This is Kaitlin Wilkes.
We actually never met in person until a few days ago, yet I feel we’re friends already and for that I thank social media. I’ve been following her online lately, with curiosity and admiration for her style and passion for bartending. She’s pretty much been on a world tour recently featuring a rum based high ball she named Gonzo. So why is this? And why have I been tracking her down here in Berlin finally? Well, she’s freaking representing Sweden in the Bacardi Legacy Finals, 2017 this weekend.
Kaitlin is the Canadian who moved to Sweden to manage the bar at Corner Club in Stockholm and last year managed to win the Swedish race to enter the finals of Bacardi Legacy of 2017 – a cocktail competition hosted every year, being one of the worlds largest.
Earlier this week I went to see her when she took over the classic cocktailbar Galander in Charlottenburg, since I had to try her Gonzo Cocktail – the drink with which she reached the finals. Long before though, I’ve followed her Gonzo World Tour from Berlin. She has been featured in various different media like the podcast “Med eller utan is” by Jonatan Östblom Smedje, online magazines like alltomstockholm.se, and also more niched ones like RomRom.se, and she made guest shifts presenting Gonzo at bars all over the world over the last 6 months. Galander was the last stop before going live this Sunday!
Even though I don’t drink alcohol at the moment, since I’m sort of detoxing and also realised alcohol does not go well with kundalini yoga practice, I of course had a try at Gonzo, and it made me wish I wasn’t on such a “healthy path” right now.
It’s perfect – even tho I’m honestly not a really big fan of tonic.
35ml Bacardi 8
15ml Maraska Maraschino
15ml Lustau Amontillado Sherry
2 dashes of Scrappy’s Grapefruit Bitters
120ml Fever Tree Tonic
✴︎ pour all alcoholic ingredients into a highball glass
✴︎ top with ice and approximately 120ml of Fever Tree Tonic.
At Corner Club Kaitlin was mentored by Oskar Johansson, from whom she took over the command. Oskar has been a great support for her through out her Swedish journey and in our conversation she expressed her gratitude towards his back up both in her career and in creating the recipe for Gonzo. She had been working on the drink for some time when she finally presented it to him. It started as rum, Sherry, and bitters and Oskar suggested Maraschino too and on that instant they we’re both struck by the final touch: tonic! She was inspired by the Hemingway daiquiri which also has rum, Maraschino and grapefruit, but yeah, she took it further.
Gonzo is her contribution not only to Bacardi Legacy but to the world’s legacy of classic cocktails – And why is that? Because she wrote it down. The drink is an ode to writing. She is, like me, a fan of writing and writers and her story is very inspirational. Gonzo’s story is a tale of her father saving a library back in Canada(!) and Hunter S Thompson’s legacy to journalism. She realise that in order to pass something on to future times, it has to be defined and distributed. Kaitlin documented a tribute to two guys, in her words: ‘cooler than her’, and she wanted to do something cool too. So she made this drink accessible and generous, and shared its story with the world on a tour in which she learned how to customize it to different cultures with its specific standards; glassware, ice, measurements, flavour preferences (for example in Beirut they are used to more acidic drinks than in Scandinavia), when teaching fellow bartenders how to make it. And this however, is just the beginning. On Sunday, Gonzo will have the bar-worlds’ eyes on it, well actually anyones’ who wants to stream the show online!
I believe Kaitlin has made something really cool. Not only with Gonzo and representing Sweden with it at the Bacardi finals, but her persona and dedication makes her, for me, someone to look up to. I mean, you have to admire someone who, at 21 years of age, crosses the Atlantic Ocean for her obsession with British culture; afternoon tea, speaking with Queens English, tiny pubs and what have you, and then scoring a job at the freaking Savoy Hotel in London, thanks to her gritty attitude, a diploma in hotel management and having courage enough to lace her job interview with a bit of old fashioned game of play out. Dope!
I had a lovely time at Galander and I surely enjoyed those little sips of Gonzo, who’s trip ahead I will follow with excitement.
Well to wrap this piece up… when I had tried the cocktail, and turned around to Kaitlin in a shimmer of satisfaction, she confidently replied my mute awe with a smile and a:
“Yeah, It’s a really good rum drink. It’s kinda a Hemingway daiquiri – high balled. With tonic. And if Bacardi doesn’t like it – well, they can fuck off!”