How Alissa Gabriel made the Scandi-inspired Mjølner cocktail list

Alissa Gabriel, bar manager at Mjølner Sydney. Photo: Alana Dimou

Alissa Gabriel has unleashed her vision on the list at the Sydney outpost of the viking-inspired bar and eatery — here’s how she did it

Sydney bar and restaurant, Mjølner, is a little over a year and a half old, and things have been going well for the viking-inspired venue. The early success of Mjølner encouraged them to open a second outpost of the venue in Melbourne, which opened earlier in 2018, and bar manager of the Sydney operation Alissa Gabriel has just released their first major update to the cocktail list.

Gabriel, who has been on board with the venue since its June 2017 opening, has switched the focus on Scandinavian ingredients from the previous menu to ingredients that the seafaring vikings of yore would have encountered on their travels, she says, which has opened up new frontiers for the list to explore.

“It let me explore some strange flavour combinations and discover some amazing ingredients, like Schisnadra Berry (used in the Voyger) – also known as the five spice berry.”

Gabriel’s drinks have also drawn inspiration from Scandinavian design. “I find [Scandinavian design] to be quite textural, and wanted to explore these aspects in each of our new 10 cocktails,” she says.

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Below, Gabriel shares her advice on how to create a cocktail list; to get a look at the drinks she has brought to the list, take a look at the menu here.

How long was the menu in development? What were the challenges you faced along the way?
When opening Mjølner, we had such a strong concept, design and motivation for direction, but the character of the venue develops over time. In the development stage, we fell into the swing of things and were coming up with new ideas and improvements with every service. I had so many drink concepts in my head, and the strong Norse mythology, as well as Scandinavian culture, was always at the forefront of my mind. So when we decided to start the process of changing the cocktails in July, I had my notebook filled to the brim with sketches, names, flavours and ideas.

We definitely would have liked to change up the drinks sooner however with the wave of the Qantas video that went viral with over 17 million views, and then with the new addition to the Speakeasy clan Mjølner Melbourne, we pinned the new menu launch later in 2018 aligning with the new spirit contacts across the group.

As part of the Speakeasy group we are known for the extravagant serves and theatre in every drink. Sourcing some of the bespoke glassware was one of the greatest challenges along the way, not your run of the mill glassware, some of the delivery times took up to a month and other vessels were hand crafted for us.

The drinks look quite intricate — how do you go about minimising the prep time?
Although the drinks are quite intricate, they were all created to make prep as easy as possible, before and during service. Obviously knowing the venue’s style, the equipment available and the time you have during the week, those are all things that I thought about while creating each ingredient and cocktail.

One ingredient for the Blood Thirsty (our spin off a Bloody Mary) is a tomato consommé. I must have trialled four or five different methods to find the one that was the simplest, quickest and best flavour-wise… it just happened that the easiest way yielded the most quantity and richest flavour. Saying that, the ingredients may read exotic on the menu however when making them they are quite accessible for new staff, once they learn the technique behind them.

Can you give us an idea of how you approached the menu, from the concept through the trial and error, to the final product?
When I approach creating a new cocktail or in this case a whole menu, the creative part has never been a challenge for me — I just need to channel it in the right direction. I generally create a multitude of different boxes to tick off to keep the menu balanced; these usually include spirits, style and flavour profiles, it really helps to ensure that there is a drink on the menu for everyone.

It has really been a fantastic project for me, it’s my first cocktail list start to finish. Creating a cocktail is one thing but looking at the bigger picture and working closely with everybody in the venue to make a collection of drinks that all the staff could be excited about and take our guests on a journey was one of the most rewarding things. I can’t tell you how many times during the research and development, I would walk up to every staff member with a spoonful of something and ask them to taste it. I would take every person’s different palate and opinion onboard, so when we finally did the full menu tasting everybody on the team felt they had been part of the menu creation.

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