Top 50 Cocktail Bars

Get to know: Klára Kopčiková

What makes the Bar Manager of Birmingham's The Pineapple Club tick?

Charli Tomney | 25/10/2022

Name: Klára Kopčiková

Nicknames: I’ve got too many! Klaus and Klarinka are the most common ones, Godzilla, Jacamo and She-Hulk are the most insulting ones.

Pronouns: She/Her

Job Title: Bar Manager

How long have you worked at The Pineapple Club: since the opening in September in 2020

Any Awards or Accolades: In the past year, I’ve been a finalist for CLASS Bar Manager of the year Award, Midlands Food, Drink and Hospitality Bar Manager of the Year Award and IWSC’s Emerging Talent in Bartending Award. I’m very humbled and grateful to be on such lists. I’m also particularly proud of winning Imbibe’s national competition Shakes and the City as a team captain in 2020. Being one of 2500 Certified Sake Professionals worldwide is quite cool too, I think.

Key Skills: I think that my persistence and stubbornness is what makes me stand out, I rarely give up if I set myself a goal.

What got you into cocktail bars?

A big coincidence, really. I moved to the UK a couple weeks after I turned 20 with no solid plan and about £120 to my name, all I knew was that I wanted to work in the industry. The first job I got was in a pub which also made cocktails. I attended my first cocktail competition about 3 months after I started, which required designing my first drink, and that’s when I realized I was hooked. I fell in love with the craft pretty much immediately.

How many years have you worked in the industry?

As long as I’ve been in the UK, so about 3 and a half years. Although my parents own a restaurant back home in The Czech Republic, which I used to work in when I was a student, so hospitality has always played a part in my life.

What makes a great cocktail bar?

Great service. Everybody can forgive a bad drink, but no-one will forget bad service. Nothing can make up for that. I think that genuine hospitality and caring about the guest is the alpha and omega of this industry. Oh, and happy staff. How are you going to make a guest love the place if you don’t love it yourself? When I go out to cocktail bars, I want to know what the staff enjoy about the place, why they’re there - I want to understand what they’re passionate about.

What do you enjoy most about the industry?

That it’s constantly changing and developing and that there’s always so much more to learn. It keeps me motivated to never stop improving myself. I also love how much you can say through a drink, I love being creative. I love drinks with a story.

My favourite moments will forever be Saturdays on the bar though, when you’ve got way too many checks on, you’re sweating, you’re tired, but you’ve got a great flow and you’re in complete harmony with the bar.

What’s a signature drink of yours?

A drink I made for Shibuya Underground, which is our Japanese Cocktail and Sake Tasting Bar, called Rice. It combines Daiginjo sake with Creme de Cacao and homemade Vanilla Syrup. The beauty of it lies in the fact that the flavour of sake isn’t overpowered by the rest of the ingredients, and despite being an extremely delicate liquid, it still stands out. I think that’s quite difficult to do.

Favourite post-shift meal?

A Negroni. Nah, I am a bad sleeper, so I try not to eat too much after shift. Although I do love having soup. My friends always make fun of me for it, but soups are just weirdly soothing to me, especially after shift.

What does being a Top 50 Cocktail Bar mean to you?

The bar of The Pineapple Club is my baby, it has never been operated by anyone else, so I feel a lot of ownership over it. Knowing that something I helped to build from the very beginning has gone so far makes me feel incredibly proud. It proves that what we do matters, and that we do it well. I also think it’s amazing that we got on a list after such a short time, especially being a small bar outside of a capital city.

What is the best cocktail bar you’ve ever visited?

One bar that kind of sticks in my memory is a bar in Budapest called Black Swan Lab, a little hidden speakeasy I got to visit earlier this year. I didn’t know about it until the night I went, and I was completely mesmerized by the quality of service, drinks, design, everything.
In the UK, I’ve been very lucky to visit some great bar, and I don’t think I can pick one. I especially enjoy the bars in Soho in London, that’s probably my favourite kind of night out.

What do you enjoy most about working at The Pineapple Club?

There are loads of upsides but working with some of my closest friends is my favourite part. Sam, the owner, and Dina, our GM, are literally like a second family to me, they’ve always got my back.
In terms of my actual role, I’m given the trust to perform the role however I see fit, I get to choose the products, design the drinks, plan events, I feel empowered to put my own stamp on the venue. I like that a lot.  

Least Favourite Ingredient?

You know what, I don’t think I’ve got one. I used to hate fennel but one of our bartenders has recently made a drink with loads of fennel juice in it and it’s genuinely one of my favourite drinks ever.

What does the future hold for The Pineapple Club?

We’re hoping to continue to improve on what we do, putting Birmingham on the map, understanding our clientele, developing menus, and hopefully making a bit of a difference in the cocktail world, and eventually open some more venues, that would be really cool.