#CHOUFIMAFITOUR WITH ALEX KRATENA AND MONICA BERG
Alex Kratena, former head bartender of Artesian bar, Langham hotel in London, (his cocktails won the 2011 ‘Bartender’s Oscar’ – World’s Best Cocktail Menu at the competition held in New Orleans, USA) and Monica Berg, international celebrity bartender and finalist in 2013’s World Class Competition for Diageo, toured Lebanon on the #Choufimafitour ('what's up') organized by Bacardi and brand amabssador Varia Dellalian. The experts picked products from Zahle, Ferzol, Kefraya, Baalbak, Cedars, Bchare, and Beirut and used them in unique cocktails created as a tribute to the country. Products included tahini, karoub, arak, melon seed, and ayran, among others. The names of the drinks were inspired by the Lebanese lexica, including ‘Cedars of God’, ‘Stuck in Traffic’, and ‘No Electricity’.
The duo also conducted a seminar gathering top bartenders in the city at Central Station in Beirut. Assessing the Lebanese bar industry, Kratena said that listing Central Station as number 26 out of the best 50 bars in the world reflects the industy's position on a global scale. “The culture and cocktail movement has grown remarkably. In Zahle, which is considered a village, we enjoyed cocktails that were incredible!” According to Berg, the Lebanese palate is quite developed. “It is very frequent that you visit global cocktail cities like New York or Paris, and you do not find a palate as clean.” She explained that the French palate is sweet, whereas the Nordic one is very strong. She continued: “The Lebanese palate is very balanced. Even if you do not like the flavors, it is balanced and has a great composition. Cocktails are one of the culinary disciplines. It is pretty much like cooking, but instead of positive temperatures, you use negative ones.”
Kratena stressed the importance of using local ingredients and herbs when making cocktails and the importance of sustainability. “Altruistic innovation and sharing knowledge, recycling to respect the environment, and focusing more on quality are all hot topics in the industry nowadays," he said. “It is very important to create a genuine brand and cocktail, a signature style, rather than following trends. Act rather than react.”