Interview with Henrik Baecklund, Henx Hospitality Group

Interview with Henrik Baecklund, Henx Hospitality Group

Henrik is an extremely ambitious person who left Sweden in 2010 for studies and work in Dubai, Shanghai and whatnot. Since about five years ago he’s back in Stockholm, and after having worked for Connoisseur and being brand ambassador for Amarula, he’s now taking on the world with his newly started company Henx Hospitality Group.

What made you pursue a career in hospitality and how did you get your first bartender job?
Growing up in Åre, Sweden gave me the insight to what hospitality is and how important in the everyday life and in business for example, how to deal with people from various social statuses and cultures and that there isn’t one solution that fits all. I got my first bartender job at 17 years old, which might not have been the most legal thing, in a sports & bowling bar at the largest adventure hotel in Åre.

Where are you originally from, and how did you end up starting Henx Hospitality Group?
I was born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in Åre, Sweden. After 15 years working in the highest sector of luxury hospitality worldwide, I felt that I had enough of working for others and that my skills and network I’ve gained thought the years would help me to build something from the ground by myself and do it my way.

Can you describe the concept behind Henx Hospitality Group, and your role?
Henx Hospitality Group is a luxury hospitality company that works with 5 brand pillars where I’ve hired experts to be able to do in-house projects and consultations to bring the best quality product to the clients and costumers.

We do Hospitality Management consulting, where we can be hired by hotels or restaurants/bars that need help in regards to marketing, operational strategy, menus, concepts and other services too.

We offer luxury transportations for private and corporate sectors with everything from Cars, Private Jets, Helicopters, Yachts, and other vehicles too. Everything is tailor-made for each client together with our partners.

Bespoke Events, HHG was planned to be a luxury event company but that was a bit too small after the fact and due to Covid-19 this branch is set aside for now with the current restrictions but we are still open for events in the future.

One of my favourite interests in life is food & beverage so we had to have a luxury food offering. We supply and work with importers of top quality products that follow the seasons to our customers primarily focusing on the private market, but there are plans for an e-commence platform in the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.

The part of HHG is the media production, we have a huge internal team that are among the best in Sweden in photography and commercial film to offer our clients marketing and social media content combined with marketing strategy.

To be experts in so many various fields within the luxury hospitality gives us a broad reach and a competitive advantage that is hard to beat and it gives us the opportunity to gain business on a global scale without sacrificing the quality of the work we produce.

My role now is to plan the future expansions into markets such as Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia, while providing the guidance and the network to my team in order to perform to their best abilities.

Which place/places has/have been most important regarding your knowledge and skills?
It has to go back to when I started my studies at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality in Dubai 2010. It gave me the important knowledge in luxury hospitality while also providing the fundamentals in cultural awareness, working with people that comes from all over the world and social statues. These 3 years gave me an opportunity to grow as a person and a professional by having internships in Shanghai and working in Dubai for 5 years after graduating which gave me top position jobs, knowledge and the network that got, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the position I am in today of it wasn’t for Dubai.

Which is your favourite and least favourite drink to make and why?
Oooh there are too many, too much to choose from. Haha I prefer premium spirits combined with incredible craftsmanship from a talented bartender that loves what they are doing. Such as my absolute favourite Beluga Gold Line Martini, striped to perfection with a hint of lemon zest. Top Class! My least favourite drink is when people don’t care about what they serve and don’t have the product knowledge. It’s my biggest frustration in life!!! hahah

 How would you describe the perfect customer?
A costumer that appreciates good quality products and are willing to spend a little extra money in order to get a better drink for them to enjoy while giving me the freedom to be creative and give them the in all aspects and show their appreciation in terms of a good tips.

