What’s the concept of The Drunken Oyster [the upstairs bar at New York-Italian restaurant Hai Cenato] and what's the signature tipple?
The Drunken Oyster is a casual all-day bar with an Italian twist, serving negroni-style cocktails and a selection of more than 25 vermouths, one for every occasion. Our signature tipple would be our V&T (vermouth and tonic), balanced-to-perfection vermouths and bitters, mixed together with a large variety of tonics. A rare and tasty gem in the heart of Victoria.
How did the New York-Italian theme influence the menu?
The New York-Italian theme is one of my favourite styles for cocktails, the main influence being straight Manhattans and mixed ice-cold negronis. We place a lot of emphasis on aperitif and digestive-type drinks.
You run a guest bartender cocktail of the month. Can you tell us a little about what you’ve got in the pipeline?
We’re very lucky to be able to introduce cocktails from famous bartenders and winners of various competitions. It all goes to a great cause, too, with £1 from each drink donated to the charity Hospitality Action. There are already a couple of cocktails lined up for next month – one of them is the winner of a 2017 Sipsmith Gin competition. Stay tuned!
When did you know that you wanted to be a bartender?
I’ve always admired bartenders – they’re like performers on a stage, under the spotlight with the customers’ attention always on them. All I needed eight years ago, when I got my first job working behind a bar, was that little push to take the first step onto the stage, and then I knew I was in the right place.
What’s your personal favourite drink to mix?
In terms of mixing a drink, that would be an old fashioned. It takes a lot of attention, precision and time to make it – it’s a real craft. Because it takes that little bit longer, it gives me an opportunity to talk about it and introduce it to the customer in the way it deserves!
What are your favourite spirits and ingredients to work with?
I like to work with herbal liqueurs and bitters – a lot of citrus flavours. Vodka would be my first choice to start everything with – it’s a really underestimated spirit these days!
What’s the best piece of bartending advice you’ve ever received?
You can teach a monkey how to mix a drink, but bartending is not only mixing a drink – it’s how you serve it. This requires a lot of charisma, attention to detail and a huge smile to top it off.
What do you pour yourself at the end of a long shift?
Oh, that's a tough one – it really depends on the night or my mood. Sometimes it’s enough to crack open a bottle of ice-cold water to make me happy and smile again – the simple things!
Finally, who would you most like to mix a drink for?
In my career I’ve already been fortunate enough to mix several drinks for my mentors and favourite celebrities. The other day I was thinking about Winston Churchill and all the work he did for Britain – I know he was a fan of a drink, and I’d like to hear some of his stories over a cocktail or two one quiet and dark evening in the bar.