The Live Naked Experience: Bar Swap is our brand new global competition that brings together some of the world’s best bartenders for a unique exploration of cultures, creativity and cocktails.
To kick things off, we set bartenders a challenge to create an ‘Unconventional Naked Sour’, which they’ll then present to a panel of judges at a thrilling finale event.
At this event, they'll also take part in the Mystery Box Challenge, which asks bartenders to create two drinks from random ingredients found inside a mystery box.
One regional champion is then crowned, with the victorious bartenders winning an incredible cultural immersion experience, swapping bars with other winners around the world 👌.
The first region to compete was the Nordics, which was won by Stockholm-based A Bar Called Gemma. We sat down for a chat with Johan Evers, owner of A Bar Called Gemma, who together with Head Bartender Oscar Drigoris wowed the judges with their Unconventional Naked Sour and Mystery Box challenge 🏆👏.
So Johan, congratulations! Tell us about ‘Wheys of the Sun’ your winning Unconventional Naked Sour.
We had a clear plan from the start. We knew we wanted to use lemon as an acidity. We wanted to make a serve that could be created in any bar. And lastly, we wanted Gemma’s DNA to shine through.
Then we started thinking, a whisky sour is a lot about texture. How could we create a creamier, gooier texture? And that’s when I said right, let’s make a Scotch milk punch, which we’ll then turn into a Scotch whisky sour. At this point, people were looking at me like noooo, here he goes again! But we tried it, and it worked. We then needed fruit, so we infused the Scotch milk punch with plums. That was the first step.
Then we thought, something that all bars in the world have is wine. Sometimes it goes off, but you can still use it. After we’d pressed the lemons, we took the husks and put them into oxidised wine. We then turned that into a syrup, by adding sugar and a little honey.
So now we had our whisky, sugar and lemon juice components, the 3 key things that make up any sour. Then, because of Naked’s sherry notes, we added a touch of Fino Sherry, which made it even better.
But we didn’t stop there. We were serving so much burrata in the bar and just throwing the water away, so we thought, why not try do something with that? We put the water inside, shook it up and it worked! From that day on, we only use burrata water in our sours. It has no smell, no taste, but the texture is phenomenal.
And that’s how we made The Wheys of the Sun. It’s now the whisky sour that we serve here, everyone seems to love it. I really enjoy watching people’s reactions when they drink it.
How was the finale event?
The venue was sick, we were on a boat! It was a beautiful day in the fall, the sun was shining, we were sailing around in the beginning of the Archipelago. It was amazing, such a good vibe.
There was a bar with a table in front where the judges were sitting, and we were told we could present our sour however we wanted. It’s a huge strength of the competition, everyone is given the freedom to do it their way.
We came with a basket of ingredients and left with none. We started off by serving the judges tomato with burrata, then went on to use the water in our serve. The judges even got a little marmalade to take away, made from the plums and the zest of the lemon. It was a lot of fun, and really showed how we work at Gemma. We always try to waste as little as possible.
How did you find the Mystery Box Challenge?
I was like a kid in a candy store. There were two stations full of ingredients, and we were told we had 10 minutes to make something short and fruity and something long and refreshing. Then they counted down from 3 and we were off, hearts racing.
Oscar and I decided from the start we were going to focus on one serve each. I completely trust him and he completely trusts me. I think that’s so important. I played it quite safe, but Oscar did something incredible. It was such a nice drink. Phenomenal. I think that’s what set us apart.
They announced the winner later on the boat, I remember Oscar running towards me and hugging me. It was a great moment.
How did this journey begin? What led to the opening of A Bar Called Gemma?
Ever since I started out in this industry at 17, I’ve been surrounded by amazingly talented people. I’ve been constantly asking questions, taking it all in and creating my own DNA and philosophy.
About 8 years ago, I realised I needed to open up my own bar. I just knew it was something I had to do. And so I started to develop A Bar Called Gemma in my head.
I gave myself lots of time, it was important to get it right. But I soon realised that the perfect time, the perfect venue, these things don’t exist. There comes a time when you’ve just got to say let’s go, let’s do this. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You might lose some money, but at least you tried. That’s the way I was thinking.
So we opened our doors in May 2019, and I’m so proud of what we’ve done so far.
You’re not even 3 years in and you placed in the top 100 bars list this year. How did that feel?
Just hearing those words is pretty amazing. Everyone that’s heavily invested in this industry dreams about making the list. It’s recognition that what you’re doing is good.
We didn’t set out with the intention of winning prizes or making lists. We set out to create something to be proud of, somewhere that people would enjoy spending their time.
That people want to travel here from all over the world, to this little 36 seat bar, is super cool. And if it leads to awards, then even better!
And finally, what’s next for A Bar Called Gemma?
2022 has a lot in store for us. We’re going through quite a big change at the company, which is very exciting. All will be revealed soon, but it’s super cool.
Other than that, we’ve got a few international guest shifts this year, with some big players coming over which we’re looking forward to.
The new menu is also being constructed now, so I can’t wait for the rest of 2022. Hopefully we can give people a better year than the last few!
We’re definitely not slowing down, anyway. In fact, it feels like we’re just getting started.
Thanks Johan! Check out Johan and Oscar’s Sour Tape below for more on their journey and their incredible Unconventional Naked Sour 👇
You can follow Johan and Oscar on Instagram (@johan_evers and @drigoris) and keep up to date with everything at A Bar Called Gemma here 👉@abarcalledgemma.
If you’re in Stockholm, make sure you try the Wheys of the Sun, and keep your eyes peeled for the other competing region competitions, coming soon... 👀
The Naked Team