Bartenders, Drink

Matteo Battistello: bars manager, 76 Dean Street

What’s your favourite cocktail?
Martini – I got my best in the Waldorf Astoria, New York. They added two olives stuffed with blue cheese and I loved it.

How do you build a cocktail list?
I like to choose a theme. Last year I made a list about vegetables, one drink was a twist on a cosmopolitan, called 76 and the City and I got the colour from the beetroot. Our new one is about botanicals and herbs like fenugreek, caraway, very simple cocktails but with something interesting inside. Simplicity is key.

Where did you learn most about drinks?
When I spent six months working in New York, visiting famous speakeasies and hotels whenever I could. I was studying the menus, taking photos of the cocktails, trying to see how the bartenders were working and what they were using.

What was your first job?
I started working weekends in a restaurant when I was 16, moving from waiter to barista to barman. After my first job I moved to one of the best places in my area, and learnt from colleagues there how to make cocktails. I attended a few cocktails and started to collect books.

Who or what is your biggest influence?
The owner of a jazz bar called Bar Borsa in Vincenza, where I’m from. His name is Luca and he’s very passionate about hospitality. From there there I understood the importance of the quality in everything: the drinks, the food… Luca let me experiment a lot; everything I wanted to buy, he would say go for it. That’s where I learned probably the most.

How did you get started at Soho House?
As a bartender at Soho House 76 Dean Street. Within a year I became head bartender and then bars manager. It’s a nice company because if you’re committed and you really want to give something of yourself, they recognise it. You can progress.

Do you have a mentor?
As well as Luca, Erdem [Kayalar, UK bars manager] has taught me a lot about operations, which is key in a huge place like this where there are seven bars. Watching him, I became very interested in all the organisation of the bars, time management, the financial stuff.

What’s your favourite bar in the world?
The American bar at the Savoy is the best in the world. Having read the Savoy book of cocktails, it was one of first places I went when I came here to London. I had wanted to try the white lady because it had been invented there but it was too expensive for me!

Any advice for someone starting out in the job?
To read a lot of books, to be prepared, know what you’re doing. And I think you need to be customer oriented. The majority of bartenders think they need to know everything but forget about the customer experience, which is the most important. Some places sell only three cocktails, but the experience is amazing.

And what drink would you use to test a new bartender?
People don’t really drink daiquiris any more but it’s the best cocktail to test if a person is able to balance a drink.

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