Georgi Petrov started behind the bar back in 1995. In the last 20+ years, Georgi has been working as a mixologist & bartender, and he loves every single minute of it. Passionate about inspiring others, “the biggest reward for me will be to know that I help you find inspiration to start making cocktails”, says Georgi. Meet the person behind the well-known Just shake or Stir.
1. What made you want to focus on the drinks industry, and who is the person that inspired you the most?
I started behind the bar in 1995 as a seasonal job, and I quickly realised that was something I would like to do for a living. After getting involved with Bulgarian Bar Association and start competing, I had the pleasure of meeting with many great bartenders. In 2001 I attended a training and met Philip Duff for the first time. I guess he was the person that inspired me the most at this stage of my career. Over the years, I met many other people from the industry who left a mark on my journey in this fantastic industry.
2. You are the founder of one of the most inspirational and dynamic platforms in the drinks industry, the Just Shake or Stir, where you share your immense knowledge and passion about the cocktail making craft. Being an online guru, how is the pandemic affecting you?
I guess everyone was affected at some level by the pandemic. I think for me, it was the turning point of expanding Just Shake or Stir to a broader audience. With many people locked at home, I decided to start a YouTube channel and redesign my website to a better user experience. I think being able to share cocktail recipes with videos make a huge difference. We must understand that each online platform has its audience. Most of my Instagram followers probably do not watch YouTube, and my YouTube audience probably don’t visit Instagram. So, sharing with more people gives me the option to stay busy and the joy of making everyone life a little be easier during the pandemic.
3. Via your communication platforms: Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and website, you are a true Libbey Ambassador; you chose Libbey glasses many times and highlighted all their characteristics. You have made an amazing contribution to the Modern Vintage Leaflet, presenting the exotic HEMP SUMMER in Libbey’s Pinnacle Beverage. We are thrilled to have you as a partner. How do you see these interactions?
I begin to express how grateful I am to everyone who supported me and keeps supporting Just Shake or Stir. Libbey Glasses allow me to use excellent glassware for presenting my cocktails. The glass (or a vessel as we call it in the industry) plays a significant part in any cocktail serving experience. Having the support from Libbey Glasses, it’s been an essential factor. Choosing high-quality glassware played a significant role in helping the cocktail presentation on every online platform I share my recipes.
4. Which cocktail (you created) are you most proud of?
I am proud of all of my creations. It is a boring answer, but I put in a lot of work when creating recipes from scratch, and I love them all. It is hard to pick just one. I love the Pink Panda, Ananas Highball, Black Brew, and my recent recipe winning week 4 of the Cognac Bartender Contest called Figue Mûre.
5. What is your favourite glass shape to drink from? And Why?
I love simple 3 to 4 ingredients cocktails that highlight the flavours and are more spirit-based. My top choice always will be Nick & Nora and Old-Fashioned glass. Most of them are served straight up or over ice, and these two glasses are the perfect vessel.
6. Why is the glass important for a drink?
You can serve the best cocktail in the wrong glass and destroy it. Simple as that. Imagine doing a Dry Martini in a Highball glass or Cosmopolitan in an Old Fashioned glass. The glassware is vital as a presentation but also as a drinking experience. As humans, we process most of the information first through our eyes, following by sound, smell and taste. When you get served a dish or a cocktail on the wrong plate or glass your eyes send a signal to the brain, and you already start hating what you see. Even before you try it, you have a negative expectation. So, the glass can make or break your cocktail. No matter how good it tastes.
7. What is your favourite Libbey glass? Do you go for sturdy or elegant?
Most of the times, I go for a sturdy glass. I don’t know why. It probably has something to do with me being behind the bar for over 20 years and always using a sturdy glass to ensure it is safe and easy to work when the bar is full. Or maybe because I love to feel the glass in my hand. With that said, I do love elegant glasses and as I mentioned in the previous question about the importance of the glass. Some cocktails call for sleek glass, and you can’t ignore it.
8. What do you think the next big trend in the drinks industry will be?
It is hard to say at this time, but if I have to say from my point of view, I think the Cold Brew Liqueurs and Coffee Infused spirits are becoming very trendy. After a massive Gin trend, we have seen Tequila and Rum making their way up to the top alongside Mezcal. Again, It’s my personal opinion, but I think low ABV is growing fast, and I see a massive increase in Vermouth, Amaro and the Cold Brew category.
9. What will be the one major change in the hospitality?
I think the customer experience will go up to the roof. I am not saying it wasn’t there before, but now it is our job as bartenders, waiters, and hospitality to make everyone feel better and have a good time after extended lockdowns. People are exhausted from being isolated, and we have to give them a sense of safety and a fantastic time. Many places have to shut their doors forever, which will affect how hospitality operates in the feature of reinventing some of the rules and practices.
10. What can be an awesome invention that will emerge in hospitality from this crisis?
Robots already took over the bars on some cruise ships, but I am not sure I like it. Every incredible invention I can think of do not include people as hospitality staff. I am not sure I like the idea of not having the interaction bartender-customer. But I think a modernised working space and better stations is highly possible.
11. What can we expect from you from now in terms of projects, new challenges?
I start a podcast Behind the bottle, but it didn’t go well. However, I am keeping the option of expanding with a new series on YouTube and podcasts. The idea is to visit distilleries and film the people behind the bottle. I want to show the craft of how everything is made and what it takes before you grab your favourite bottle from the shelf. Also, I want to start a podcast and hopefully invite exciting guests to talk things about life and drinks in an open conversation like you do when you visit a bar.
12. Which tips can you give to other bartenders and bar owners to prepare for the future?
I will keep it simple. Otherwise, this could lead to an all-new conversation.
To my fellow bartenders - be patient, be kind and smile with your eyes. Give people a chance to recover and make them feel safe. We all had to go through a hard time, so don’t forget that.
To all bar owners - be there for your staff and support 100%. Your staff is the heart and the engine of your bar. Give them the chance to recover, get involved, have their backs and make them feel like part of the family.