Why do all cocktails have to have English names, and why is it that we don’t have a cocktail bar that at least appears to be local? The person who inspires us to ask these questions is an American named Kevin Patnode, who opened a brand new cocktail bar in Tünel called Külhanbeyi.
Let’s roll back the reel to the beginning: it all started a few years ago, at a time when Kevin Patnode spent his winters bartending in New York and summers teaching in Istanbul. When offered a job as head bartender at Nopa Restaurant in Nişantaşı, he jumped at the opportunity. Last year, despite having only three years of professional bartending experience, Patnode was chosen the best bartender in Turkey at the Diageo’s Reserve World Class competition. Spurred on by his success, Patnode got to work gathering everything he needed – from the drinking glasses to antique furniture – to open up his own bar by the end of 2015.
The bar is decidedly small: it can only accommodate 25 people, and they don’t take reservations (though you can request that they call you to let you know when space opens up), which makes Külhanbeyi a place better visited to start your night out instead of ending it. Patnode says he enjoys chatting with his guests as he crafts the perfect cocktail for them, and adds that cocktails shouldn’t be pricey indulgences – hence why most drinks at Külhanbeyi cost around 35 TL. As you might expect from a national cocktail champion, Patnode’s concoctions are as creative as they are humorously named. Speaking of names, some of you may be wondering what “külhanbeyi” means: the word itself was used in the Ottoman era to refer to men who fed coal into hamam boilers to keep them burning. These days, however, its meaning is closer to “ruffian.” Patnode tells us that his bar’s name is actually a reference to the boiler room that once stood in the very same location.
Clad in a white apron, Patnode seems perfectly at home amidst the local esnaf (shopkeepers) in Tünel. When we chat with him about what it’s like for a foreigner to open a bar in Istanbul, he gives the example of Maksim Gazinosu, the one-time darling of Istanbul nightlife which was founded by an American named Frederick Bruce Thomas. Talking to him, we can’t help but be impressed by Patnode’s love for and in-depth knowledge of the city – both of which would put your average Istanbullu to shame.