Jonathan Holmberg: Creating Cocktails at Kuori

Words by Roos Hekkens; Photos by Joonas Mäkivirta
PEOPLE OF TKU

Turku is a vibrant city with many attractive venues to visit and places to see. But it is people that drive this city’s special cultural life. CC:TKU gets to know some of the people who live and work here.

GOOD TO KNOW

Kuori- Food & Wine can be found at Hameenkatu 8 or online at:
ravintolakuori.fi

Opening hours:
Monday 11.00–15.00
Tuesday – Thursday 11.00-15.00 & 17.00–22.00
Friday 11.00–15.00 & 17.00–23.00
Saturday 10.00-14.00 & 17.00–23.00
Sunday 10.00-15.00

Food and drinks often go hand-in-hand, and at Kuori – Food & Wine there is much thought put into the drinks that complement their all-vegetarian menu. Jonathan Holmberg is the bartender who creates their unconventional cocktail list. The drinks are a mix of craftsmanship and personal inspiration, and it’s all about creating a remarkable taste experience for the customers. With the right balance between creative freedom and collaboration with the kitchen flavours, Jonathan invents drinks that are simultaneously simple but surprising, fancy but without foolishness.

How did you find yourself in this job?

I have been working in bars and restaurants since I was 15 years old. First as summer jobs, but eventually it became fulltime after my studies. At the same time as I was working, I did a degree in professional bartending and got the bar master title.
What I like about this job is that you get to be creative, and at the same time you still make something that has a physical purpose for the customer. And it will always be a personal experience as well, because the drinks differentiate ever so slightly, which makes every single cocktail unique.
Then when you have created the cocktails it’s about the art of making them and adding your flair in preparing them at the bar. When you find the perfect moves, it’s like performing a dance, if you do it well.

What do you enjoy about your workplace?

Working at Kuori challenges me, because we are a vegetarian restaurant and I want to make all of our cocktails vegan. I don’t want any animal products in my drinks, because there are superior alternatives.
I have creative freedom at Kuori, and even though it’s open to critique, the cocktails are my decisions to make in the end. I get to do what I want with the tools, equipment and staff I have.
At the same time our food is so all over the place- in a positive sense- that I have to adapt to flavours like chilli, many different spices and lots of fresh herbs, for example. Our kitchen has Finnish elements but also influences from Asian, North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, which allows me to play around and encourages me to be inventive.
I also limit myself. I don’t want to use too many ingredients, because I want to reduce my waste as much as possible. So we make everything ourselves and I try to use the same ingredients for different cocktails.

What makes Turku your place to live and work?

I was born here and I’ve spent most of my working life in Turku. There is the classic saying that you should go to Helsinki to be a real bartender. Because people there have more money, you can do more exclusive and fancy cocktails. But I think that you can put great venues in small places. And I really like the more casual restaurant culture in Turku. There is a little bit of a Punk Rock attitude in it, which I love.

How would you mix yourself into a cocktail?

Well I like to use tastes that I enjoyed myself when I was growing up. Ingredients such as rhubarb, cucumber and pineapple are interesting to use and different from the norm. I don’t want to take myself too seriously, and I just aim to create drinks that make you both taste something new and remind you of something familiar. So I think I would go for two spirits: the first one would probably be Jallu and the other one would be something fancy. Then there would be apples, cardamom, tonic and elderflower. I would muddle in the apples, preferably granny smith- something green and acidic. I would probably make a tonic and elderflower syrup and mix it with the boozes. Then top it up with a bit of lime juice and serve it with ice- crushed ice!
I have no idea what it would taste like, but now I should try it.

What are you looking forward to?

The Kuori summer menu. There will be a lot of watermelon, which I like a lot!
And then Food & Fun festival, because I think they are going to have the cocktail competition like they have every year, so that will be nice!

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