Angelos Bafas

Bar General Manager of SOMA in London, the first bar from Indian restaurant group Kricket, Angelos Bafas has quickly gained an impressive reputation in the industry. Originally from Greece, he first developed a passion for bartending when he was asked to help out behind the bar in a local restaurant in his hometown.

After that, he worked at bars in Greece as well as in Frankfurt before moving to London where he spent time bartending at Aqua at The Shard and 10 Degrees Bar at Galvin at Windows, before the opportunity at SOMA arose.

Despite his success so far, his humble attitude to the art of cocktail making is immediately apparent –

‘I don’t refer to myself as a mixologist because I think that term has become overused, so I just like to call myself a bartender. I am from Greece and I started out in hospitality quite young, at about 14 years of age. My career began with collecting glasses – I think that is the level it starts for most people, right at the bottom!’

Angelos quickly gained a love for the job and he was determined to refine his knowledge. Nowadays, his yearning to make showstopping cocktails sees him making his own ingredients such as powders and cordials, but even at the start of his career when he was serving more classic cocktails, he yearned to be more creative –

‘In 2009 I took my first real job as a bartender in northern Greece. I found it very easy, because they had a certain style of service – I was making simple cocktails like strawberry daquiris and mojitos. I wanted to see how far I could go creatively and how much I could achieve. I instantly had a passion for bartending!’

His quest to become one of the best in the business saw him seize the opportunity to move to Frankfurt where he worked at the bar Hunky Dory, but he confesses he found it a little difficult to adapt to life there –

‘ I spent time working in Frankfurt because a great opportunity came up there, but I found it hard because I was surprised how expensive it is as a city and I struggled to adapt. I could not find synergy with it, so I decided to go back to Greece and start working on plans with some friends of mine for how we could open our own bars, but then the offer came up to move to London and it only took me a split second to accept – London is like the Hollywood of bartending after all!’

His move to London saw him working at prestigious establishments such as Aqua at The Shard and Galvin at Windows and he confesses that he found it interesting working in such high – end establishments –

‘the vibe at that kind of place is very different than the atmosphere of a bar in Greece because the people you serve have very high standards and they are used to being treated differently, so you experience many different personalities and it takes some time to adapt to that level of service.’

During the course of his career so far, his passion for creating exceptional drinks has never waned and along the way he has evolved his craft. Now, Angelos has a zero – waste and minimalist approach to cocktail making and he also has a love for foraging –

‘I find the inspiration for a cocktail can come from anywhere, from everyday life, a flower you might see in the garden or even a movie. There are lots of sources of inspiration and making cocktails is I guess similar to the approach an artist would have to painting – you have to be in the mood to paint.’

Over the years Angelos has already received plenty of recognition as well as awards – in 2018 for example, he was named one of the top five bartenders in the world, so we discuss what awards mean to him –

‘one hundred percent, it means a lot to gain the recognition of winning or being nominated for awards – but as a bartender I always say, the biggest award is collecting empty glasses. When I see empty glasses, I know the customer has enjoyed the cocktail and that is the most rewarding feeling.’

Angelos certainly loves the world of hospitality and he is eager to emphasise to people who are exploring the idea of a career in the industry, that it offers an abundance of opportunities –

‘you must enjoy what you do, because that is the most important aspect of work – if you do not enjoy what you do then you will not find it easy to succeed. You have to be determined going into the industry and willing to make sacrifices, but if you work for it then you will get there. Long hours are the only downside of the job, it can be difficult to see your partner or friends, because often they work at different times to you – but there are so many good things about the job such as meeting interesting people and limitless opportunities’

We round things off by speaking about SOMA and Angelos is clearly delighted to be involved in the first bar from Kricket and he also outlines his future aspirations –

‘I am a minimalist in life in general and I reflect that in my style of bartending. I am thrilled to be part of SOMA because it is such a great opportunity and the concept aligns with my own philosophy. When I first saw the space I was excited and the guys from Kricket have been so dedicated to the project from the very beginning, there was so much anticipation and energy ahead of opening. We are really focused on people, our opening night was so busy and the reaction has been great so far. I have plenty of ideas for the future, but my main focus for now is SOMA. I would love to open my own bar one day, but I am a firm believer in doing things when the time is right.’

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