METAXA 12 Stars, in collaboration with The Clumsies, the leading high-end bar of Athens, listed 7th best bar in the world, recently held a series of Masterclasses, Bar Takeovers & Guest Shifts around the country so that local bartenders could discover this one-of-a-kind amber spirit.
Bartenders and locals were able to experience first-hand the unique taste of Samos Muscat wines, aged wine distillates and Mediterranean botanicals that creates METAXA 12 Stars’ intense smoothness.
Vasilis Kyritsis, co-owner and award-winning bartender of The Clumsies revealed exclusive METAXA 12 Stars Signature Cocktails at various locations such as The Gresham & The Bowery in Brisbane, 1806 and Black Pearl in Melbourne and Grain Bar & Maybe Sammy in Sydney.
Local bartenders were able to get up close with one of the best in our industry and see what it takes to be a top world best bar and bartender whilst understanding and enjoying METAXA 12 Stars cocktails. “I wanted to show how METAXA 12 Stars is such a unique spirit because it can elevate an ordinary cocktail to an extraordinary one”, said Vasilis.
Exploring a little deeper into what the stars in METAXA 12 Stars mean – originally, the Stars grades were used by the Cognac makers to differentiate the quality of their products, starting with 3 Stars.
In 1888, the House of METAXA was inspired by Cognac makers and created its own 3 Stars. Although the Cognac makers evolved & invented with VS, VSOP, XO denominations their own classification, The House of METAXA has always used the Stars grade: from 3 to 5, 7 and more recently 12 Stars.
The stars grades are a universal language to indicate the level of complexity and indicate the number of blends of Muscat wines, aged wine distillates and old METAXAs. The more stars, the more different blends, the more complexity you will taste.
METAXA 12 Stars was created in 2011 by Constantinos Raptis, METAXA Master since 1992. He is only the 5th METAXA Master since the creation of the brand in 1888. It was time for Costas to showcase the METAXA style in a premium flagship expression. To do that, Costas chose 12 blends within his cellars. The result is a complex and distinctive METAXA style: METAXA 12 Stars. As the most iconic expression of the METAXA style, it has become the flagship of the House. At the House of METAXA, style is their legacy, not age statements. There is no average. For METAXA 12 Stars, the METAXA Master created a sequence of 12 blends of different ageing.\
We had an opportunity to talk with Vasilis and get an insight into his bartending journey, The Clumsies and the collaboration with METAXA. Most of all, we delved deeper into why METAXA 12 Stars is taking the cocktail world by storm. Here’s what Vasilis had to say.
How did you get involved in Bartending?
I started bartending at the age of 18 and I truly believed I would do this job for the rest of my life. I started working in clubs, whilst I studied nursery, but I never pursed it professionally. I stayed with bartending, initially for the social aspect of it, but soon I realized this job could be more professional. I started working with smaller bars, and explore with the flavours, new ingredients, and constantly tried to improve my cocktails. After a couple of years, I won the Diageo World Class Competition and went to Rio de Janeiro. It was a very important milestone for me because I met new people from different cultures, was exposed to new ideas. his job is all about connections with different people. After that I went to work at a leading gin bar in Athens called the Gin Joint, it’s one of the most legendary bars in Athens. There, along with the boss Dimitris, we did a lot of experimentation with the cocktails and we really improved our cocktail making skills. Soon after I applied to the Drink Factory in London and that opportunity gave me even more inspiration to experiment and customize cocktails even further.
Tell us how The Clumsies came about?
In 2014 we opened The Clumsies amidst an economic crisis. The name of the bar came about because we are clumsy people and we decided to turn our weakness into a positive. At the same time, it’s important for us that when you come to a bar and see clumsy people that it makes you feel comfortable with us and our bar. At the end of the day when you go to a bar you want to feel relaxed, so if you see perfect people or serious people behind the bar you might not feel as comfortable or connect with them as much. As Athens is an international destination, we want to connect with all our customers, Greeks and tourists. During the winter our clients are mostly locals but, in the summertime, we get many international customers.
How do you become a top 7 bar in the world?
We are very lucky and hard workers. In our first year we made the list we were no 22, 2nd year we were 9th, 3rd year we were 6th, 4th year 7th best bar and we will see what happens this year in October. There is no specific recipe to follow to be on the list of top bars in the world. We just try to be ourselves, and we work very hard. We try and make our clients feel happy, we don’t change our behaviour, we are who we are to high-end customers as well as regular customers and our family and friends. The key is to always be as true to yourself as you can and never change your behaviour for anyone. We invite people from outside of Greece to see what’s going on with the Athenian bar scene. Since the economic crisis there has been a boom, there are a lot of great new bars. We are proud of the bar scene in Athens, it become one of the ‘hotspots’ of Europe and globally.
