THE ART OF INGREDIENTS
In a Q&A session with DBA, Vincenzo Sibilia, AGM and Head Mixologist at Barts Secret Speakeasy in London, talks about his passion for flavour combinations and the secrets of bartending.
We know that working in the bartending industry can be tough from time to time - long hours, thankless tasks and busy bars. But we also know, there’s nothing better than hearing from a ‘brother in arms’ or as we like to call it, another ‘friend’ in the industry.
Let’s face it - we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love it! And we love to hear all about someone else’s experience, so we can try to take on their learnings, experience and guidance for our own personal journeys.
So we ask you to sit back, relax and enjoy our recent catch up with Mr Vincenzo Sibilia…
As a chef previously, how did your passion for food inspire your passion for drinks?
I based my studies and spent my first year of work experience training as a chef because I always thought that cooking was my vocation. That was until I discovered what mixology was!
I still remember how excited I was when I first had the chance to use ingredients normally used in a kitchen to mix cocktails.
I basically found the way to fuse my passion for the flavours of food with the bar world. I still get a real buzz when I receive feedback and comments from customers after they have just tried a new creation of mine. That’s something important to have in a kitchen, too, but unfortunately extremely rare to experience as a chef.
It made me realise that it’s important to identify your passions, in my case food and drink, and use those passions to propel yourself within the industry you love. Don’t let the limitations that life can place on different things prevent you from fulfilling your dreams - after all, any skill is transferable, it really comes down to how you perceive it.
Why should bartenders care so much about their ingredients?
The essential basis of a good cocktail is the liquid and ingredients in the drink. A good quality drink doesn’t need lots of ingredients, just good ones that complement one another.
The real skill in creating the cocktail lies more in the execution – how you mix and present these ingredients. Putting an idea into practice is a hundred times more complex than coming up with a good idea.
How do you go about buying and selecting your ingredients?
Choosing and buying new ingredients is definitely one of the more enjoyable parts of creating a new menu. To find new ingredients I like to go to many different places like street markets, flower shops, fish shops, all kind of restaurants and so on.
I also like being surrounded by nature. To be honest, you can find new ingredients anywhere in the world, even in the most hidden places.
My advice - take inspiration from all walks of life. No matter where you go, there will be something to learn and help inspire you. Take this with you behind the bar and see how it can change your perceptions - I bet if you apply this logic you’ll find something new to bring to the table.
What do you predict to be the new hot trends for 2015/2016 with cocktail ingredients?
This year I’ve noticed how customers’ tastes are moving towards tequila as a spirit and to things that have a botanical flavour or inspiration.
I strongly believe the next trend could actually be the combination of these two - I would advise that you explore the botanicals, identifying new flowers, plants etc. that can be added to drinks to really give them that extra kick. And if you stumble across something, it might just become the next big thing!
What seasonal ingredients are you using in your cocktails?
The seasons of the year play a key role in influencing my menu. For example, I love using white truffles during September/October and, of course, flowers and botanical flavours in spring.
Stop and look around you - incorporate ‘real life’ into your serves. There’s no better cocktail than one that can tap into the emotional psyche of people - identifying what they are connecting with and reaching them through their senses with your serves.
What advice would you give to people wanting to change their career to bartending?
The bartender is considered the nobility of the hospitality class and is probably one of the most exciting and beautiful jobs ever (however, I might be slightly biased).
Unfortunately, people sometimes trivialise this role, so my advice is to have a full knowledge of products and techniques, constantly study your subject and always strive to improve. Without knowledge you don’t have power.
So I say education, education, education! And of course, having an insight into the industry before embarking on your journey can help. After all, the wonders of the worldwide web can help open your mind to what can be achieved if you put your mind to it.
25ml Tea infused TANQUERAY™ No. Ten
25ml Tanqueray™ No. Ten
20ml Lemon and syrup mix
10ml Apple juice
5ml Egg white
(2.15 standard drinks* - 1.6 units per serve)
Method: Shake all with cubed ice, double strain tea and serve in a teapot with a cup on the side. Add cucumber slices to garnish.
Vincenzo, originally from Turin in Italy, has been working in London for over three years and with the Inception Group at Barts since 2012. Stay up to date with all the latest news from Barts on Facebook or follow on Twitter.
(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)
The TANQUERAY word and associated logos are trademarks (C) Diageo 2015.