A constantly new bartender

Simone Caporale tells us how he keeps his passion alive: reinventing himself every year

14-02-2016

Simone Caporale, one of the most established and talented bartenders in the world, debuts as contributor to our website. For four times in a row, together with Alex Kratena, he conquered the first place in the World's 50 Best Bar Awards with the Artesian Bar inside the Langham Hotel in London. And it’s only one of the many prizes they have received. This even though only a few months ago, in November 2015, they announced they wanted to leave the Artesian, taking on new challenges and accomplishing new projects

In this first piece on Identità Golose I’d like to analyse the changing process I applied not only to our bar, but also to ourselves, that is to say to our team. How and what we changed in ourselves, in the structure of our team, until we reached the final conclusion that made us establish new rules, which also apply to Alex Kratena and I because as a team, we’re on the same level of our colleagues.

The Artesian Bar was born 8 years ago as the bar of a 5-star hole: it was developed thanks to a external consultancy that designed a menu with 110 drinks and a list of spirits focused on rum. It wasn’t common for a hotel of that kind to have a bar serving precious rums, quite the contrary: usually, hotel bars in London are still focused on malt whiskey, cognac and champagne. In this case, they gave a rather “funky” stamp, very distant from the classic style.

Hence came the idea of doing something different. In 2009 Alex started experimenting on an inverted method to dilute and cool a Dry Martini with cold sources other than the ice, through the flat surface of the Anti-Griddle. The later conclusion was to design a Martini goblet that would preserve a temperature between -4 and -10°C for a longer time.

Simone Caporale, right, and Alex Kratena

Simone Caporale, right, and Alex Kratena

Hence the Langham Martini was born, served in a modular goblet in silver-plated nickel: it was a success! We increased the consumption of gin by six times, and from that moment on whoever asked for a Dry Martini wanted in fact a Langham Martini, so much so the brand of gin was no longer important as they only asked us for a Langham Martini. Despite most clients usually drank very dry Martinis, the Langham Martini was served with a 3:1 ratio of gin and dry vermouth.

We thus realised the impact you can have on a client through a drink when you offer a different experience: this was the starting point for a further internal revolution. We started to question every object and technique we used. Whether the choices were good, whether they could be improved and, most of all, whether they made sense. We began to look at glasses as “containers”: as long as an object or material in any shape or condition can contain a liquid, we can consider it a container. Even a horizontal sheet glass could contain a liquid if we could keep it in the middle, and we could therefore consider it a container.

Simone Caporale and Alex Kratena crowned in 2015 for the fourth time in a row by World's 50 Best Bar Awards

Simone Caporale and Alex Kratena crowned in 2015 for the fourth time in a row by World's 50 Best Bar Awards

In 2012 we realised we couldn’t go that far on our own so we began to share our ideas with experts in other fields: designers, graphic artists, architects, glass technicians and bar accessories’ design firms. As for the aromas in the cocktails, we had to apply our brains in the study, though superficial, of cosmetics, perfumery, in order to literally leave the classic model that defined “sour” as something that could only be made with lemon or citrus fruits, or “sweet” as something that could only be made with sucrose.

Every day we tried to go beyond the usual strawberry and passion fruit, always remembering that mint is certainly not the only aromatic herb available in a bar, quite the contrary! Over the last three years we designed three menus: every year the choices made in the previous menu were archived and no longer used: this so that we wouldn’t harness our creativity with things we had already done.

Of course this meant making a greater effort, but it allowed us to always obtain new products. We imposed this extra effort on ourselves mostly because the two of us will never tire of this job, but for this to be the case, we must be able to make it always interesting. And having to reinvent everything every year is one of the possible ways of accomplishing this.

We strongly believe there are still very many things that have not yet been done in the spirits industry and this motivates us to move forward. Our next challenge will be to make a bar work using our new management system. We want to invent a totally new way of managing a bar, with a different hierarchy or perhaps with no hierarchy at all.

We would like to have the participation of external colleagues for medium periods, basically a sort of internship inside the bar, and we’ll manage internal resources so as to sustain the manpower and offer creative support to anyone who’ll be part of our team. We want to include bartenders from all over the world in this project, because there are plenty of people who ask us to do an internship with us. We strongly believe many hands make light work and this job works thanks to sharing: see you soon colleagues!


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