"The flavors of italy" in Singapore by shane eaton

About a year ago, I visited Rome for Roma Cocktail week for a symposium on the World's 50 Best Bars where I met Giampiero Francesca and Diego Ferrari. We all decided that the future of the bar world was in Southeast Asia, with the capital of course being Singapore. Since I had formed some friendships with key players in the Singapore industry, we decided it would be awesome to showcase the best of Italy in the thriving Singaporean market. Through master classes and guest shifts, we wanted to educate both consumers and industry in Singapore about the amazing way we drink in Italy, from the aperitivo to the after dinner digestivo. In Italy, we have the best drinking culture in the world. Evidence of this are the popularity of the aperitivo style worldwide, and the heavy use of Italian vermouth, bitters and spirits and international cocktails. One great example is of course the magical Bar Termini in London.

We were able to organize The Flavors of Italy in Singapore thanks to the generous support from Luxardo (sour cherry and dry gin, fernet, amaro abano, bitter bianco), Cocchi (vermouth storico di Torino, dopo teatro, americano), Campari (bitter, Cynar), Michter's (rye and bourbon whiskey), Castagner (Casta and 7yo grappa, Amaro Leon), Marzadro (18 lune and Amarone grappa, Amaro), Pallini (limoncello, Ferro China Bilva, Mistrà), Mazzetti (7.0 grappa di ruche, Gaia Mazzetti Riserva, Amaro) and Liquore delle Sirene (bitter and cocktail bitters).

In discussing with Zdenek Kastanek of Proof and Co, we became aware that there we two new exciting Italian-inspired cocktail bars in Singapore that would be perfect for the events. To take advantage of the large number of international industry people in town, we organized our events during the popular Singapore Cocktail festival, which in my opinion is the most important cocktail week in the world.

The first bar we visited is called Marcello, located in Hotel Incontinental at Roberston Quay. Marcello has the largest selection of amari in South East Asia to
complement a premium selection of Italian cocktails. Therefore with our guest bartender Benjamin Cavagna of 1930 Milano, we wanted to focus on digestivi and amari, as both stand alone spirits and in cocktails. May 7, Benjamin gave his master class on the after dinner Italian drinking ritual and then served cocktails during a fun guest shift, where consumers and trade packed the intimate and elegant Marcello bar. The success of the event wouldn't have been possible without the amazing organizational skills of the Marcello head bartender Palmira Bertuca.

The second bar for The Flavors of Italy in Singapore was Caffe Fernet, a new Jigger and Pony project which focuses on Italian-inspired dishes and favourite Italian cocktails delivered with “sprezzatura”. Caffe Fernet is located at 70 Collyer Quay with a breathtaking view of Singapore River. On May 9, Diego Ferrari of Rotonda Bistrò Milano and Cocktail Art held an afternoon master class on the Italian culture of drinking, which was very well attended by both trade and consumers alike. The highlight of the event was at the end, when Diego and Caffe Fernet bartender Cherrie handed out Italian espresso to all the guests, asking them to "correct" their coffees with a grappa, amaro or liqueur from one of the sponsors. Since representatives from Pallini, Marzadro, Castagner, Luxardo and Cocchi were in attendance, it was a nice opportunity for the participants to ask questions directly to the producers. Then later that evening, Diego had his guest shift “A Negroni Affair with Diego Ferrari", where he presented 5 different Negroni-style cocktails using the ingredients so kindly provided by our sponsors.

Overall we were extremely proud of the events, with master classes at capacity and many cocktails purchased at both bars. It was not a simple matter keeping 9 brands, 2 bars and 2 bartenders happy, but in the end, the events went very smoothly, with everyone having a great time and we received many positive reviews from the attendees of the Flavors of Italy events.

What is the future for The Flavors of Italy? If all goes well, we can bring this exciting project back to Singapore next year but also to other interesting markets. 

A special thanks to Palmira of Marcello, Cherrie, Aki, Charmaine and Indra of Caffe Fernet, Rachel, Mimi, Hutch, Benedict, Ethan, Sarah, Neil, Zee and Paul from Proof. Without them, these events would not have been possible.

