Bjorn Eriksson, bartender at Claridge's Macanudo Fumoir

19 May 2005
Bjorn Eriksson, bartender at Claridge's Macanudo Fumoir

Bjorn Eriksson is bartender at the Macanudo Fumoir smoking room in London hotel Claridge's. He has recently returned from Cuba, where he beat seven other international finalists to win the Habanosommelier 2005 title.

Eriksson originally entered the competition, part of the annual Festival del Habano, on behalf of the UK after hearing about it through his membership of the Academy of Food & Wine Service.

"If you can have a Swede managing your football team, you can have one representing your country for cigars," says 23-year-old Swedish national Eriksson.

His knowledge of cigar and drink matching impressed the judges - his combination of Trinidad Robusto Extra cigar and Jean Fillioux Reserve Familiale Cognac scored highly - and after a week in Havana talking with experts and visiting plantations and factories, his next task is spreading his knowledge and passion.

With a talk for the Daily Telegraph's food and wine writers already under his belt, Eriksson takes on his next challenge in July, when he will host a lunchtime masterclass on cigars at the hotel.

"Cigars with spirits are very much back in vogue, and I enjoy nothing more than introducing people to new combinations. It's always great to get a staunch Cognac drinker enjoying a dark rum," says Eriksson.

The Swede's interest in fine wine, spirits and cigars really came to the fore when he came to the UK in 2001 and became a full-time assistant restaurant manager at the New Mill restaurant in Eversley, Hampshire, which is run by Restaurant Association chairman Nick Scade.

Staying in the UK - with its strong culture and tradition of drinking and smoking - seemed the only option, and the relatively uncharted area of cigar and drink matching really appealed to Eriksson.

At Claridge's for the past two years, his interest in cigars has grown from a hobby to encompass much of his role at the bar, culminating in responsibility for constructing a 45-strong cigar menu.

Working mainly front of house, Eriksson's job on the London "cigar circuit" isn't too onerous, as he typically works a 45-hour week.
Although politicians have proposed a smoking ban for England, Eriksson believes this will work in Macanudo Fumoir's favour, as the rule allowing smoking to continue where no food is served will reward its specialism and should attract even more cigar-lovers.

Career highlights

Assistant restaurant manager, New Mill restaurant


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