Drinks with Alexandra Ulijaszek (Bartender)
What we drank
Alexandra: Irish Coffee
Hebe: Tequila and Tonic
Alexandra is one of those people whose energy is infectious. He passion for this industry is like a beautiful glitter glow around her. I cannot wait to see
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I used to work at Ladies and Gents Camden. I’d been a bartender there since we opened in January. So yeah, mainly cocktails, lots and lots of cocktails. It’s really good fun. Working at Ladies and Gents I got to do quite a lot of off-menu stuff, lots of classics, lots of nerdy stuff as well.
What is a typical day in the bar like?
It’s pretty straightforward. I always started at 4 pm, so I’d come in, do all the setup. Camden was so easy because Camden is like teeny tiny. I could pretty much set up everything, prep everything in under an hour and then get a coffee before getting more jobs done. It was also a bit of a working progress, shoestring bar. I’m really improving my DIY skills, you find fixers for things and stuff. It’s a really cool little bar.
I spent the evening making drinks, working on drinks, making aquavit. They’re only licensed until midnight, even on the weekends, so I was normally out by 1 am. Sometimes I’d go up to Kentish town.
How long have you been working in hospitality?
My first actual hospitality job, I think I was 14, so not full time obviously. I grew up in the countryside, pulled pints when people were sick. So yeah, pulled my first pint when I was 14. I worked weekends all through secondary school, got a bar job at a pub as soon as I could, which has since given me my rules for where I will and will not work.
Never work for anyone who tells staff off in front of customers unnecessarily. Never work for anyone who’s rude to staff in front of customers. You know when you’re young and you’re like this is how things are done, but yeah there are actually certain things you don’t have to put up with.
Then through university, I worked in events. I worked in a microbrewery and taproom for ages. I’ve worked in a lot of places.
What go you into this career?
What got me into it was probably when I started working with beer, I can learn stuff here, I can be interested in what I’m doing. I’m quite curious. I like quite nerdy things. I worked somewhere where we had nearly 150 beers and we had someone say take this bottle home and to learn about it, it’s from here and this is why it’s different. I was like, oh, I can kind of invest in this a bit more.
I just get really really bored if I’m not making things.
What’s your favourite part of being in hospitality?
The freedom of it. The allowance for authorship over what you’re doing and getting to meet so many different people, both in front of and behind the bar. I really like that. I find it really strange when you work places and there’s that monoculture.
Also…I just really like Whisky.
And what’s your least favourite part?
Sometimes my least and favourite part can be living on a different time cycle to the rest of the world. Amazing if you want to go and do stuff on a Tuesday afternoon, but also terrible sometimes if you actually want to go and do stuff on a Friday evening.
Sometimes, having grown up in the countryside, when you go back and you say I work in a bar, people look at you like…
People I love and care about still introduce me to people at bars as this is Lexa, she’s a cocktail waitress.
Do you think being a woman has affected your career?
I think, overall, it has in a positive way. You’re in a position where you have to be aware when you’re applying for jobs, what that team attitude is. I think there can be a thing of, oh, we’ve got too many guys here, we need to get a woman on. For some places that can be a really genuine thing and some places it can be like we need some balance, but we’re still going to be making the same jokes, saying the same stuff. Most of the places I’ve worked have been really supportive and progressive places.
I once went for an interview and I’d been on the phones with I guess the AGM. I cam in for the interview and the guy at the bar was like “Hi” “Hi I’m here for an interview” “Oh we’re not looking for any floor staff at the moment” and I was like “Uh, I’m not here for that, I’m here for the bartender role”. Then the general manager comes down, literally with my CV in his hand and goes “we’re not looking for waitresses at the moment” and for some reason, I sat and did the interview. This was about 3 years ago and I’ve since learnt, don’t. You can walk out, you can just leave.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve had in your career?
I’d say the biggest challenge has always been myself. In that way of pushing myself, finding out where your weak spots are, how to combat that. It’s so easy when you’re working evenings 4/5 nights a week, to say oh these are my days off I’ll just do nothing. Learning to structure yourself more and to seek out more knowledge. Not letting yourself coast.
What trends are you seeing, what’s the next big thing?
Well it’s always the low ABV thing at the moment, isn’t it? The no and low ABV. At Ladies and Gents, we started making Willow which is a low ABV spirit, it’s probably closer to an aperitif than a Gin. It’s redistilled Calvados with pineapple, cherry tomato and keffir limes.
Also Sherry. I love Sherry, Sherry is always everywhere, but it’s everywhere at the moment and I live for that so much.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted your job?
You need a thicker skin than you think. Whether that’s dealing with other people or dealing with customers. You don’t need people to like you all the time and it’s so easy to not realise that you’re doing it. I think we’ve all had that moment on the group Whatsapp chat where someone calls in sick and asks who can cover this shift and no one is saying anything. You have this thing where you’re like well someone has to cover it and if no one’s saying anything I should say something. You don’t always have to do that. People will love and respect you regardless. Sometimes it’s good to make your boundaries really clear, especially with customers.
How can we support you?
Just come down to the new AllBright site, where I’ll be starting in the coming months.
What’s your favourite drink?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this. It’s always going to be Cocchi Americano. I just always come back to Cocchi Americano for some reason. That, or a Naked and Famous (Hebe had to ask what this was, so for reference, it’s Mezcal, chartreuse, Aperol, lime).
If you know a lady in the drinks industry that you would like to see interviewed, pop an email to email@example.com.
If you are a lady in the drinks industry, join our Facebook group, Ladies of Liquor to connect with the rest of us!