Adrián Michalčík: the storyteller

30 March, 2023

Adrián Michalčík believes the allure of a great drink lies in its tale.

Having won Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year in 2022, you would assume Adrián Michalčík had started out on a career in the bar industry. But “it was not really my plan to become a bartender,” he says. “I played hockey professionally.”

However, hospitality played a big part in his life and upbringing in Czechoslovakia, as Michalčík says: “I saw it from a very early age and it’s just kind of been natural for me. We were hosting our friends or neighbours, my mum was preparing food, picking up wine or some spirits and preparing glasses.”

A­fter applying late to do the sports studies he initially planned, Michalčík found himself at a hotel academy and then behind the bar. From there he “fell in love with the bar”, but still managed to bring his sports passion with him. Michalčík adds: “I find some kind of connection with the bar since I played hockey as a goalkeeper. You have the players in front of you when bartending, so it’s kind of like a team sport.” In 2015, a­ er getting a job in Prague at L’Fleur bar, Michalčík’s first thought was that he would be fired – “I didn’t have any knowledge”. But a­ er working behind the scenes to learn the craft, he stayed and began to be inspired.

This in turn led to an interest in the competition world. When working in Prague, Michalčík says a lot of it came from watching others he looked up to competing, particularly those at L’Fleur. “It kind of woke up this curiosity about competing and the next year I decided to join [Diageo World Class], with only one year of experience in mixology, and I ended up in the top six.”

In 2017, Michalčík moved to Norway and shortly a­ er joined Pier 42 at the Amerikalinjen Hotel in Oslo. Having only worked at a select number of bars, Michalčík believes his success is down to staying put for periods of time, instead of moving around frequently. He likes to “absorb” and thinks “there is always something more that you can learn”.

In the run-up to competing in Diageo World Class, Michalčík says he was “thinking about cocktails 24/7, about the storytelling, about the aromas” as he was “dreaming about this for six years.” Not expecting to win, his target was to beat his initial sixth place. “It was a mix of emotions. It sounds like a cliche because people say if you have a dream, follow that and work hard on it every day, but that’s exactly what I did, I reached my dream and that’s seriously one of the most beautiful feelings I went through in my life,” he adds.

But there is a responsibility that comes with the win. “I don’t see myself as the world’s best bartender because it’s very hard to say who is the best. In that moment, I was the person who had grown and was ready, prepared. I was in the right place at the right moment. It is also a responsibility to be seen now as one of the leaders for the industry.”

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