Athens: From the Rum Festival to the Bar Show

16 Dec. 2016
For a week, Athens was the beating heart of the cocktail community

With two bars in the World’s 50 Best Bars and countless others worthy of nomination, Athens is one of the most exciting cocktail cities in the world. Even small, discreet places seem to offer proper cocktail lists, so you can actually avoid the busiest establishments and still have fine drinks. The reasons behind this transformation are not clear, but the dynamism was certainly helped by initiatives such as the Athens Bar Show, first launched in 2010, and now the second biggest trade show in Europe, hot on the heels of Bar Convent Berlin. This year, it was joined by the first Athens Rum Festival, so the city was transformed into the cocktail capital for the week and BarNews was there to witness it!  
Athens Rum Festival: Just like Berlin, London or Paris, Athens now has a rum festival. The first edition was, logically, small scale, but drew a nice crowd, which is very promising for future years. Curated by our friend Thanos Prunarus from Baba au Rum, the Festival showcased rum in its beautiful diversity – including, of course, Havana Club with a booth built as a tribute to Floridita, serving Frozen Daiquiris and a selection of our rums. The conference hall hosted interesting talks by Smuggler Cove’s Martini Cate on tiki cocktail and Floating Rum Shack’s Peter Holland on how to introduce rum to non-experts. The varied program was rounded off by pop up bars run by Baba au Rum and newcomers Upupa Epops. We’re already looking forward to next year’s edition!  
Athens Bar Show: Organized in the spectacular Technopolis complex, an old gasworks from the 19th century reconverted almost 20 years ago into a museum and a cultural venue, this year’s Bar Show was the most successful so far. According to the organizer, a record-breaking number of visitors came, not just from all over Greece but also from abroad. Unlike Berlin, Athens’ not yet the place where international brands come to launch new products but it doesn’t matter: it’s probably the most enjoyable bar show in Europe. The fantastic weather, helps, of course: Technopolis consists of a multitude of small exhibition halls, so you spend a lot of time basking in the sun between talks or on your way from one hall to the other. The crowd’s enthusiasm is also communicative and reconnecting with friends from all over is obviously much more enjoyable under such circumstances than, say, under the rain of Berlin.  In terms of seminar, this year’s program was filled with interesting talks, and most of them took place in front of a packed house. Havana Club Global Brand Ambassador Meimi Sanchez gave her ‘How to Open a Bar in Havana’ talk with Scotty Schuder while Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller devised on simplicity in cocktails and bars. We also found time to listen to Leonardo Leuci tell us about his latest project, La Punta, a bar focused on Mexican spirits, but this was just a fraction of the overall program.  

Some might say the most exciting thing about both events is that you’re able to have great souvlaki and cocktails with a view on the Acropolis afterwards. And that’s part of the charm. But most of all, they underline the impact the Greek cocktail scene has on the world. This, we hope, will only grow with the help of another Thanos Prunarus initiative: Fine Magazine. This beautiful looking ‘Journal About the Art of Fine Drinking’ was launched last summer with an eye both on Greece and the international scene. It’s bilingual (Greek / English) and the writers come from all over the world. With a focus on great storytelling and collaborations with top-notch illustrators, Fine has got the capacity to seduce both the professional and the amateur of the good things in life.