What inspired you to work in mixology?
When I was a student at Hospitality School back in Italy, I used to spend the summer seasons working as a waiter in restaurants. There weren’t many cocktail bars then, but I was fascinated by that world – by mixology itself – even though it wasn’t at the level of sophistication it’s at today. I decided to step behind the bar and that’s where I’ve been ever since.
How does the London mixology scene compare to the rest of the world?
Bartending allows you to travel a lot, so I’ve been lucky enough to visit the USA, South America and Asia while working with brands, giving me the opportunity to experience other cocktail scenes around the world. London offers something unique, not just in terms of cocktail culture, but also regarding the level of hospitality and service. New York, for example, has a great cocktail scene (although it tends to be less adventurous than London), but the service is not quite at the same level, whether you visit a 5* hotel or a normal street bar.
For me, your cocktail might be delicious, you might use amazing ingredients or homemade bitters, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to leave a mark on your guests and make sure they leave happier than they came in.
How do you go about designing a drinks offering that reflects The Conduit’s ethos?
It’s essential to create something that matches the philosophy of the club. Sustainable, seasonal and local ingredients are the priority and you also want to incorporate sustainability into your daily preps and wastage.
The drinks offering will be tailored to different floors; the 5th floor lounge will have a different vibe to the Speakeasy, for example, focusing more on smoothies and healthy non-alcoholic options. On the 4th floor we’re creating something advanced and exciting to match the calibre of the food Merlin and his team are producing in the Restaurant, using unusual ingredients, fermentations and homemade preps.
My approach to drinks is that less is always more. You should always be able to offer something exciting, but if you’re creative you don’t need much to do that. Even when it comes to classic cocktails, you can come up with a million different twists. I try to bring the ‘wow’ factor to every drink with elements of unusual tastes, aromas, feelings and overall experience. Trying to deliver that in a glass isn’t easy!
What’s your poison?
What I drink depends on the time of the day, occasion, season, which bar I’m in… There are very few places I’ll order a martini, for example. One is the Connaught, not because I worked there but because I know the martini is impeccable. A martini may only be two ingredients, but there are a lot of small details that make a big difference: the way the glass is chilled, the ratio you use, the stirring technique, the amount and quality of ice. It’s a lot going on for a duo cocktail. It’s very particular and not many places know how to get it right.
Is there a cocktail that you particularly enjoy creating?
There are two or three cocktails that are great to make (and to drink!): the Aviation, the Corpse Reviver and the Last Word. Balance is key for all three, as they’re quite sharp and citrusy. I feel pretty satisfied when I get it right. Which is every time (laughs).