How did the partnership between the Clumsies and METAXA come about?
METAXA has the same point of view as The Clumsies. It’s one of the best well known Greek spirits worldwide. It has a great history, everyone knows METAXA in Greece and Europe and now it is spreading world-wide. We also do a lot of global events and pop-ups and METAXA does the same so there are good synergies. On top of that METAXA is a complex, multi-layered spirit. The people behind METAXA are very open-minded people, we sit together at the table and discuss ideas and collaborations. In the last 2 years we did the collaboration EXPLORE GREECE, which was successful in promoting and educating bartenders about METAXA and also getting more people to try this superb and unique amber liquid.
What is unique about METAXA 12 Stars?
First of all, its METAXA 12 Stars, it’s not a cognac, it’s not a brandy, it’s in a category of its own. There is no other product on the market like METAXA 12 Stars. It’s a one of a kind amber spirit. ‘Amber’ is unique for me it means unique and very special. It doesn’t have the identity of a rum or a cognac. It has almost the same processes but there are very many different elements. The Muscat wines, the rose petals, the secret recipe of the botanicals and if you go to their distillery you will see they have many French barrels that are aged differently, and they do many experimental things. It’s very complex and unique tasting.
Why is METAXA 12 Stars so good in cocktails?
METAXA 12 Stars works so well because it keeps its identity when mixed with cocktails. For example, with a liqueur like Chartreuse you can taste the herbal-ness of Chartreuse in a cocktail because it tastes so unique. Similarly, with METAXA 12 Stars you can still taste it even if you mix it with 1 or more ingredients, which is very important for a cocktail.
What’s your favourite METAXA drink?
I really like the 12Stars Peaches, because I prefer refreshing type of drinks. It’s mixing METAXA 12 Stars, peach honey (Greek honey mixed with peach liqueur and a bit of water and salt), fresh lemon juice and topped up with tonic. Garnish with a grapefruit just finishes it off beautifully. It’s a simple build in order not to lose the flavours and its enjoyable.
What’s you’re all-time favourite drink?
I can’t give one cocktail because it depends on my mood, or where I am at, or who I am with, but usually I like the Bloody Mary. Especially these days with the different variations of Bloody Mary, I really enjoy this drink.
What do you think about the Australian bar scene?
I am really excited about the Australian bar scene and to be honest I only knew 2 bars in Melbourne & Sydney when I came here a few years ago for a Greek Festival in Melbourne.
Now that I have come here again after a few years, I have seen a huge explosion, I see a lot of new bars and very good bartenders. I like them because the Australian bartenders are very cool and very humble. I haven’t walked into a bar in Australia and felt that the bartenders were arrogant or unapproachable, in fact it was the opposite here and I really like that. The bars I did the bar takeovers on this trip were all amazing, they treated me so well and I saw that they also treat their customers so well too which is very important.
Australian bartenders are very competitive – what advise do you have for those who also want to make it in the top 10 bars in the world?
My advice is to be yourself. It’s a very common answer but it is the key. I always try to be myself with other professionals and I never change my mentality. Try to travel as much as you can because travel gives you so much more experience and meet new people, but not just new people in the industry, even outside the industry, you can get inspiration from anywhere if you look for it. Try and discover more cultures, try new cuisines because it’s like an educational program for you. At restaurants and fine dining restaurants you can experience different food pairings and combinations. Take that inspiration and adapt it to your cocktail making.
What is the one thing you would like Australian bartenders to remember?
I would like them to remember that you can get inspiration outside your industry, be open to new ideas outside of bartending, because sometimes they feel that to gain more inspiration they need to speak with more bartenders. For me, you need to keep your eyes open and communicate with people outside your industry, collaborate with baristas, chefs, fashion bloggers, designers. Keep your eyes and mind open because you might find inspiration in places where you least expect it. Have a more eclectic approach to where you can gain inspiration and experience. Don’t reject ideas, don’t say no, give the ideas time, work on them because you never know where that idea can take you.
Give us one word that describes METAXA 12 Stars.
Complexity. It’s a very complex spirit, it contains so many different flavours, sweetness, bitterness, you can taste the ageing factor, you can taste the rose petals and other botanicals. It’s like a cocktail.
Give us one word that describes your impression of Australia?
I really like the way bartenders work in their bars in Australia. You can see a lot of innovation here and bartenders working with new flavours as well as classic, traditional bars. It’s a good combination of classic and innovative bars, its balanced, it’s nice.
Contact one of our Spirits Platform Representative if you’d like to stock METAXA 12 Stars for your bar, venue or store.