Q&A With The World's Top Mixologist Who Shares His Secrets To Success
PHOTO CREDIT Niklas Halle
This year during Mauli’s Diwali event we had the privilege of trying some of Ago Perrone’s non-alcoholic wine. It was so delicious, that we felt we had to know some of his recipes to try making our own this festive season and get to know the talent behind these creative cocktails better.
Tell me a little about yourself…What started your passion for becoming a mixologist?
I started bartending casually, but this led me to discover one of my greatest passions. Back in the days, I had decided to enrol in a photography college in my hometown in Lake Como and to fund the course I started working in bars. I was quickly drawn in. I was fascinated by the whole vibe of the hospitality industry, I discovered how much creativity and personal input I could apply to the profession. In 2003, after a course at the 3F American Bartending School I decided to fly to London to gain some international experience. There, I had the chance to come across some of the industry’s most legendary bartenders and become part of that amazing community, and family, of incredibly inspiring professionals. I worked in several bars where I found a fertile ground to nurture my drive and develop my own style paving the way for the life changing role at The Connaught in 2008.
PHOTO CREDIT Niklas Halle
What’s your typical day like from morning to evening?
Hectic, reason why it is important to find a balance between work and lifestyle, a space where you can disconnect to reconnect with yourself. I start early, against every cliché around this profession, to look after both the operational side of things (so everything concerning preparation, organisation of the back and front of house, service) but also to assist with the managerial part. Being present at the bar is of essence to ensure our guests are taken care of as well as the team. But travelling is a key part of this industry too. Attending tradeshows, conferences, hosting events all over the globe is a continuous source of inspiration and connections that helps boost creativity, knowledge and enthusiasm.
Are you seeing a rise in non-alcoholic drinks and which are the top three most requested?
Yes, the rise of non-alcoholic drinks has been a major trend over the past few years. Both consumers and bartenders are more and more conscious about their health and lifestyle, seeking balance and wellness. From a mixology point of view this has translated into a greater experimentation of flavours with non-alcoholic drinks and the addition of new brands to the market. Kombucha and other fermented drinks have been booming as they carry healthy properties alongside interesting herbal flavours. Products such as Three Spirit and Fix 8 have done a great job in approaching the development of a product holistically to harness the beneficial features of plants and botanicals and deliver a great taste.
Top tips for creating non-alcohol drinks at home
Always stick to classic recipes to experiment and mix flavours. For example, a traditional punch is a good start. Think about an aromatic and a spicy base and use your creativity and ingredients such as non-alcoholic spirits to add texture and body.
How did you get into meditation and what has it given you?
I have always been a traveller. Since a younger age, through photography or other activities, I have been travelling with my mind and then actually started going around the world to discover new cultures. Asia has always been fascinating and intriguing me with its introspective philosophy, the different martial arts and the values and ethos of mental and physical strength preached by the Shaolin monks. Throughout the years I have encountered and embraced different practices and techniques that could help me take a deeper look into myself and achieve a better balance until a couple of years ago I finally found meditation as the most suitable one for me.
What would you say to your younger self?
I would say to always ask for advice and to learn from the others but ultimately seek experiences and rely on your journey to grow and get where you want to.
What does karma means to you and how do you practice it in your life
Karma is that element that you always carry with yourself and which reflects what you do, how you act and how you relate to the others. In hospitality we always say that we should treat our guests the way we would like to be treated and this is ultimately my personal interpretation of karma. In my everyday life I always try to stay positive, be supportive and look around myself to be conscious of what happens to the world and people who surround me.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given
If you want something done, you got to do it yourself. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be collaborating or seeking for other people's opinion and help. Do it, always confront yourself with the others, but do not wait, go and get what you want when you want it. You might make mistakes, but you wouldn't be able to learn otherwise.
How do you take care of yourself?
I work hard but always make room for other activities that support my wellbeing such as sport and meditation to achieve a better balance, strength and concentration. Wellbeing doesn't only mean physical activity but also dedicating time to build pleasant moments that include travel, discovery, good company and good food and drinks to feed both my soul and my body.
Straight up with style, and don't forget the smile.
It's my approach to hospitality which has been the centre of our focus and work at The Connaught. I have always been an advocate of delivering what I call a fine drinking experience. This includes the attention to produce and to cocktail making but equally a great dedication to making guests feel special and to creating memories for them. Achieving a balance between the different components of the drinking experience is undoubtedly been the hardest work and I continue to commit to it every day to always meet our standards but above all to pass on this legacy to the newer generations of bartenders.