s a speakeasy bar, there is no sign outside but a lamp that is lit with a green light when it’s open and a red light when it’s closed. In Zagreb the Dežman Mini Bar is for me the best Croatian cocktail bar, I’m really proud of the lads that work there. Globally, there’s the American Bar in London, that bar has so much culture, it’s great to sit inside and know that Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe sat there, and today that bar still gets voted best bar in the world.
ZIYP: What makes Swanky Monkey Garden special?
Filip: Craziness, we are a bar which has two segments. First of all we want to be a bit offbeat, but alongside all the jokes and good vibes which Swanky Monkey Garden offers we want everything that is served to guests to be absolutely professional. From the glasses and décor to the ingredients we want that everything is on a professional level. Swanky is also one of the rare bars where we 100% guarantee that a certain quantity of ingredients goes into each cocktail, there is no free pouring, we do everything the old school way. With the menus, this summer once again we’ll have themes. Each menu has its own story which is connected to our styling, the details in the bar and the events we organise. This time we’ve done that with a Fakin’ Blinders menu, the whole menu is inspired by the characters from Peaky Blinders, we’re really proud of it. It’s very important in Swanky that the theme runs through the whole bar, and our interaction with guests is very important so we can speak with them about it.
ZIYP: Where do you like to go out when you have an evening off?
Filip: Because I have worked in this job for a long time and mostly work at weekends I don’t go out in the evenings much, I usually spend the day outside on Sljeme. And when I do get the chance to go out in the evening it would be, as I’ve already mentioned, Dežman Mini Bar in Zagreb, where I always like to go for a drink, and when I have more free time, when I’m on holiday, then I like to visit Kultura Bar and Druid Bar in Belgrade.