Alexandra Cocktail Bar – My personal Highlight
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And now for my personal bar highlight: Alexandra Cocktail Bar. The brain behind the bar is the talented Osman Fethi Baycan. He’s not been a bartender for long, but has already won numerous competitions. Recently he was a finalist in the Bacardi Legacy Competition in Turkey. His drink “Amor Duro“ on the cocktail menu is a winner in the Tahona Society Cocktail Competition. We first met in Berlin, another time in Athens, and now it was time for to travel to Istanbul. Here, I also saw Bilal Mert again, whom I’d also gotten to meet in Berlin. Both of them took great care of me the entire week. I should really mention at this point that their hospitality was truly overwhelming. For the first time, I had the chance to spend an evening behind the bar, working as Osman’s bar-back. Bilal Mert is the brain behind Robin’s Kitchen and he took care of my culinary needs.
But now for the bar, which is only a small part of the entire concept. The Alexandra cocktail bar is located on the ground floor, on top of which sits a cozy mezzanine with comfy couches and a direct view on the bar below. A circular staircase leads further up, past laundry rooms and offices to robin’s Kitchen. Here, a mix of Turkish and international cuisine is prepared – a culinary pleasure. But the pleasure isn’t entirely culinary – the decoration and open kitchen are truly an experience. We ate in a small, separate room that made me feel like I was visiting a friend’s home.
The interior was designed by Bilal Mert’s sister, by the way. The view of the Bosporus is the “cherry on top”, and if one wants to make the most of this experience, there’s another floor to discover with the hidden rooftop bar „Elixir House“. The name hints at the focus on drinks with Elyx, the Absolut luxury vodka. The brand’s polished copper pineapples and flamingos sparkle like they’re competing with one another, but I am mostly fascinated by the view. Seemingly endless during the day, and at night one can see the colorfully lit Bosporus bridge. If you don’t want to walk down the stairs again, there’s also a small elevator.
Which is exactly what I did so I could take a closer look at the bar that carries my name. However, this name doesn’t stem from the Greek, but is actually the first name of another bar owner’s wife. He spends most of his time in Italy, and that also is evident in the entire atmosphere: the bar has Italian flair, but not too much. A cozy interior, design element, dark wood and warm lighting. The back buffet is small but well-chosen; the bar spans the entire length of the room. On weekends, a DJ makes for late nights. Drinks, food and lavish parties – all under one roof. There is also outdoor seating and heating elements for cooler nights.
I’m a professed fan of uniformly dressed bar staff, and the dark, Asian-style bar jackets were a pleasure to my eyes. The bartenders’ names are embroidered on the jackets, and each one of them also has an Italian name. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael. Osman, however, bears the not very Italian name “Master Splinter“. Hold on – these aren’t Italian renaissance artists… those are the names of the Ninja Turtles, the animated 80s show in which mutated and talking giant tortoises are taught the high art of Ninjutsu by an also mutated rat: the Master Splinter. This is quite fitting and a nice name game for the junior bar staff. Also, Osman is a fantastic teacher. He made my first day behind the bar very easy, but we’ll save that story for another time.
The cocktail menu lists nine house cocktails and six barrel-aged cocktails. “Knock! Knock!“ is best ordered by knocking on wood twice. “Passiflora“ is the bestseller, which I could confirm after my evening behind the bar. Personally, I liked the “Amor Duro“ very much.
I don’t just love this bar for its team, its concept or its name, but for its hospitality and warmth. Osman takes his job as bar manager very serious and has high aspirations. Istanbul not an easy place to turn a bar into a renowned and internationally recognised institution while also continuing to support the bar scene. Unfortunately, times are rough due to terror and political decisions. Cocktail bars are a sign of affluence, and more popular in liberal countries. Even if my stories are mostly positive and fabulous, I still take a critical look behind the curtain. I don’t just see bars, but the country and its people as well. The goal of every human being is to be happy and enjoy life – which is exactly what this small house in the district Arnavutköy tries to achieve.
Osman takes care of his team and the reputation of bartenders in general. The project “Desk of Fame“ regularly invites internationally awarded bartenders to work at Alexandra Bar. I was there at the same time as Alex Kratena; previously, Remy Savage, Shingo Gokan and Cihan Anadologu have had guestshifts there. It’s important to support one’s popularity, and all of them traveled to Istanbul.
The bar operates on world class level, and the concept is very international. A bar, a house, a concept… and a tiny different world.
I was there on three different days – during the daytime as well as at night, and never before was I able to get such great insight behind the scenes.
On February 9, the bar will celebrate its first birthday. Istanbul is a gorgeous city, with an atmosphere and flair that is modern and old at the same time. Everything is replete with history. The cocktail culture is on an upswing, one small step at a time. I had a fantastic time and will return so I can celebrate that first birthday extensively. I’m excited to see which great bartender will be there that time.