World of Aquavit stepped inside an old warehouse in Helsinki, Finland and somehow found themselves sitting in a leather chair in front of a fireplace, enjoying a delicious Ingrid Bergman. How on earth did that happen?
Cocktail agency Son of a Punch is the founder of spectacular Finnish bars such as Liberty or Death, 100 Dogs and Trillby & Chadwick Detective Agency. This year they put their exceptional skills to work once again and Rusty Bar opened its doors in August after only 6 months since the initial idea had come to their ingenious minds. Son of a Punch was presented with an opportunity to create a new bar inside an old warehouse by the sea, and once they got a look at the penthouse space with its marble floors and wood ceiling, Rusty was already starting to take form.
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place one night in Trillby & Chadwick, when a foreign customer came in to entertain his clients. The man was a perfect host throughout the night and when he came to pay the bill he introduced himself as Rusty. At that moment the bar had found its name. Rusty is a true timeless gentleman with a global flair and friends for every day of the week. Rusty Bar is his living room with a homey, warm atmosphere that welcomes all guests with open arms.
Rusty is also a nod to the classic cocktail Rusty Nail, which is the bars signature cocktail. Some have speculated that the name comes from Brad Pitts character Rusty in the Ocean’s Eleven movies or even the famous London based bartender, but now we know the truth!
World of Aquavit had a chance to talk with Mika Koivula, the Head Bartender of Rusty and co-founder of Son of a Punch, about the bar, aquavit and cocktails. Now there’s a trifecta anyone would enjoy! Mika is in charge of the creative side of Rusty with his main focus being the cocktail menu.
‘’With us being a high volume bar, our cocktail list needs to be a bit larger than elsewhere as we have 35 cocktails and 5 punches on our list. But in order for it to be easy for our guests we have titled the cocktails clearly in groups of five under their own themed headers. You can also see Rusty’s friendship on the list with some of his favorite places, bars and tributes to specific people making an appearance on the list. The nods might not be clear to all guests but those who are aware of them will know who they are directed to.’’
The entire concept stays true to itself with the design of the space, the cocktail list and the music.
‘’Rusty is the living room of a timeless gentleman and with the space being a penthouse we have wanted to keep the feeling warm and cozy. The music follows suit as we keep the music timeless with the early evening starting off with Jazz, Scat & Swing and increasing the energy towards the late night hours. Sometimes the music can slip to hip hop, but that is still a descendant of Jazz so it fits the theme.’’
When we start looking deeper into the extensive cocktail list it is hard to pick your poison with a swift glance. You need to take a moment and really look at the options with time. We asked Mika what would be the must have drink from their list.
‘’Rusty Nail is the perfect starter for any occasion. Take a Rusty Nail and ponder on what to taste next. What is different with the Rusty Nail, is that it comes straight from the tap cooled and ready to be served. Rusty Nail is a classic Scottish Whisky Drambuie that has received an update from our part. Traditionally it is made with a 50/50 mix, but that makes the cocktail quite sweet so we have increased the amount of Whisky in order to bring it to the 21st century.’’
‘’For me it is hard to pick a favorite from our cocktails because every category has something good and too many options. One that I like a lot that has aquavit as an ingredient is The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. A Stirred rum aperitif with slight sweetness, but nevertheless a strong and dry body where aquavit works really nicely. When we go directly to the spirit of Rusty and a cocktail that is named after the Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman we have the taste of aquavit more prominently on display than in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. We added a bit of Xanté Pear Liqueur to bring it the apple & pare combination and added some cloudy apple juice. Finally some absinthe that works really well with the apple and the other ingredients. Those who have tasted one of these, have been asking for more.’’
Aquavit doesn’t have the prominent standing in Finland the way it does in the other Nordic countries. For the Finns, aquavit is a seasonal product for specific occasions such as crayfish parties, and even on those occasions it is often substituted with other spirits. But it is also growing in Finland as an ingredient in cocktails.
‘’At the moment there isn’t as big of a demand for aquavit because it is in a way a seasonal product for a small group of people. It’s in a way unknown to us, just like we don’t belong to the same language group as the other Nordic countries that are more familiar with aquavit. These past few years we have been building a stronger united Nordic and when we go outside of the Nordics and somebody asks us to do some drinks, the drink doesn’t have to have something Finnish in it, but Nordic instead. And for that purpose aquavit has worked perfectly.’’
‘’A Friend of mine went to work in London a year and a half ago and it hit him that everybody in London wants something Nordic. They are crazy for Nordic products and aquavit is popular, but they do not have the understanding and experience to use it properly. Aquavit does fit nicely with the current Gin boom. It has that same something that Gin does, in that it brings more spiciness. The spiciness is however different and you have to be quite careful with other herbs like mint that overrides the taste of the aquavit. With Gin it doesn’t matter as much if you cover the taste, but if cover the taste of aquavit, why did you use aquavit in the first place? You need to be delicate.’’
If you are visiting Helsinki you should definitely visit Rusty Bar at Katajanokka and get yourself an Ingrid Bergman like we did. If you aren’t planning on visiting Finland in some time, then check out the recipe and mix yourself one wherever you may be!