Marcello - Benjamin Cavagna, 1930 Milano

 The menu at Marcello featuring Luxardo, Michter's, Cocchi and many more Italian brands

The menu at Marcello featuring Luxardo, Michter's, Cocchi and many more Italian brands

 The beautiful Lorraine showing off the menu at Marcello

The beautiful Lorraine showing off the menu at Marcello

 John Ng promoting our Taste of Italy event at Marcello

John Ng promoting our Taste of Italy event at Marcello

 Trini and Erica enjoying two of Benjamin's drinks

Trini and Erica enjoying two of Benjamin's drinks

 Erica with a bottle of Cocchi Barolo Chinato

Erica with a bottle of Cocchi Barolo Chinato

 Benjamin serving Lee Watson

Benjamin serving Lee Watson

 

Caffe Fernet - Diego Ferrari, Rotonda Bistro (Milano), Cocktail Art

 Aki of Caffe Fernet showing of Castagner and Mazzetti grappe and amari

Aki of Caffe Fernet showing of Castagner and Mazzetti grappe and amari

 The girls from 28 HongKong Street try a caffè "corretto" with Marzadro grappa

The girls from 28 HongKong Street try a caffè "corretto" with Marzadro grappa

 Benjamin, Shane and Diego at Caffe Fernet

Benjamin, Shane and Diego at Caffe Fernet

 After his master class, Diego takes time to pose with his Ferro China Baliva shirt with his industry and consumer friends in the background 

After his master class, Diego takes time to pose with his Ferro China Baliva shirt with his industry and consumer friends in the background 

 Diego explains Liquore delle Sirene, Luxardo, Campari bitters during his master class

Diego explains Liquore delle Sirene, Luxardo, Campari bitters during his master class

 Diego uses Cocchi sweet vermouth of Torino, Liquore delle Sirene bitters and Luxardo gin in making a cocktail at Caffe Fernet

Diego uses Cocchi sweet vermouth of Torino, Liquore delle Sirene bitters and Luxardo gin in making a cocktail at Caffe Fernet

 Diego pours Luxardo Sour cherry gin for a Negroni

Diego pours Luxardo Sour cherry gin for a Negroni

 Cherrie of Caffe Fernet studies the guest bartender Diego Ferrari

Cherrie of Caffe Fernet studies the guest bartender Diego Ferrari

 Job done! The last drink is a Sour cherry Negroni with Luxardo sour cherry gin, Campari bitter, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

Job done! The last drink is a Sour cherry Negroni with Luxardo sour cherry gin, Campari bitter, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

Best Cocktail Bars of Centrale - Northern Milano by shane eaton

1. Octavius, COCKTAIL €16

Octavius is the slick cocktail bar next to the The Stage Restaurant in Piazza Gae Aulenti. The Stage has a beautiful interior design, which mimics the interior of a luxury yacht. Architects Roman and Williams clad the walls in tambour wood panels which together with the mahogany ceiling make you feel like you're in the belly of a boat. The adjacent Octavius bar can be spotted through the porthole windows, with similar wood surroundings and warm color tones and lighting. The beautiful stainless and brass bar counter is the highlight, where Francesco Cione mans the crew of talented young bartenders - at Octavius, I've never had a bad cocktail! 
From the latest menu, try Octavius' revisited negroni Per-un-EGRONI with Macchu Pisco Acholado, Select, sweet vermouth, absinthe and fernet. My favorite drink so far was the Peat-Stop with Talisker storm, Caol Ila Moch, a hint of Esapdin Joven mezcal, Zucca liqueur, sugar, honey and coffee bitters mix. 

Although you pay more than MaG cafe or Carlo e Camilla for a drink, the sexy environment and solid drinks are worth the price of admission. Octavius is my top choice for Northern Milano!

  Per-un-EGRONI and Peat Stop

Per-un-EGRONI and Peat Stop

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2. Botanical club, €10 cocktail

Botanical Club caught everyone's attention 3 years ago when it first opened, being the first bar to distill its own gin called Spleen et Ideal with 8 botanicals (juniper, angelica, coriander, green cardamom, rosebuds, iris, lime peel, mandarin peel). Entering the bar in the trendy Isola district, I was immediately impressed with the slick bar area and good looking customers. I can see why Botanical is a favorite of my fashionable friends Jessica, Tatiana and Arianna! Although Kate (ex Mag and EGO) started things off at the Botanical Club, she has now moved on to work with Elephant Gin. Manning the bar now is the ultra-gifted Mattia Capezzuoli, formerly of 1930. He prepared two perfect renditions of the Dry Martini and Tuxedo cocktails . From the new drink list, try the 48, a name inspired by the first war of independence in Pastrengo in 1848. It features Spleen et ideal gin, lime juice, lemongrass syrup, plum bitters and organic champagne. In addition to great drinks, they have a solid food menu. Try the Ravioli with ricotta di bufala, saffron and a sea urchin sauce. Bomba!

