Michael Hajiyianni ruby copenhagen

Michael Hajiyianni: Ruby's great import

14 July, 2023

The cliché entry into bartending is during the university years, where a part time job to support a student loan snowballs into a career. But for some, hospitality is in their blood. Michael Hajiyianni, general manager of veteran Copenhagen bar Ruby, falls into the latter category.

“My grandfather made a career through hospitality and worked in The Savoy and Quo Vadis in London, the second one I actually worked at myself,” says Hajiyianni.

Hailing from Plymouth in the UK, Hajiyianni grew up working on the restaurant side and in 2009 he got a job with Plymouth Gin where he was exposed to the bartending industry through brand ambassador Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge.

In 2012 Hajiyianni moved to London where he worked at Quo Vardis and The Blind Pig, part of chef Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho.

“I really enjoyed my time in London but I was living pay check to pay check and I wanted to travel. I headed to Australia because the working visa was super easy to get and I ended up at 1806 in Melbourne. I was enjoying myself but my mum was desperate for me not to stay so far away, however I wasn’t ready to move home yet.”

Hajiyianni then moved to Copenhagen to stay with a friend for a month, and this extended into a much longer stay.

“It’s become home to me now, but it was the restaurant scene and other areas of hospitality which drew me to Copenhagen. Of all the sectors I’d say the bar scene is the weakest. That’s not to say it’s bad, but hospitality in general here is top notch.

“I find that while I’m working fewer hours than in London, I’m doing more work. I can cycle to the bar in 15 minutes and Copenhagen feels more like a big village than a city. I live by the water too and I have a morning dip every day, it’s brutal at first but you get a great rush.

“It’s funny because the Italians in our team struggle with the low levels of sun light in the winters and constantly stock up on vitamin D, but for me the dark winters don’t affect me very much.”

Hajiyianni started part time at Ruby before establishing himself within the team, but after two years he was set on a return to London until the owner convinced him otherwise.

“I had an honest conversation with the owner of Ruby and I explained everything I didn’t like about the bar. He told me that it would be a blank page under my control and I could change whatever I like, which is what convinced me to take the job.

“When I started the bar was already 10 years old and had been in the World’s 50 Best Bars several times, so there was an element of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fit it’.

“The first things I did were streamline the offering and get rid of things like the cigar list and the expansive cocktail menu. We also partnered with a lot more local producers to improve our offering, but I think my proudest achievement is create a happy and solid team which have nearly all been here a few years now.

“I think it’s hard to say that you want to be in The World’s 50 Best Bars because competition is so fierce. But I want us to be of 50 Best standard. I also want us to network more as a bar and do more guest shifts because I think it’s important given we’re in a fairly remote region.”

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