Gintime talks to one of our favourite people, Ago Perrone, winner of the International Bartender of the Year at July’s Tales in New Orleans.
So, how does it feel to have won a very important award recently?
When they call your name it’s a very emotional feeling, especially when previous winners have been industry leaders like Tony Conigliaro and Nick Strangeway who have been an inspiration to me. My team has worked very hard and deserve a big slice of the prize. We all put in daily effort to establish a great concept and memorable experience for our guests.
Also to get two awards: best world hotel bar and best international bartender, on the same night is almost a dream experience!
The Connaught is a classy bar, what makes a classy cocktail?
A classy customer of course! We like simplicity with style; I believe that the environment of the Connaught Bar and our attention to detail are key factors that enhance our service.
A classy cocktail is the cherry on the cake. It must be innovative but traditional and we like a modern interpretation of a classic.
It’s the personality of the drink that gives a long life to it.
What are your regular customers like?
Our clientele are mostly business people and travelers. We often find that we share the same customers with our dear colleagues in other great cities like New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Japan. We are very lucky in that our clients are experimental and willing to try new things. They like giving feedback so we grow in our knowledge too. It’s so nice listen to the stories of people who travel a lot. Sometimes I feel as if I am in a vintage bartender’s book and part of my customer’s travel diary and that is very special.
How did you get interested in cocktails?
Loving photography I was fascinated by the colourful creations and started to work in bars pretending to pay for my photography course – and I never went back!
Did you have a mentor in the early years?
Simone Maci, my best friend, is the guy who inspired and shaped me. Also Luca Pirola who knows everything about this profession. Together we’ve created www.bartender.it (the first Italian bar magazine on line) as a bridge of information between the UK and Italy. It also features Italian bartenders who work internationally.
Who are your heroes in the cocktail world?
There are so many… I don’t want to miss anybody out so I thank all my colleagues for inspiration!
What’s going on in the gin world that excites you right now?
Genuine ingredients mixed with modern techniques are creating something very interesting when the balance is good.
Any top tips for wannabe mixologists?
You learn from your mistakes so don’t be scared to experiment. It doesn’t matter what you do but how you do it. Also, keep listening to the customer!
What’s your favourite bar or bars?
I love spending time in La Capilla in Tequila town when I travel to Mexico, but if I’m here La Perla in Covent Garden has the same feeling! There is so much choice for great bas now but I find it is still the company that is so important.
Who in the industry do you most admire?
All the people that love and believe in our profession and bring a fresh energy and mentality every day behind the bar.
How do you like you G&T served?
Definitely with loads of ice.
What’s going to be the next big trend in the cocktail world?
People are rediscovering authenticity. That mixed with the latest technology, mixing skills and customer awareness means we are definitely going through the second golden age of cocktails.
I want to make a cocktail that’s really impressive! Any tips for creating something a bit more special than the normal?
Use your personality and mirror this in the glass.
What’s the recipe for your favourite gin cocktail?
50/ 50 gin and dry vermouth, Peycheaud’s bitters: stir with ice and strain. Garnish with a lemon zest twist.