Ljubljana

Ask a Local - Draga Kepeš

07 Dec 2016

Draga Kepeš joined the Kaval Group some years ago, while recovering from a heart condition, determined to live, work and succeed. Her first job was mixing drinks, and over time she rose to become the manager of Lolita, Caffe Bienale in Tivoli, and the café in Nama – positions that she still holds. Despite this busy schedule, Draga still finds time for her passion, making innovative and delicious cocktails, and such efforts were rewarded last month when she won third place in the after-dinner drinks category of The World Cocktail Championship 2016, this year held in Tokyo, Japan. We talked to her on her return from that trip.

How did you discover this passion for cocktails?
It came to me many years ago, long before I thought about competitions, just a way to do something creative.

How did you prepare for the World Championship?
I prepared intensively for two months before going, because I had to submit a recipe. Then I had to practice making the decorations every day, and everything else that goes into preparing for a big event like that.

What are some new developments in the world of cocktails?
There is a trend to pure, bright cocktails, with less alcohol, and many white drinks and old fashioned methods, such as the use of Angostura bitters.

How important are recipes in your work?
I am a member of the Bartenders Society Slovenia, and when I work I am responsible for what’s used in the cocktails, and this should always be what’s set out in the recipes, no less and no more. If you don’t follow recipes then the taste will not be right, and that misleads customers.

Can any drinks help with a hangover?
Ha, of course, these do exist. This is a group of cocktails called “pick me ups”. They usually have one powerful spirit and then maybe some tomato juice, salt, pepper, and Worcester Sauce, like in a Bloody Mary, or you can swap the tomato juice for meat soup, and that’s called a Bull Shot. And yes, they do indeed help.

What drinks do you recommend in winter?
For winter, always I suggest a variety of drinks, hot chocolate, with or without alcohol, additives such as cinnamon, ginger, and there’s always a hot fruit punch.

Where do you like to eat in town?
In Ljubljana my favourite is Strelec, at the Castle, but I also like Soba 102 and Dvorni Bar.

What are some of the places a visitor shouldn’t miss?
Everyone should make some time to visit the bars by the river, and also the romantic Old Town.

When you can get out of town, where do you like to go?
When I leave town I prefer going to the mountains and finding new places in our beautiful Slovenia.

Finally, can you give an Insider Tip for Ljubljana?
People should come to Lolita! Really, we have award-winning cakes and ice creams, and now an award-winning cocktail - the Lolita - and all in a perfect location.

While we recommend going to Lolita to enjoy their namesake cocktail, here's the recipe if you want to recreate it at home:
1 cl Bacardi Gold Rum
2.5 cl Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur
2.5 cl De Kuyper Vanilla Liqueur
1,5 cl Coconut syrup
0.5 cl Caramel syrup

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake, then top with 2 cl of fresh cream.

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