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Most Imaginative Bartender Canvas Project: Nikolas Zoylinos

January 07, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Nick Hensley

Nikolas Zoylinos, national finalist in the 2020 Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, on balancing discipline with spontaneity, onstage and behind the bar.

Nikolas Zoylinos grew up going to town markets in England with his salesman father, who—Greek-born, charismatic, and talkative—impressed upon him the importance of connecting with every potential customer. The younger Zoylinos, aka Nik the Greek, has taken that lesson to heart in his bartending career, garnishing his style with a running commentary of humor, asides and mixological insights, as well as the improvisational technique he employs as an aspiring actor.

Zoylinos fell into his bar career in a similarly impromptu manner. At 20, on a whim, he moved to the south of France and began working as a tour guide; to make extra money, he got a gig at a hostel bar, mixing up Cosmopolitans and Mojitos. After a stint working at a cocktail bar in Australia, his next move took him to London, where he landed at job at one of the city’s most acclaimed tiki and rum bars. “I found my confidence behind the bar,” he says. “I got good at bartending, up to London standards.”

At the same time, he was pursuing his career on the stage and applying to the competitive Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. In the process, he learned to combine flow with structure, buttressed by loads of practice. Discipline could go hand in hand with spontaneity, and he found himself thriving under pressure. “I’ve always liked stress,” he says. “I’ve made some of the best drinks I’ve ever made on the spot, out of the blue.”

Though he was accepted to the Royal Academy, plans had already solidified to open a new bar in Austin, Texas. He made the choice: Throw his energy behind the venture in America. It’s a choice emblematic of Zoylinos’ overarching philosophy to approach things as they come and find inspiration in the moment, whether behind the bar or onstage. “I make long-term plans, but I always take it day by day. What I always [come] back to is engaging in the present.”

Nikolas Zoylinos on the Transformative Power of Acting

About the Canvas Project

BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® Gin, in partnership with Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, is proud to present ‘The Canvas Project’, a content series featuring the creative passions of the 12 finalists in the 2020 Most Imaginative Bartender (MIB) Competition. From photography and videography, to home gardening tips and mindfulness tutorials, the webinars are designed to spark inspiration and discovery, and foster connection by sharing bartenders’ personal passions in times of hardship.

Last year’s iteration of MIB introduced the Canvas Challenge, a $25,000 grant awarded to a finalist to turn their creative vision into reality. This ambitious test further heightened the imagination component of the competition to a new level and served as a reinforcement of Bombay Sapphire’s belief in the innate creativity of bartenders, which often translates outside the glass as much as it does inside of it.

The episodes of ‘The Canvas Project’ are designed around the Canvas Challenge submissions of the 12 finalists, who hail from Portland to Atlanta, Toronto to Miami, giving viewers a peek inside the inner workings of the program.

Read More About Nikolas
Nikolas Zoylinos Most Imaginative Bartender

This Is What Creativity Means to Nikolas Zoylinos

The Austin-based bartender on balancing improvisation and structure, his globetrotting introduction to bartending and the recipe for his cocktail, Oops I Forgot My Line.

Oops I Forgot My Line Nikolas Zoylinos Most Imaginative Bartender

Oops I Forgot My Line

A tea-inspired cocktail that marries gin, milk-washed dry vermouth and smoky Islay whiskey.


Meet the Most Imaginative Bartender National Finalists

The 12 bartenders from the U.S. and Canada advancing to the MIB national finals.