If you have the opportunity to watch Luca Cinalli behind the bar, you’d be hypnotised by the pace and efficiency with which he works, both hands carrying out separate tasks in perfect coordination at incredulous speed.
During his guest shift at Blu Bar on 36 in Shangri-la Sydney, we caught up with the international bartender to talk cocktail culture and trends. Luca Cinalli’s experience includes London’s Nightjar, currently number 3 in the World’s 50 Best Bars 2015 before he opened Oriole which recently won Best New International Cocktail Bar at the 2016 Spirited Awards.
He’s preparing Alcazar, a cocktail from Oriole that took two years to perfect. He uses Cognac, fino sherry infused wine leaves, aloe vera crème anglaise, lemon juice, served with Madeira Cake on a smoked cork.
“Customers are changing, becoming more knowledgeable,” he says. “They want to know more about cocktails and what goes in their drink.” The trend is to create an experience, to give a visual effect to the guest which in turn gives a percentage of trust. “The more they see, the more they trust,” he explains. “A kind of public relations exercise that works very well.”
Bottled drinks are also a current trend in bars offering the advantage of consistency and efficiency, a trend he does not always agree with. It can be counteractive to creating the experience he mentions above.
When it comes to cocktail presentation, making everything edible including the cocktail vessel is an emerging trend. At Oriole, a pasta shell is used for the Blood and Bone cocktail, a Bloody Mary consommé style gin-based drink served on cast iron to retain its chill and garnished with a frozen cherry tomato. He’s currently working on jelly glassware and a jelly old fashioned.
Cinalli cites gin as the current trend in spirits. “It was, it is and it will be,” he adds. The focus on raw products, the botancials and the spices is a main factor and it’s most popular to work with. Mezcal is also on trend, again focusing on the raw material which is agave. When it comes to the Amaro category that is gaining momentum internationally, many consumers don’t like bitter flavours so it goes back to the ease of working with gin.
A colonial play on the Tiki movement of the 50s-60s is gaining momentum due to more people spending time in bars. They may start with an aperitif, stay for food until close and want more refreshing drinks in between. People believe you need venue and décor to offer Tiki drinks but Cinalli says this is not the case. “Tiki that’s tropical and fresh is always on the menu.”
Though not always an apparent trend to the consumer, a proper bar set up plays an important role in creating the experience he offers at Oriole. By having bartenders involved in the design of the bar, the display, the station and even the kitchen, it can vastly reduce amount of preparation and execution time.
“We must improve the set up of the bar, the bar design and preparation area and work very closely with the floor team”. Cocktail techniques are important for the flavour profile and it has to do with the right set up. “By combining design and drink, we get the evolution of drinks.”
“We are less bartenders now and more hospitality people.”
Photo Taken at Blu Bar on 36 Shangri-la Sydney by Cocktails & Bars – © Copyright: All rights reserved.