Meet: Artem Peruk
Artem Peruk, a great bartender, teacher, mentor, bar owner and break dancer. Is there anything this guy cannot do?
El Copitas, A Mexican bar in the middle of St Petersburg, ''The most fashionable people of this city don't just talk about El Copitas Bar, they whisper it.''
The Blend catches up with Artem on life in Russia, and why we must 'follow the rabbits'
Where are you working currently, and what is the style and concept of the venue?
I am the owner of El Copitas bar, which recently appeared on the World’s 50 Best Bars List. I’m also involved with a hospitality school, Bartenders Faqtory; an ice making company, Led Rovniy; a premium cocktail catering company, Must Have Bar; an apron, bar rolls and bar tool production company, Mr. Murka; and a newly-opened Mexican eatery, Paloma Cantina
What is the bar culture like in your local market?
Saint Petersburg has an up-and-coming bar scene but one that is still a far cry from the major cocktail hubs overseas.
What’s appealing about an emerging market?
The tempo of developing projects. St Petersburg’s clientele is thirsty. They want to be better, feel better and enjoy better places. It took more than several hundreds of years for Europe to get its bar industry to where it is; Russia wants that in 15 years.
Are there any downsides or challenges you face daily?
Geographically, it’s the biggest country in the world. We have several climate zones and it’s thousands of kilometres from one side to the other. We also have almost all of the known ingredients in the world here, but not in St Petersburg. It is a marvellous and remarkable city, but it was built on a swamp. So, not the best place to find a fresh mango for your Margarita!
That’s why we change our cocktail menu every other week, to react quickly to the ever changing seasonal ingredients and pick out the best available fruit, vegetables, nuts, flowers and oils.
There’s also a lack of budget for events, competitions and concepts here. We’re not the financial capital of the country.
What keeps you motivated?
I am a teacher by diploma, but after graduation, I thought I would never teach again. (I guess I was naive). Now, I’m trying to inspire people across the world to be better bartenders, managers and people. If I can make a difference to at least one per cent of the people I teach, then this makes me happy.
I do breakdancing from time-to-time. That literally puts the world upside down!
(When you’re spinning on your head, you don’t trouble yourself with everything else that’s going on.)
Who’s driving the trends, is it consumers visiting your venue and requesting specific flavours and spirits, or is the venue leading the way?
Both, but I think the consumers have a little more power. So, I like to think that the bartenders are the tutors, helping customers to learn a little more, relax and smile.
As for the way things are at El Copitas, we are not following the trends and never will. Everything we managed to achieve in the past four years can be put down to the following: hospitality (making people feel more included than they were before they met you), personalised music, nice lighting, a good location, charming floor-tender, thoughtful host and even a trophy on the nearest shelf.
Who is your clientele - locals, tourists or a combination?
I would say 70 per cent are locals and 30 per cent are tourists.
Other than owning two venues, how else are you helping to build the industry?
We are trying to build our own bartending community. In the past two years, through Bartenders Faqtory, we inspired (at least I want to believe we have) more than 500 bartenders across the Commonwealth of Independent States. We do a lot of free presentations, competitions, events and master classes. As examples, we host free trial shifts in our bar for anyone who wants to learn how to be more efficient and professional; we host international, guest bartenders and their pop-ups; and of course, we promote Barfly magazine (said with a cheeky smile).