As part of my research project on laser-fabricated diamond quantum computers, I've had the opportunity to travel all over the world. During the day, you'll find me holed up in the lab, but in the evening, I enjoy exploring local bars and restaurants. Below you'll find my favorite cocktails imbibed in the past couple years, including bars in Singapore, Cape Town, San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, Calgary, London, Torino, Milano, Naples, Rome, Lecce, Tirano, Pavia, Pozzuoli and Abbiategrasso.
The Horse with No Name (Joe Alessandroni, 28 HongKong Street, Singapore). 28 HKS, which opened 5 years ago in Singapore, has redefined the drinking scene in SE Asia. In their first year, they made it into the World's 50 Best Bars list and they've remained there ever since. 28 HongKong street is the sexiest and best run cocktail bar in Asia and their new drink list is their best yet. My favorite cocktail at 28 is The Horse with No Name featuring Purasangue Tequila Blanco, Pineapple, Bell Pepper, Lime, Jalapeno and Cilantro. The Horse with No Name is a spicy and fragrant drink that will blow your mind. The recently launched ATLAS, a lobby bar with the largest gin collection in the world, also features cocktails designed by the guys at 28 HKS. Check out the ATLAS martini (London Dry Gin, Mancino Bianco Ambrato Vermouth, orange bitters and champagne vinegar) if you have the good fortune of stopping by!
Navy Grog (Rudi de Vos, Polynesian Pearl Diver, Cape Town). Thanks to Devin Cross for insisting I visit the Polynesian Pearl Diver, a fun tiki bar pop up in the docks area of Cape Town. The spot is popular with industry types who want a break from the mainstream bars in SA. This place has great positive energy thanks to the casual tiki-style atmosphere and Rudi de Vos, the friendly and talented barman behind the stick. I loved the Navy Grog with Brugal light rum, Sailor Jerry, Jamaican dark, Quan's honey mix, grapefruit, dry lemon, and lemon juice. You can now find Rudi at the House of Machines.
Tommy's Margarita (Julio Bermejo, Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, San Francisco). My favorite bar in the USA is Tommy's Mexican restaurant, which was originally opened by Tommy Bermejo and his wife 50 years ago. These days it's managed by Julio Bermejo, a great host and one of the friendliest people you will meet in the bar industry. He is the world ambassador of tequila thanks to his amazing knowledge of the agave-based spirit. Start off with the Tommy's margarita (2 oz tequila, 1 oz lime juice, 0.5 oz agave syrup), prepared with the freshest limes in the world by Julio or his awesome head bartender Greidy. After a few Tommy's margaritas, let Julio guide you through his world's largest collection of tequilas.
Ledo Road (Keefer Bar, Vancouver). Situated in Vancouver's chinatown, Keefer Bar is famous for incorporating traditional chinese medicinal ingredients in their cocktails. It sounds odd until you realize that many amaros and bitters used in modern cocktails were invented for medicinal purposes. Ask head bartender Amber Bruce for a Ledo Road with Woodford Reserve, carrot juice, lemon, salted plum syrup and India spice bitters. It's no better way to start your adventure of Keefer's incredible cocktail menu.
Sazerac Experiment (Jamie Boudreau, Canon, Seattle). Canon is one of the great American cocktail bars and home to the world's largest spirits collection, with over 4000 bottles, 3000 of which are American whiskey. The casual bar is best experienced up at the bar counter, where we my friend and I enjoyed some great whisky-based cocktails mixed by Matthew Collette. My favorite cocktail was the Sazerac experiment which is three Sazeracs in one: the classic Cognac version, the most popular rendition with Cognac and Rye or Rye only. My favorite is the heavenly mix of Cognac and Rye. Brilliant idea guys!
Cinder and Smoke (Proof YYC, Calgary). The best cocktail bar in Calgary YYC has a beautiful bar area with relaxing leather chairs instead of uncomforable wooden bar stools. Be sure to drink from the talented Makina Lynn or from my favorite canuck, Ernie Slubik on Tiki Sundays at YYC. The best drink I had at YYC was Cinder and Smoke, a heavenly variation of the whisky sour with Buffalo Trace bourbon, activated charcoal, cedar syrup, lemon, Black Cloud charred cedar bitters, and egg white!
Fig Leaf (Matt Whiley, Scout, London). After weeks of perfecting my list of bars to visit in London, Scout found its way to the very top. Upon entering, I was impressed with the intimate and modern space. Charles Roche was a great host, guiding us through the odd menu at Scout. Just like Luke at Operation Dagger in Singapore, the boys at Scout leave the base spirit off the drink descriptions, so you aren't tempted to choose your favorite whatever as long as there's whisky in it. In fact, the menu might look more like a light food menu with cocktail names like carrot, wheatgrass, beetroot and gooseberry, named after the primary ingredient in each drink. Impressively, all ingredients are sourced/foraged from within the UK. The cocktails, made with the modern lab-style methods, were complex and beautifully layered. If you have the chance, ask to visit the laboratory downstairs. Although Scout's drinks are sophisticated, the four that we tried were all very approachable. My favorite was the savoury and floral Fig leaf with fig leaf, fermented gorse flower, vetiver with a base of Woodford reserve (shh!).
