Alexandra was born in 1989 in Budapest, as her father—a member of the army—was positioned in Hungary at the time. She spent her first four years there and in Germany, after which the family moved back to Minsk. Later on, she went to university to study tourism management. This was not her original plan though. Alexandra had wanted to become a professional dancer, with gymnastics being her big passion. But that came to an abrupt end, when she injured herself before entering university. Tourism was somewhat of a plan B. While studying, she started to work in a restaurant and met the bartenders working there. They and their skills instantly fascinated Alexandra, and she decided she wanted to become a bartender after this encounter. After her dreams to be a professional dancer were shattered, she saw bartending as a viable alternative, since in her eyes bartenders are also artists in their field. . Alexandra has an older sister and is part of a triplet—with four girls in the family and the father constantly abroad, she had learned early on to be strong and develop a sense of what she wanted to achieve in life Because she was a woman, however, nobody took her seriously at first, not even her parents. During her studies, she took the liberty to attend a bartending school in Kiev called Planet of Z, since no such school existed in Belarus.
Becoming a bartender was a big challenge, as it was considered an all-male profession. And yet, when Alexandra came back from the Kiev bartending school in 2009, she interviewed in a new venue called ID Bar in Minsk and they took her on immediately. She stayed for roughly two years and afterwards worked in various different places, such as Heroes and Insomnia. After finishing her studies, she decided she wanted to stay in the bar world. Her parents were still not in favor of it, but she gained more and more recognition through various competitions locally and internationally. Her biggest win in France saw her placed among the six finalists and even made her parents proud.
The night shifts and long hours took their toll, and Alexandra became increasingly fed up and thought about entering university in Poland to study graphic design. It was nothing more than a rough plan though, and at first, she went to Poland to help her sister with her newborn and planned to stay only a few days. She liked it a lot there, but realized that she missed mixing and talking to guests. These couple of days turned into one year, and while she was still thinking about studying, Alexandra began working in a bar again. It felt like a new start—she gained back her old enthusiasm and knew then that she wanted to be in this industry 100 percent. After that one year, her visa ran out and she had to move back to Minsk, where she joined the team of Banki-Butylki. In November 2018 she was approached by her boss, who asked her if she was interested in opening a new bar called The Moods as bar manager. She jumped on the opportunity and established this new venue.
The Moods is not just a simple cocktail bar, but a bar that is inspired by pop-art culture and sparkling wine. The interior and style of the bar go back to the roots of the legendary “silver factory” studio, which was founded by Andy Warhol and became a hub for bohemians getting together in 1960s and 1970s New York. Bright colors create a cheerful atmosphere. Each cocktail on the menu describes a mood, each one has a story and describes one particular hero. All signature cocktails on the menu are dedicated to a famous pop-art image and legendary person of the twentieth century—such as the Marilyn Monroe, based on mushroom vodka and cream, meant to resemble the legendary white dress; or the Grace Kelly, an elegant drink with flavors reminiscent of sophisticated social events on Monaco’s seashore. Moreover, sparkling wine plays a vital role at The Moods. Alexandra tells me that every bottle of sparkling wine has around 49 million bubbles inside. Every bubble is a chance to make somebody smile. The Moods creates a place where drinking sparkling wine does not need a special occasion as every bubble in a guest’s glass and the resulting smile is already a special occasion in and of itself.
Inspiration is everywhere for Alexandra: people, friends, and guests—even just seeing a shampoo in a store, for example, might spark a new flavor idea. Alexandra is a fan of classic cocktails, and she likes to play around with these recipes to create new twists. On another day, she looks at a guest and studies him/her, imagines what he/she would like to drink and starts the process from there.
Negroni Sbagliato—a Negroni is strong and rather bitter. Sbagliato is lighter, fresher, and more playful. The cocktail almost dances on your tongue and in your mouth. Alexandra loves the combination of light bitterness, red vermouth, and the sparkling aspect of the prosecco.
Nightjar in London. When Luca Cinalli still worked there, watching him was like watching an art performance. Add the visual aspects of the cocktails and it was the craziest combination Alexandra has ever seen. The live music also helped to set the scene and make it unforgettable.
The future of the bar world
There will be a trend towards more sustainability, less waste and less use of plastic in the day-to-day work. It is a global movement that will have a big impact on how bars are operated. Hospitality is another trend—a focus on the guests! Alexandra is convinced that people become more and more aware of this. Quality before quantity, low ABV drinks and mocktails are buzzwords, which will gain importance in the near future. People focus more on enjoyment rather than on just getting drunk.
Advice for opening a bar
Don’t be afraid, just do it with love and follow your dream. Love what you do and it will be alright. Take advice from friends and listen to them. Finally, respect the people you work with.
Craziest customer experience
Once, while she was working in the bar, one of her twin sisters came in as a guest. Alexandra left the bar for a moment and Alex, her then bar manager, came in and saw her sister sitting at the bar drinking, thinking it was Alexandra. He came up to her and started questioning her why she wasn’t behind the bar working her shift. He was obviously quite unhappy about this. After having cleared up the misunderstanding, everybody around them started laughing, and when Alexandra came back a short while after, she and her sister even did a mixing session together.
Minsk is her home. She would like to work in many other places around the world, but she loves the city and would always return. It is where her family lives and she loves the people. Even though there are two million people living in the city, it feels like a village sometimes, especially in the hospitality industry.
Goal in life
Having a family and kids. She just came a step closer to this by getting married in summer 2019.
To stop smoking. While it was very important to her to quit this bad habit, it was extremely challenging as you are constantly surrounded by smokers in this industry. Another life-changing moment was the decision to move to Poland where she realized that bartending is her life and passion.
Images: ©Elena Gordeichik