Patrick Pistolesi: international experiences, Jameson Whiskey Ambassador and Cocktail World 2012 Finalist. You are considered one of the Top Worlds in the mixology field, succeeding in creating a truly high-quality show. In short, when we are talking about “Rome to drink,” you are certainly the right person to turn to.
How was the passion for cocktails born?
The passion for cocktails was born when I was very young: my mom is Irish, my dad Italian, so both of them have brought me into the Italian kitchen on one side, and on the other into the pubs in Ireland. In this last case, my cousins also made me experience the Irish pub very soon. We could say that the figure of the bartender always fascinated me: this person who always calls by name everyone in the pub, no matter the personalities, in short, he’s kind of the orchestra director of the adult recreation. All those bottles behind the counter were completely obscure for me at that time, then I learned to recognize them one by one. The barman is the one who welcomes from the door any kind of person, without distinction, in the place that is the least racist on the earth. So my passion was born immediately and I fell in love with this place, then obviously it grew also for need. I was lucky because it was one of the first jobs I did and I found the right one.
Italian mixology: can we talk about an Italian culture in this field too?
Absolutely and totally. The American Bar culture was born in America, where the cocktails has been consecrated. However, looking at how we have worked in the past here in Italy, we have always been dealing with alcohol. In modern mixology, we can not forget about the Italian aperitivo, famous all over the world, that made us leader in the whole field: with the creation of all those products such as Italian Bitters, Vermouth, or cocktails like the Americano or the Spritz, which was born during the First World War. All these foreign influences found their own expressions here in Italy. Think about tomato and basil spaghetti, which is the symbol of Italy, but with no Italian ingredients (if we look at the origin of raw materials): the spaghetti is Chinese, the tomato is South American and the basil is Thai. Everything that comes to us here in Italy finds fertile soil. So we can say that Italy has a great tradition in the food and wine field, but above all it has the ability to turn everything into excellence.
What are your favorite Italian cocktails and which one represents better our beautiful country?
What is most important is the aperitif, a totally Italian moment between 6 and 8 in the evening, just before dinner. On the other hand, the aperitif comes from “to open” which means “preparing for the meal” and we have our traditional drinks preparing for dinner. An uplifting example are the corroborating drinks, such as Vermouth, which is an alcohol-spiced wine and spice that is born as a genuine care. The bitter ones were created by those who knew well botanicals and medicine. Having said this, we can say that a Negro abroad, wherever you are, you can ask for it and find it without a doubt.
Mixology: history, tradition but certainly a great trend in recent years. How to understand when dealing with a professional?
Let’s start from the assumption that ours is a work of great sacrifice. This I say because we are people who constantly answer questions, never statements. “Can I have …?”, “Where’s the bath?”, “How much does it cost?”, “Do you have a phone battery charge?”, Whoever has more. We are the information center of everything that happens from 8 pm onwards. It takes so much patience, so many nights spent guiding people and taking care of adult recreation. Even private life suffers. This is a work that is done with love and in which there must be a great passion, we must be totally devoted to what is our role and that helps to make a unique moment for gentlemen, that moment at the end of the work, in which you seek refreshment. This is important. Confirming the factor of sacrifice and total dedication, the study is also important, because this is what allows you to stand behind a counter and talk about everything, spacing. It is therefore essential to have a predisposition for human curiosity in all areas. So, what is a professional? It is he who sees the invisible things, that is, of the simplest things that are in front of you all day. A nonprofessor usually fills the mouth of millions of words, does pandasic flights, exhibiting his drinking culture. Here is a knowledge that we must be part of our work, but you do not have to blow it into the face of the customer who may even feel embarrassed: what you want at that moment is a moment of simplicity and not a mixing lesson. Having the discretion and the ability to anticipate customer desires, from small movements, is something that can only be understood through experience. A tip I would like to give young bartenders is to always say yes and to be as silent as possible to learn to be careful about what is said and to deal with people’s habits. It is very important to be able to create this bond with the customer, something very rare, a very important trust relationship that only takes time. So at first look a lot, be sure to say too much about yourself. It’s all a game of human mixing and emotions that can keep up in balance from 7 in the evening until late at night.
Where to drink here in Rome? Are there tips about real Rome institutions where to drink?
In Rome we are full of talented young people and also of great institutions. In the 1960s, we were the soul of the Dolce Vita, so I will leave immediately by some places that I think must be visited, the mecca that gathers both young bartenders, but also those symbols where you have to go for pampering: for example, the Stravinskij Bar within the Hotel de Russie is a wonderful place, an old Russian czar estate that then became the center of Rai and now a hotel whose guide has had Massimo D’Addezio, my most esteemed colleague and master . I also remember the Sofitel or Hotel Locarno, ideal for relaxing with something classic, from the taste of other times and taking some time for yourself with a beautiful Martini, to feel pampered. This concerns the hotel bars, but then there are so many categories.
For the aperitif I recommend the street bar, such as Brakes and Clutches which, in my opinion, beats all of them: it is a bar that in my opinion hides much its talent, is not vanity, does not compete, can take the mass, but at the same time it has a great preparation and a great research, together with the great professionalism of the boys who mix.
Then how do you not name Jerry Thomas guys? We can say that they have been the promoters of this Renaissance cocktail here in Italy, who united us all, putting the barman under the same star and creating a gathering place for a drink, where this new movement was born. From Jerry we can jump to equal foot to their other bar La Punta, a theme bar where you eat well, a place to spend an exotic evening. Obviously there are a lot of other colleagues I would like to quote, but I managed to put all the points together. Another speakeasy to mention is ARGOT with Gianluca Melfa, then the Club Derrière with the great Davide Diaferia and Giampaolo Dipierro, a viable alternative to Jerry.
Let’s say I will continue to work for Jameson, this important Whiskey Irish company. I have always been fortunate enough to be able to work with companies such as Hendrick’s Gin, Schweppes, etc.
At the moment I came to the third year with the Propaganda project, a beautiful project that, however, I think I will conclude soon to open a local one. I do not know when, but surely in 2018, when I will celebrate 20 years of career and I just want to crown them like this. I willingly spend two words for Propaganda: for me it was the Termini station for those projects in which I have always been called and involved to support their realization. I did jumps when Maurizio Bistocchi offered me to join the team. It was, and still is, a wonderful experience. The future is still in an embryonic stance, but we say that management is the one that has just been anticipated. Propaganda will remain the last venue to end this part of my career and then start another with a concept that will be all mine and that I have matured all these years. Even though I have always had a blank card and freedom of expression in my work, this will be my first true creature. Let’s say this is what’s boiling in the pot: a new opening in 2018.