‘Bar chef’ of The Birdcage
The creative barkeep behind The Birdcage, Bermuda’s newest watering hole, likens it to a kitchen given the array of fresh, locally foraged and homemade ingredients that make up the craft cocktails.
Stefan Gitschner, a mixologist with a decade of professional cooking under his belt, says that experience is evident in every drink on the menu.
Forget the generic fruit punch and any other sickly sweet concoctions you’ve come to expect at bars and clubs, his creations involve subtle flavours and complex infusions that can only come from a well-crafted recipe.
The classic Bermuda Rum Swizzle is made with falernum, a syrup liqueur often used in tropical drinks; one of his own concoctions, Lily’s Garden, is gin-based and includes wild fennel syrup, flower sprigs, lemon, cucumber and lavender. Gosling’s is featured alongside 12 other sipping rums from around the world.
“We are more like bar chefs,” Mr Gitschner said. “Consistency is key which is why we batch a lot of our ingredients ahead of time so whichever bartender is on, you will get the same drink — just like a chef in a kitchen.
“I approach the cocktails as if I am cooking. There is a consistent recipe and everybody knows how to measure them out. It is perfect across the board.
“The uniqueness of our cocktails comes from the fresh, wild and locally foraged produce like the wild fennel, mint and cucumber. We plan to have Surinam cherries on our menu, local allspice, hibiscus, prickly pear and passion fruit.”
The bar sits atop the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s visitors’ centre overlooking Hamilton Harbour. It’s a partnership with Dasfete, an event planning and production company owned by Mr Gitschner’s sister Selange and Matthew Strong.
Mr Gitschner, 38, was born in Florida and raised in Texas although he spent stints in the Bahamas and Aruba. He started in the hospitality industry at a young age, working at a restaurant his father then owned.
In 2010 he moved to Bermuda to work for Gosling’s where he gained a wine degree through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a global organisation headquartered in London.
Five years later he launched Twisted Spoon, a high-end mobile cocktail business. Customers began asking why he didn’t have a permanent location.
The Birdcage offered a solution. The pop-up will operate at the top of the Front Street centre for at least a year.
“We are offering a taste of Bermuda but not just in our cocktails, we want to promote Bermuda in all aspects.
“We have a 100 per cent Bermudian staff and we are going to require our staff to go through an ambassador programme with the BTA.”
His hope is to eventually offer “snacks and occasional food using local produce” and local entertainment.
“The idea was to bring an island bar here. It is chic because Bermuda is more elevated in that regard and we wanted to keep it true to its nature.”
Where there is packaging, every effort is made to ensure it is environmentally friendly. The Birdcage has a no plastic policy; drinks are served without napkins in case they fly off the tables into the water. Trash is recycled — even the citrus fruit rinds are made into a syrup, oleo saccharum, and used in cocktails.
Mr Gitschner said what truly drives him is the satisfaction of his customers: “My passion comes from creating a cocktail that tastes so good it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end; you can taste the different layers and incredible nuance of flavours.
“It’s the same as when I cook. It’s watching people’s expressions. That is the joy of it all.”
• The Birdcage is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 10pm