When Bartenders Talk - Simone Caporale
The former Langham bartender on cocktail trends, travelling in the Andes and restoring vintage Italian scooters
Simone Caporal came to London in 2009 on a one-way ticket with just hand luggage and £1,000. Attracted by the mix of so many cultures he knew it would be “the perfect place to create and experience things in a glass.”
After working at the Artesian Bar at the Langham and becoming a break out star on Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube he set up his own R&D consultancy business. He’s also one of the high profile contributors to Where Bartenders Drink. In it, the best 300 expert drink-makers share their secrets - 750 places spread across 60 countries - revealing where they go for a drink throughout the world when they're off-duty. Venues range from late-night establishments and legendary hotel bars to cosy neighbourhood 'locals' - often in some very surprising locales.
The 750 expert recommendations come with insightful reviews, key information, specially commissioned maps, and an easy-to-navigate geographical organization. Written and compiled by native New Yorker Adrienne Stillman, the co-founder, editor-in-chief, and event director of Dipsology, a curated digital guide and online community for cocktail enthusiasts, it's pretty much the only guide you need to ensure that you get the best drinks in the most memorable global locations. Over the past few weeks we've been interviewing some of the bartenders in it. Today we're talking with Simone.
Where are you from and and how did you get into this line of work? I was born in Ossuccio, a tiny village on the shores of Lake Como. During the summer school break there wasn't much to do for the kids apart from playing football. So at the age of 15 I applied for the job of ‘glass collector boy’ at a local disco bar on the beach of the lake. My life hasn't change much since then! I still collect the empty glasses at the bar!
What's the one thing about being a bartender that would surprise people? Most people think this job is just for young people trying to pay their school bills. People get surprised when they realise that that’s a wrong stereotype and discover how much culture, history, technique and identity is behind every single drink and behind every single bartender
What's your favourite cocktail to make and why do you like making it? My favourite drink to prepare is the one I have not tried to make yet. I love to experiment with new techniques, liquids and also ‘solids’ which are important for a liquid result.
Do cocktails go in and out of fashion? There are fashions yes, but every part of the planet has its own local trends. But I see it is like a circle - things come back on trend. What I see now is a higher awareness and demand for lower ABV drinks, and the development of cocktail flavours through the spontaneous fermentation of basic starter ingredients. Despite that being a trend now, the evidence is that everything comes and goes in cocktail fashion, but fermentation is the oldest and most important natural-chemical reaction for any drink and for most of the flavours.
What do you do when you’re not mixing? I like to dedicate time to travelling in areas most people don't consider cool. As long as they’re comfortable enough to be considered as a holiday. I went to the Peruvian Amazon to test various fermented brews based on poisonous Manioc and discover new fruits for my cocktails database.
I am currently in the sacred valley in Cusco, in the Peruvian Andes to learn about pre-hispanic techniques for combining drinks using pre-Hispanic ingredients. Apart from travel, I do spend most of my savings on buying old vintage scooters such as Italian Lambrettas or Vespas and restoring them completely until they shine. This is what I do when I'm not working. The problem is that bartenders in Europe rarely have much free time!
Check out Where Bartenders Drink in the store and come back soon for another interview with one of its star mixologists.