Smoked Flower (Mirko Turconi, Piano 35, Torino). Mirko Turconi is a legend in the bartending community and is notoriously proficient in cocktail competitions, including making the finals of World Class 2017 in Mexico City. After a successful stint at MaG in Milano, Mirko made the move back to Turin to open Piano 35 lounge bar, located on the 35th floor of the Intesa San Paolo skyscraper. On a nice day, the lounge bar offers stunning vistas of the city. But instead of gazing at the Torinese skyline, my attention was drawn towards Mirko behind the bar, who skillfully prepared two meditation worthy cocktails. The highlight is Smoked Flower featuing a Scotch whisky mix, Vermouth Dopo Teatro Cocchi, Sherry Pedro Ximenez, flower liqueur, Bittermens Burlesque bitters, and a tobacco smoked cherry. This drink is so good you may cry.
Ape Vigorosa (Yuri Gelmini, Surfer's Den, Milano). Part bartender, part gardener, part really nice guy, Yuri Gelmini and his friendly Surfer's Den will insantly win over your heart. Yuri loves using odd plants, flowers and herbs, even from his very own garden at Surfer's Den. My favorite drink is Ape Vigorosa which was inspired by the Futurists’ Guerra in Letto (War in the Bed) cocktails, meant to fuel intense lovemaking. The drink features 2 oz Grappa Moscato d’Asti, ½ oz Taneda, ½ oz Cocchi vermouth, ½ oz Biancosarti and served with fresh honeycomb on a cocktail stick. It's strong and spirit forward thanks to the grappa, but incredibly well balanced. This is exactly the kind of drink I want after dinner, perhaps just before finishing the evening with my girlfriend.
La Risposta (Alex Frezza, Antiquario, Naples). Antiquario is a beautiful speakeasy that first opened its doors in November 2015. Alex Frezza, dressed in an elegant pharmacist's outfit, will guide you through a great night of imbibing, with the earthy but elegant La Risposta (The Answer) being one his best creations (45 mL bourbon, 30 mL Amaro Lucano, 20 mL Liquore Strega and 4 dashes of orange bitters).
Mala Education (Roberto Artusio, La Punta, Rome). Thanks to a collaboration between the boys of Freni e Frizioni and Jerry Thomas, Rome now has an awesome bar called La Punta, which specializes in Agave-based drinks. My favorite was the silky and smokey Mala Education with mezcal, grapefruit juice, rhubarb, agave honey, habanero bitter and egg white. Thanks to Mauro Foglietta for the beautifully prepared drink.
Bobby Burns QB (Diego Melorio, Quantobasta, Lecce). Quantobasta is a cocktail bar in the center of Lecce, the most beautiful city in Apulia, Italy. Quantobasta won the prestigious Best Bar in Italy from the Bar Awards in 2015 and it's no surprise as QB is a really fun bar. Looking around you'll notice that all the patrons are smiling and chatty, perhaps thanks to the cozy space and well-crafted concocations by the talented bar team. Make your way past the lively crowd to meet the one and only Diego Melorio, perhaps the nicest guy in the Italian cocktail game. Diego prepared a revisited Bobby Burns for myself and Marco Fabbiano that really dazzled our taste buds. It features whisky, Carpano Antica Formula, maraschino, Angostura and Quantobasta's very own oxidized passito. Ask Diego about the story of this "passito sbagliato" (mistaken passito).
Negroni Insolito (Edoardo Redaelli, Caffe 900, Tirano). Tirano, home to the Bernina Express which crosses the breathtaking Swiss Engadin Alps also features a noteworthy cocktail bar, Caffe 900. The owner and head bartender Edo Redaelli made me a rugged version of the negroni, the Negroni Insolito (Unusual Negroni), with a London dry gin infused with coffee beans, Martini Bianco, Campari bitter, China and 900 aromatic bitters served with a side of roasted coffee beans and chocolate. The aromas from this smokey and savory negroni immediately brought back my most cherished childhood memories of Christmas eve at my grandparents' house circled around the fireplace with my cousins, roasting marshmallows for chocolate s'mores while listening to my grandad's Frank Sinatra records.
Non c'è Hanky Senza Panky (Teo Stafforini, Radici, Pavia). I had a great experience at Radici in Pavia, a bar opened by Teo and Sofia six months ago. Radici has world class cocktails and delicious artisan sandwiches coupled with one of the friendliest bar teams out there, including the lovely waitress Anna. I sat up at the bar for a record five hours, always with a smile on my face. My favorite drink was invented by Teo just for me, as one of my last drinks of the night. The "Non c'è Hanky senza Panky" (there is no Hanky without Panky) features Knob creek bourbon, Fernet Branca, Belsazar vermouth and Angostura bitters. Props to Sofia for naming this bitter after-dinner cocktail.
BoulevarPier (Pier Strazzieri, Bar Castello, Abbiategrasso). Bar Castello is a short 30 min journey from Milano and is definitely worth a trip for the great drinks, rustic castle-like atmosphere and beautiful people. Pier Strazzeri's BoulevarPier features 45 mL Carpano Antica Formula, 25 mL Campari, 20 mL Knob Creek and a spoon of Pedro Ximenez. The Pedro Ximenez sherry is the key, which provides even more elegance to my favorite pre-dinner drink.
Golden Ingot (Sette Piterà, Brusco Wine & Audio Room, Pozzuoli). A twenty minute drive from Naples, Pozzuoli is perhaps more famous for its pizzerias than its cocktail bars. Enter Brusco Wine and Audio Room, a three floor cocktail bar/lounge and restaurant with a drinks program managed by Sette Piterà. I visited the beautiful beach-side bar in August, where we enjoyed the warm summer evening on the upstairs patio bar. I plan to return soon, when Sette opens a more intimate cocktail lounge downstairs. My favorite drink on the beautifully hand-drawn menu is Golden Ingot with Don PX, Tio Pepe, Bulleit rye/bourbon, chocolate bitters and rosemary. Grande Sette!