What’s the weirdest drink order you’ve gotten?
Oooh I have so many hahahha! One guy wanted me to serve him 60 ml of shaken egg whites.
On time while working in Shanghai, a former US president wanted me to make him a dirty martini that was 10 ml Vodka and 80 ml olive brine. During Christmas time back in the days we got a challenge by costumer that wanted a shot based on Christmas beer and whipped cream.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the creative aspect that I full control over what we can and will do, which makes us only do fun and super creative things that normal corporates would struggle to do whilst generating good profit. But I also really like to see how my staff growing with the responsibilities and being able to successful in what they do while knowing that I got their back no matter what.
Do you have any special bartending skills you’re extra proud of?
To stay calm and collective while dealing with extreme high end costumers that has a lot of spending power and want to be serve the best quality and making them feel comfortable and turn them in to regulars.
How do you spend your spare time?
What is free time? Hahahah, no I like to work out, I run very often. I have huge interest in Navy Seal Training program where I challenge myself to levels I never thought I could do.
What do you drink when off duty?
 I love Fernet Branca Menta with soda but I recently discovered my new favourite champagne Boërl & Kroff, a small Champagne house that buys grapes from Drappier and makes exclusive Cuvées, ABSOLUTLY AMAZING!!!!

What do you have in your private liquor cabinet?
Mostly rare and exclusive spirits like Remy Martin Louis XIII.

How have you and your establishment been affected by the pandemic and how do you handle the

Well obviously we lost all our events, which was a big blow but since we are so diversified we managed to stay ahead of the pandemic forecast by being able to keep the clients but offering other services to them to build strong partnership that will be good for all parties whenever we can return to some sort of normalcy, hopefully soon to bring back some incredible events for sure.

Do you think that the hospitality industry will get back to how it was before the pandemic, or will the current situation become the new “normal”?
I think that it will not be the same normal before Covid, I think it will be less big gatherings unless something exceptional will happen.
What upcoming cocktail trends do you think we can expect in the near future?
I think a big rise in the clear drink segment like seltzers and RTD (ready to drink cocktails). In terms of cocktail trends, I’m gonna be bold and say that I think that we will see more of food in drinks such as caviar, foie gras and saffron. And of course a trend of non-alcoholic spirits will be bigger. Try the Martini Vibrante, add some tonic and enjoy!  Look for more sustainably produced and sourced materials. Maybe the vaporisation drinks could go on a big surge.

Which are your favourite bars/bartenders around the world and why?
My favourite bar is called Caprice, Four Seasons Hong Kong, because of their extreme diverse and old
vintage spirits that has been taken care of and used in the best ways possible and lifted to be the star. On top of all this they also have a Michelin Restaurant with a unique design. Hehhe when you go there try the Wagyu Burger.
In your opinion, how does the bar scene in Sweden compare internationally?
The scene in Sweden is always developing but are always behind on trends in London, New York and Hong Kong. The cocktails are mostly not focused on what the market is expecting here in Sweden which is a negative business way but it’s good for the creative and innovative bartenders we have in Sweden. However I have to say the Swedish market is very good and is very consistent in service execution and product knowledge.
How do you come up with new cocktail recipes and what inspires you?
It normally starts with knowledge of the basic recipe of cocktails and try to develop them to match the
costumers’ desires and tastes with a premium touch. For example a foie gras sazerac. Some people that
inspire me are Michelin chefs around the world and painters and craftsmen from the creative world because they always has a unique way of solving problems and making something great from it.
Which of your signature drinks, if any, and what else in your career are you most proud of so far?
I think it must be my Golden Saffron Royale, a Champagne cocktail to die for. I will give you the recipe:

French Saffron Gin
Homemade Spanish Saffron syrup
Homemade Elderflower Cordial
Topped with Bollinger Champagne

Served in a coupe with a hand cut ice diamond and garnished with fresh Iranian saffron and orange oil from the zest.

The other things I’m most proud of in my career is that I’ve been very good at living and working with so many different cultures and structures in companies and countries.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Henx Hospitality Group is established all over the globe in destinations like Dubai, Monaco, Marbella,
Shanghai, Los Angeles, Moscow and having opened the first boutique hotels in some markets.
Would you like to share one of your own recipes?
I can give you one more, ahaha.

Foie gras Sazerac
Foie Gras-infused Louis XIII
Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey
Peychaud’s bitters
Sauterneres and Champagne syrup

Topped with the oil from the lemon zest, served in a absinthe-rinsed glass. Totally worth it! Enjoy, and drink Responsibly!