An affair of the heart opened up the world of cocktails to Andrea Gualdi of Maybe Frank in Sydney’s Surry Hills. In this interview, Andrea talks about his humble start washing dishes to working at Artesian, one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.
Name: Andrea Gualdi
Bar: Maybe Frank, Surry Hills
Position: Head Bartender
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started in bartending.
I come from a very small city in the north of Italy, Bergamo. When I was 20, I left my job in Italy to follow my first love in London. I couldn’t speak a word of English so I was working in a kitchen of a small wine bar in Primrose Hill, Negozio Classica, washing plates and glasses. One night I had the opportunity to cover a shift behind the bar. I fell in love with it straight away. I started to buy bar books, studying and trying all of these cocktails that I was reading about.
Tell us about your time at Artesian in London and how it has influenced your bartending career?
Well, I am confident to say that the Artesian team game me the biggest lesson that I ever had in life, which is that big satisfaction doesn’t come without hard work. Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale are the hardest working persons that I’ve ever met.
Over there, I stopped to think about drinks in terms of recipes and numbers as I was doing before and I discovered the thing that keep me alive behind a bar counter, which is the experience that you can provide for a guest. For the first time I was working with chefs, spending as much time as I could in the kitchen. I discovered that the cocktail by itself is just the smallest part of being a bartender, the “behind the scenes” work was actually the 70% of our life.
Over there I discovered a very romantic way to see the drinks, the story behind them and the beauty of work hard for a dream. I completely changed my vision of bars, an emotional trip where ingredients and stories bring you in magic places, just by ordering a drink.
You’re now managing the bar at Maybe Frank, a pizzeria with a cocktail bar. How did you go about creating the cocktail list?
When Stefano Catino and Vince Lombardo called me and explained me the project of Maybe Frank, I had an instant crush on that, a pizza & cocktail venue. The cocktail list was very challenging for me. I’m using ingredients that we put on our pizza to make the drinks. We try to touch all the different styles of drinks, and, of course, we try to keep it as much Italian that we can.
Which cocktail ingredients do you like to work with?
I love to work with vermouth and amari. They are not just ingredients for me. When I make a drink with them, I’m using a piece of Italian history and it’s something that makes me feel proud of my origins.
What current cocktail trends impress you at present?
I am a big fan of simplicity. My favourite drinks usually have no more than 3 or 4 ingredients.
What does Sydney and/or the Australian bar industry needs more of?
I believe that the Sydney bar scene is growing, the energy and the passion of this city are unbelievable. There are a lot of very good cocktail bars, what we need to do now is to bring the guest’s experience to the next level, and we are going in the right direction.
And less of?
Vodka lime and soda.
What is the one cocktail book that should be behind every bar?
The first book that Alex Kratena gave me, Setting the Table by Danny Meyer.
Name 3 of your favourite bars, anywhere in the world, and why.
Palmer & Co in Sydney – the first place that I’ve worked here, a bunch of passionate bartenders in a fantastic venue.
La Perla in London – if you love tequila, this is the place to be!
Boadas in Barcelona – a piece of history.
When you’re not behind the bar, what is your favourite drink?
Well, I’m very simple when I’m not working. If you want to make me happy, give me a prosecco and a margarita!
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