Geoffrey Canilao owner of Balderdash - one of the best bars in Copenhagen, Photo by Alexander Banck Petersen, photographer for Cocktails of Copenhagen

Geoffrey Canilao

Serving happy medicine

Bartenders never go broke. Everybody will always want to go to the bar. They come here happy, they come here sad. So Geoffrey Canilao, owner and bar manager at Balderdash, resonates. That’s not the reason Geoffrey became a bartender however. He knows the industry from the bottom up as few. From waitering and serving, bar backing and being a wine sommelier working 80-90 hours a week in NYC Geoffrey now finally owns his own bar in Copenhagen.

Geoffrey loves the interaction, the creativity and instant gratification that comes with the trade. The control of the bar, the presence. “It’s a social responsibility –you are serving happy medicin” Geoffrey laughs, and continues: “You want give your customer the best high you can. People have higher quality now, People know what cocktails are about. Everyone is getting more savvy and intelligent about food and booze consumption.”

As many of his colleagues in the industry Geoffrey went through a period wanting to be a cocktail nerd, recommending manhattans, martinez and experimenting with different kinds of bitters. But as he reflects today it’s really all up to the guests. “It’s up to them to create their own environment. As bartenders we’re just giving service. We’re actually not selling drinks, we’re selling what the drink represents. You buy into a symbolic world, the drink represents a certain life style and that’s what you buy when you buy on old fashioned or a cosmopolitan.

But Geoffrey also has an agenda. He wants to push the flavour profile of cocktails. To that aim he established a cocktail lab at Balderdash inspired by the Nordic food lab established in 2008 by head chef of Noma, Rene Redzepi and gastronomic entrepreneur, Claus Meyer. Here he experiments with new and original local flavors. Some wonderful results of this are the clarified Hemingway daiquiri and the smoked bone marrow and burned butter infused old fashioned that you can find at Balderdash.

Balderdash doesn’t necessarily make sense, and Geoffrey doesn’t mean to but he does make darn good cocktails.

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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.