Pictured above, from l-r: Vasilis Kyritsis, Dimitris Dafopoulos and Nikos Bakoulis. Photography by Perikles Merakos
There was a moment last year when the hashtag #line.athens was showing up on some of the most influential IG feeds in the drinks biz. Accompanying it was a question: “What the f**k is Line?” At the time, only three people really knew the answer: Vasilis Kyritsis, Nikos Bakoulis and Dimitris Dafopoulos.
For those unfamiliar with the names, the former two are best known as the main faces behind Athens finest, The Clumsies (number four on the World’s 5 Best Bars no less) and the latter, one of the driving forces behind the award-winning mixers and tonic brand Three Cents.
Line is their new baby, a collective project that sees them all embracing the next stage of their lives and respective careers.
So, what the actual f**ck is Line?
It’s a new direction
Vasilis: We knew we wanted to open a new place but creating something different to what you’ve been used to is never easy. We didn’t want to roll out a Clumsies mark two, we wanted to come up with something different.
The idea for Line came about after a few intensive brainstorming sessions. We’d been talking about various concepts for about a year – covering everything from a vodka bar to one specialising in food pairing. Finally, we came up with the idea for Line. It made a lot of sense to us both as the root of Line is very close to our hearts. Nikos loves wines and I like the process of wine making so it was good to hit upon something that embraces both of our interests.
What does it entail?
Nikos: Line is a lot of things that come together in one direction – things that start but never end. In this case, it’s about fermentation and its key end products: so beer, wine and bread.
Vasilis: Appreciating and exploring fermentation in bars is nothing new. Mostly, people will go for a plastic jar with an airlock but at Line we wanted to go a little deeper. We’re exploring all aspects of fermentation and bringing it together under one roof.
Nikos: For the most part, we’ll be leaving nature to take the fermentation process where it wants to go, but at other times we’ll need to handle it a little, that’s what we’re calling the Method of Anarchy.
Vasilis: Line is also about creating a nice community of creative people; it’s a collaboration of different industries coming together in one house and creating something very special. That for us is the next step of bartending – collaboration. Particularly after these tough times that we’ve all been through; it’s what we need to do in order to become stronger, more resilient.
Nikos: We’ve travelled around Greece seeking out small batch producers who want to collaborate with us. Initially, we’ll be working with four farmers: one specialising in pomegranates, another producing figs, then there’s someone with an apple orchard and another with beehives where we’ll be sourcing our honey. We’ll be working closely with our farmers over three to four years.
Goodbye wine, hello why-in!
Nikos: We won’t be producing grape-based wines. Not only because there are already many amazing wine producers in Greece but our basic idea is to build a concept close to nature – something sustainable and holistic. Put it this way, in the not-to-distant future there’s going to be a problem with grapes because of climate change – temperatures are changing rapidly. Traditionally, grape harvest should be in the summer months, but it’s moving to spring and consequently, that’s going to affect the taste. So we’ll be making wines with ingredients that don’t have those problems.
Instead of grapes, we’re focusing on producing stunning grape-less wines, we’re calling them ‘why-ins’– they’ll be made with some of the fabulous fruit we have around us. Coming from a bartending background, fruit is often the thing that our customers identify with. Not that they want fruity drinks but they’ll often ask for a drink with fruit as a reference point, for instance they’ll come in and ask “can I have a drink with strawberry, pomegranate etc.”
Vasilis: That’s not the only way that our why-ins will be different. Instead of the traditional red, white or rosé varieties, ours will be divided into Classic or Fancy. So, Classic might have the identity and flavours of what people may associate with wine, while Fancy will take in details you don’t find in wines. For example, we’ll be making a Fancy pomegranate why-in that takes in elements such as smoke, rose, walnut and tomato – characteristics that can’t easily find in classic wines. Our Fancy why-ins will also have lots of cocktail elements.
The cocktail question
Nikos: Yes, we’ll be offering cocktails but they’ll be pared back and very classic. Mostly they will be paired with products that come from the why-ins. For example, our version of a Negroni will be made with gin and a sweet vermouth made with our pomegranate wine base. The vermouths will change so we’ll have strawberry and beets in the summer, going through to whatever is in season. You’ll be able to try the wines from one year to the next and taste and understand how the terroir affects the fruit and how our skills improve over time.
Walk the Line
Vasilis: We’re located about 10 minutes from downtown. We’ll be honest, the area isn’t necessarily one of the most popular for bars in Athens [for those familiar with the city, it’s close to where the Athens Bar Show is held] but as soon as we saw the building, we knew it was the perfect place to bring our vision to life. Nothing else came close.
The building belongs to one of the most respected gallery families in the country – it was one of the oldest galleries in Greece. It’s very industrial in look and feel with lots of natural materials, plenty of space and incredible high ceilings. There’s also a yard inside the building with a large area covered by glass, so it has a really lovely inside-out feel.
Nikos: We’ve made the most of the space, which is 185 square metres in total. There’s a bar and coffee corner; then from the bar you open the door to the walk-in fridge where the idea is to collect the ingredients, store them in the fridge, handle them and make the final products that we’re going to serve. The other door leads to a prep room/lab/winery. This will be a new way of making ingredients at the bar for us, we’re focusing on building something new with proper R&D.
The circle of Line
Nikos: For an example of how we’ll be working, take beer. Any leftover, we’ll send to the kitchen to make bread and some will go to feed the goats, then we collect the milk and make goats cheese. If we make a strawberry why-in, we can also use the fruit to make vermouth or our version of champagne. Anything left over from the why-in can be served with the goats cheese. That’s the idea of how the line works but obviously, it will take time. We don’t want to say we’re sustainable but we want to respect sources and do things as responsibly as possible – that’s our way.
Vasilis: There are a lot of talented people involved in Line. The person helping us to make our fruit why-in is Thanos Georgilas, one of the most important winemakers in Greece, and we’ve teamed up with Alea Brewery Company, a brilliant micro brewery who we’ve worked with before on The Clumsies carbonated cocktails. Greek people love all-day bars, so we’ve partnered up with Wisecup Coffee for our customers to get their caffeine fix, and food-wise, Phaedra Mavroeidh Svarna from Bread & Chaos is making the bread and we have two talented chefs, Pavlos Kyriakis and Sandro Mitri on the food.
Lastly, there’s our graphic design team: Eleni Sakali and Alkitis Kouloumpi from el_et_al_blog who we’ve known for a while now, who are doing a fabulous job on all of our branding.
Nikos: Our logo represents the monolith sharing table that is central to Line. It works as a private place for different experiences – from brand meetings and mentoring sessions to simply sitting with your friends and enjoying food pairings. It’s a very important part of the business.
On the menu
Pomegranate why-in – Acco Variety/ Region Tithorea Fthiotidas
Fig why-in – Askada Variety/ Region Kymi Evias
Honey Why-in – Cotton mead/pineapple/passion/fennel
Apple Why-in – Apple cider/caramel/ginger/tarragon
Negroni – Gin/Symposium Vermouth/Campari
Margarita – Tequila Blanco/tomato confit triple sec/Greek lime
Sustainable Mary – Vodka with a combination of tomato and left over Line products
Mustard milk bread, pork sausage, homemade ketchup
Squid ink milk bread, octopus, tarama, chimichurri sauce
Mustard milk bread, king oyster, homemade ketchup
Beef short rib
Handmade pan bread, yoghurt, cucumber, mint
Savoury or sweet
And the big question is: what of The Clumsies?
Both: Don’t worry, we’re still very much involved with The Clumsies! [Details of the new menu to follow].
Where to find Line
Agathodaimonos 37, Athens, Greece
To keep up to date, follow @line.athens