Marco Russo, class of 1985, began his bartending career as a barback in Trezzo sull’Adda. After stints at several bars, he ended up at Fashion Cafè in Brera, where he made one of the most important friendships of his career with Flavio Angiolillo. The two decided to become partners and open MaG cafè, a cocktail bar on Naviglio Grande. MaG is one of the most special places in Milano. It's enough to make you fall in love with this city, or in my case, start a blog about cocktails and food.
With MaG becoming more and more popular, the bartenders found they were no longer able to make elaborate and time-consuming drinks or chat with their customers. And that’s when the idea of 1930 secret cocktail bar was born – as a way of recapturing that initial charm of MaG in a more private and elegant environment.
Shortly after 1930 opened, Marco decided that he would spend all of his time there, getting to better know his clients and also ensure the success of the bar. In the 3-year history of 1930, he has come up with an impressive number of drink recipes spanning 7 cocktail books. He is also responsible for many of the whisky-based cocktails at the enchanting BackDoor43.
If you have the good fortune of being able to enter 1930, I encourage you to sit up at the bar and watch Marco as he beautifully prepares your cocktail. His past experiences as a flair bartender have given him an amazing grace behind the bar. His training as a boxer also greatly benefits him during his long shifts at 1930. Despite being a bit guido (tamarro), he's got a great heart and is one of my favorite people in the food and beverage industry. For the Faro di Scozia alone, Marco is my hero.
Below are some of Marco’s drink making highlights over the years:
Faro di Scozia (Lighthouse of Scotland) tells the story of a captain trying to steer his ship towards Scotland in the midst of a violent storm. The first ingredient is sea water because of the strong waves crashing against the boat, constantly spraying water in his face. Next is Belhaven stout since it’s the beer of choice for him and his crew. When he finally reaches land, the first thing he does is kisses the ground beneath him and so distilled earth in also included. At the first pub he comes across, he celebrates with a peaty scotch, Laphroaig quarter cask.
This is my favorite drink of all time. It’s the perfect balance of smoky, creamy, bitter and sweet. This drink is liquid gold.
Recipe: 45 mL of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, 7,5 mL of sea water, 8,75 mL of distilled earth, 1,25 mL of milk, 8 drops of bitter, 7,5 mL of syrup of Belhaven and vanilla.
Inferno is my favorite drink on the new menu. Served literally on fire in a beautiful fire-resistant tin cup, Inferno is the spicy equivalent of the Faro di Scozia. Amazing.
Recipe: 6 drops of grapefruit bitter, 7.5 mL of paprika syrup, 7 mL of distilled pepper, 45 mL of mescal, 2.5 mL of Ferro-china, 10 mL of Ancho Reyes
Niseko is an awesome drink if you like scotch and mushrooms (who doesn’t?!). It is dedicated to Masataka Taketsuru who travelled to Scotland in 1918 to learn the process of distilling Scotch whisky first hand. Upon returning to Japan, he started the Nikka distillery, which is responsible for some of the finest whiskies in the world. The distillery is located near the majestic Niseko mountain. Given its unique flavour profile, the Niseko cocktail is best appreciated with a fully cleansed palate as the first drink of the night.
Recipe: 60 mL of Japanese whisky, 2.5 mL of china, 15 mL of mushroom syrup, 4 drops of orange syrup, 5 drops of orange bitter
Martesana is cocktail named after the canal (naviglio) which runs from Trezzo sull'Adda to Milano, following the same path as Marco in his life. The most important ingredient is gorgonzola the famous Lombard cheese which Marco has skilfully managed to distil at low pressure in the lab next to 1930. This drink is special for me because Gorgonzola is the reason I first fell in love with Italian food back at my uncle’s restaurant in Little Italy in Vancouver.
Recipe: 30 mL of single malt scotch whisky, 30 mL of distilled gorgonzola, 5 mL of syrup of peanuts, 5 mL of pear glucose, 1.25 mL of salt syrup, 1 drop of walnut bitters.