Article

The World According To Johan Ekelund

Swedish bartending sensation Johan Ekelund, currently behind the stick at London bar Happiness Forgets, tells Alice Lascelles why he loves sewing, but has no time for scruffbags


Johans' CV

2001 Palace nightclub, Kalmar, Sweden

2003 Absolut Icebars in Jukkasjärvi, Stockholm and London

2007 Match Group bars including The East Room and Match Bar W1

2010 Quo Vadis, London

2011 Joins Happiness Forgets, London, re-launches The George, Bristol with David Roffe, and launches his shirt companion company Sharp & Dapper


‘I like being tidy – looking presentable is important in a bar. I don’t like being served by someone whose jeans are halfway down their arse and you can see their underpants. I don’t like scruffiness.’

‘I like to think I’m a pretty good footballer – I play on Saturdays. I’m what they call a “gentleman defender”. I never get any yellow cards. In the heat of the moment though I talk quite a bit – there can be a bit of bad chat.’ 

‘In Sweden you have to learn sewing and woodwork at school, and I enjoy it. It’s very therapeutic. I put on a shitty documentary, make a cup of tea and I can sit for four or five hours at my sewing machine. Although it’s a bit bad for the back.’

‘My dream is to open a bar with two bartenders that seats fifteen people like you get in Japan.’’

‘One of my first jobs was at the Ice Hotel in Sweden. We wore ski suits, but actually when it’s -40° outside and -5° inside, you come in and
start taking clothes off!’

‘I really respect Brian Silva. He’s an amazing host, which is the most important thing for a bartender to be. You can teach people how to make good drinks but you can’t teach them to be a good host.’

‘My mum and dad are really hard workers. My dad gets up at 3am to deliver the papers before starting at the factory at 6am. I hope that’s rubbed off on me. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. If a toilet needs cleaning, I’ll do it.’

‘At Match they wanted me to be head bartender but I said no because I’m really bad at confrontations. I’m a pushover.’

‘I love meat and I’m doing a butchery course with Ginger Pig. My favourite meat is beef – although my friends say I like the girly cuts like fillet, not the fatty bits. But I don’t care about the flavour. I want texture.’ 

‘When people buy a Sharp & Dapper shirt companion from me for the first time I generally show them how to put it on – which means I have had a lot of different guys crotches in my face.’

‘Popular in the early 1900s, the shirt companion is a device that holds your socks up and your shirt down. Importing them was too expensive, so I bought an Argos sewing machine and started making them myself. We’ve now sold close to 1,500.’

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2012

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