  Hepple Gin Martini Cocktail and Tuxedo Cocktail

Hepple Gin Martini Cocktail and Tuxedo Cocktail

  Mattia and Shane

Mattia and Shane

 

3. Dry Milano, €12 COCKTAIL

Thanks to Domenico Carella, I discovered the magic of Dry in Vittorio Veneto. The hip space near Piazza Repubblica features a welcoming front bar area, where the bartender on duty will always greet you with a smile as you enter. Hospitality is the number 1 priority of the bar team at Dry and they will always go out of their way to make sure you feel like a king. In addition to stellar cocktails, you can sample the best focaccia in Milano. I suggest the salted Yogurt salato with vinappeso or Stracciatella with prosciutto crudo of Osvaldo to pair with your drinketto.

The list is often changing at Dry, so I encourage you to ask the bartender on duty (Francesco Galdi or Federico Turina) to make you a twist on a classic. The Michter's Old Fashioned with an ice sphere made by Dom was the best version of this drink I've had in agese. If you become a regular, request the mind blowingly good Ramos Fizz, a drink most bartenders would refuse to make. But at Dry the boys have got your back! 

If you're looking for great food and drinks in a cool atmosphere with head-nod worthy electronic music surrounded by sexy Milanese and jetsetters, Dry is your best bet in Milano. 

 Old FashionED

Old FashionED

 The greatest Ramos fizz

The greatest Ramos fizz

 

4. Club Deco, €15 SIGNATURE cocktail/$10 Classic cocktail

"Stay hungry, Stay foolish", the famous line that Steve Jobs borrowed from "The Whole Earth Catalog" during his famous commencement speech at Stanford immediately came to my mind after visiting Salvatore Scamardella at Club Deco,

Although some may be put off by Salvatore's flamboyant style, one thing you can't argue with is his strong desire to innovate. Within five minutes of sitting up at his bar counter at Club Deco, I was captivated by his passion and pride for mixology. If the bar isn't too busy, Salvatore will have you try an endless number of his wild preparations. I don't know how he finds the time to make all this stuff each day!

The most memorable drink of the night was Salvatore's take on the Americano with Campari infused with rhubarb, chocolate red wine!, black walnuts bitters and ginger beer. To add some herbaceous notes, he smoked the drink with hemp! If you don't get high, you will at least enjoy some incredible aromas from this drink. 

Do not leave home without trying the legendary Mare Nero (Black Sea), a cocktail designed to confuse and excite your senses - Talisker Skye infused with lemongrass, latte di mare (a syrup made of milk infused with shrimp heads), Falanghina infused with peach, spuma nera (a blend of chocolate bitters, squid ink, strawberry extract, sake honjozo and marshmallow!), Choya verde. I was initially unsure how to drink this cocktail served in a spiny drinking receptacle but after getting past my initial apprehension, I truly enjoyed this sumptuous cocktail. Il Mare Nero borders on being almost a food dish, which is no surprise given Salvatore's background as a chef.

 A special Americano

A special Americano

 Il Mare Nero

Il Mare Nero

 

5. WoodinG BAR, €12 Cocktail

Wooding Bar in Isola is an innovative bar by Valeria Margherita Mosca, who gained fame from her Wooding Wild Food Lab, a research laboratory studying the use of "wild food" for human nutrition and nutrition. Valeria and her team study, collect, catalog, analyze, and experiment with wild plants for food and drink. The wild food concept is an environmentally friendly way of sourcing food and also the cocktails proposed at Wooding Bar.

Although I didn't meet Valeria, I was happy to see Erica Rossi behind the bar at Wooding. She started me off with drink #1 featuring mezcal, wild blackberry kombucha (a naturally carbonated, fermented tea), fermented ground roots and ground elder. The herbaceous cocktail was well-balanced and pleasant on the palate.

I urge the first timer to start with a safer choice, the Wooding reinterpretation of the Old Fashioned. Other than the bourbon whiskey, this Old Fashioned veers far from tradition with (3) koso juzo (a delicious fermentation of 50 herbs that ordinarily would be toxic in nature!) and homemade bark bitters. It's even topped with a fermented cherry. 

In speaking to my other friends in the industry, it seems the average drinker isn't quite ready for the creative menu at Wooding. I personally, being a fan of new tastes and ideas, had a great experience at Wooding and would encourage all adventurous cocktail enthusiasts to check it out.  

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 Koso Juso and the bar counter at Wooding

Koso Juso and the bar counter at Wooding