Behind Bars: Ona Mor, Cologne
Tailor-made cocktails and hand-carved ice
Sitting down at the bar of “ONA MOR“ in Cologne, two things happen pretty much at once. First of all, after some deciphering, you realize that the name of bar is actually it’s owner’s last name -Alessandro Romano – spelled backwards. The second thing though is much more important. You’ll probably don’t want to leave. It’s just too comfy.
Thomas Henry goes „behind bars“ in Cologne, right next to the river Rhine.
Alessandro, explain the concept of ONA MOR.
We take 3 things very seriously, they are our foundation, so to speak. First of all comes cosiness, combined with a fast and unobstrusive service. Secondly, high class and mainly homemade yet extraordinary ingredients for our cocktails. And then, there’s our hand-carved ice. We break bigger chunks out of huge ice blocks and start carving from there.
A lot of drinks and cocktails have been invented here, they are your own creations. Such as “Réglisse Concombre“ with Dutch gin, fresh cucumber, orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice, homemade juniper syrup and liquorice aromas. Or a “Tommy´s Margarita“ with wild berries and sweet mustard. You even make tailor-made drinks.
Yes, many guests have become fans of our „tailor-made“ menu. They choose the flavours, nuances and the general style and we have a unique, tailor-made cocktail ready for them within minutes. We also write down the recipe for the guests to take home. Sometimes, we create up to 60 new cocktails per week his way. The best ones make it onto our cocktail menu.
Being so involved, how do you manage you work life balance?
You need to know when to call it a day. When it’s time to relax. Spending time with my wife Conny, family and friends. I’ve got that covered.
Where do you look for new trends? Where do you get new ideas?
When you start as a bartender, you automatically check out other people’s work of course. Books as well. It’s all a matter of interpretation, especially when you get to know better your ingredients. Things are getting easier and you start acting more independently. You have more trust in yourself, choosing what your guest needs right now to get lucky. I love to get new inspiration, but at the same time I force myself not to try too hard. That´s my recommendation to have a good work life balance.
You´ve been working in many different places and countries. At the famous “Burj Al Arab“ in Dubai for example, but also in the UK, where you were awarded “bartender of the year“. Who was your main inspiration when you started?
Well, I’ve done my training in a hotel, which was perfect, because it gave me the opportunity to learn in the hotel bar, too. My first mentors such as Dominik Schachtsiek and Felix Hartmann as well as many pleasant and interested guests made it easy for me at an early stage to really go for this job.
Would you do it again?
What a question to ask!
You´re giving courses for amateurs and professionals in the “ONA MOR Barschool“.
We´ve designed them in a way that professionals as well as laymen and small birthday groups or team outings can book them. So, we were able to teach colleagues and other pros some new tricks. Topics such as “Sweet´n´Sour“, „Liquid Cuisine“ or “Japanese“ are pretty popular. Our fun courses is designed for small groups looking for entertainment before having dinner or going out. More information about the courses (in German language) here.
There´s a lot going on in Cologne´s bar scene, with many openings. You are right in the middle of it. What’s your take?
There´s a lot of team spirit, no direct competition, it´s like a big family. We know each other’s favorite drinks and also know who the regulars are in certain bars. Sometimes we just hang out together in our free time. It´s fun to work in this city. For me, Cologne always has been an institution for renowned bartenders – not only because it is my hometown. It was just a question of time until some of them fulfilled their dream of their own bar. It´s also really good to see that high class cocktails with many self-made ingredients appeal to Colonian guests so much. I look into the future with great confidence, the trend won´t slow down. There´s a lot more to come!
Your drink recommendation with Thomas Henry when visisting “ONA MOR“?
Gin and Thomas Henry Tonic Water. Simple but good!
ONA MOR – The Art of Fine Drinks
Bar/ Cocktailkurse/ Cocktail Catering
Opening Hours: Tuesday tp Saturday 8 pm til 2 am, Sunday til Monday 8 pm til 1 am.