Ted Dako - Denmark's best bartender 2016 and former head bartender at Bar25 - one of the best cocktail bars in Copenhagen.

Ted Dako

Denmark’s best bartender 2016

Visiting old friends is always a good idea. We first talked with Ted Dako in spring 2016, when he was crowned as Denmark’s Best Bartender and went to represent us at the IBA World Championship in Tokyo. A lot has happened since then, and that leaves us with no other option than talking to him again. Those of you, who read the first interview can skip the first couple of paragraphs. Unless there are some details filled in…? 

Ted Dako is a shining star on Copenhagen’s bar scene. He represented Denmark in the very prestigious World Class competition in 2015 and a year after also in Tokyo at IBA World Championship. But as almost all good stories, this one has roots in a love story.

Ted was all set to be a snowboarder. He was working winter seasons in Val Thorens as a bartender to pay his rent when he met his Danish girlfriend. Choosing love, Ted moved to Copenhagen. On the first night in the city, he got introduced to the Swedish bar manager at Bar7 Kajsa Magnusson. Kajsa must have had a nose for talent because she pretty much hired him for the Bar7 bar crew on the spot despise Ted’s sparse experience. Kajsa trained him herself, and as Ted learned quickly, she also paced him to compete.

At this point, Ted was new on the scene, so no one knew what was coming. He enjoyed competing and especially presenting his creations to people. Aesthetics and presentation is an essential part of enjoying a cocktail and Ted is convinced that “presentation” will be the next differentiator in Copenhagen’s bar scene.

Ted talks about the “emotional tip” which is an integral part of bartending. If you help someone try something they love, you get a certain kind of acknowledgement that is really addictive.

“Initially, in France, I felt I was partly paid to flirt with girls… In Copenhagen, I started seeing what you can actually do with cocktails, and this really got me hooked. I started going to tastings and competitions – and I fell in love with bartending. I could be creative, I could talk to customers and present people to something they’d love. I guess it was this interaction I fell in love with.”

And his talent didn’t go unnoticed. As he slowly started outgrowing Bar7, many other establishments tried to sway him their way. But Ted chose to stick with the bar, which got him a head bartender position at newly opened sister bar Bar25. The expectations were high, Bar25 was a proper cocktail bar with a hint of exclusivity. Ted was in charge of training the staff, creating the menu and his exquisite work paid off. Just two months after opening, Bar25 was named Byens Bedste Cocktailbar 2015.

But when it rains, it pours, also with success. Ted entered the local round of the famed World Class competition just as Bar25 was opening. He competed against very established bartenders with two or three times more experience, but in a poetic twist of events, he found himself in the local final. In what he describes as a “rollercoaster of emotions”, his consistency and perfect delivery put him on a plane to South Africa to compete alongside the world’s best bartenders in the global final.

Meeting internationally renowned bartenders fueled this his love for bartending further. At World Class level, bartending is not as simple as people might think. Here you compete against career bartenders, who have chosen the trade and have a certain amount of professional pride. Most of the participant finalists are over 30 and own their own bars. If you win, you will have made 48 different cocktails and worked your way through 15 different challenges. For this reason, participating bartenders are acknowledged in the industry.

His 100% dedication was prominent throughout the competition. “I know I’m not the strongest, but I need to believe I can win this” was his mantra. And with a solid start, things were looking promising. After being in the top 8 in three challenges, everyone was baffled when he “only” placed 24th and didn’t make the final cut. That’s when he discovered the point difference keeping him from 6th place – 1,5 points.

But most importantly, he made a name for himself worldwide. That helped him settle a deal in Bahrain, where he became a Restaurant & Beverage Manager for a top-class Japanese restaurant and two bars. One of them had an alcohol-free focus and thinking beyond spirits was a welcomed challenge for Ted. “I couldn’t ferment, because that obviously creates some alcohol. I tried to reframe a gin-tonic, but my management didn’t want replicas of alcoholic drinks. It was very challenging.” What ended up as the winning idea was the usage of ingredients with a flavour kick – matcha, yuzu, ginger or chilli.

But deep inside, Ted always wanted to open his own bar. So in January 2019, he reappeared in Copenhagen. His return spiked a wave of excitement amongst local bartenders, as they wondered what is going to happen next. On April 1st, he got keys from a two-floored venue at Højbro Plads. And two months later, Copenhagen had a new world-class cocktail bar – Puss Puss.

For now, this is where the story ends. For a profile of our current World Class representant Alexander Remoundos, click here. And stay tuned for our review of Puss Puss. Cheers!

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Thomas Klem Andersen
I believe that true mastery eventually leads to original creation given the right conditions. I love creative cocktails that push the limits of flavor pairing. But I can't deny I have a personal preference for whisky and love everything that is clear and stirred.