I first interviewed Vincenzo Marianella in 2009, and the Copa d’Oro conductor better explained his background and approach at that point. However, we still had plenty to discuss. On May 18, I met with Marianella in the upstairs lounge at Santa Monica’s SHOREbar, and he discussed his most recent consulting work with his firm, MyMixology, including SHOREbar and Pasadena’s Trattoria Neapolis. He also touched on travel, touring distilleries and bars by motorcycle, potential one night stands and more.
When did you form MyMixology, and what was the motivation?
I formed MyMixology in 2006, while I was working at Providence. A chef, Jeff [Stout], from Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, came into the bar with his partner, J.C. [Chen], and they wanted me to go consult for them, so that was my first consulting job. That’s when I decided to start MyMixology. I had a few requests here and there from spirit companies at that time. I said, “Why not?” That’s how it started.
When did Zahra [Bates] become involved?
I asked Zahra to become involved in ’08, when I left Providence for The Doheny. I met Zahra at a 10 Cane lunch, and we talked about our bartending experience. Both of us worked in London, so that’s when the chemistry started. I said, “I need some help. Why not?” That’s when I also got her to take my place at Providence as well. I knew that she would work out great.
What was the lunch?
10 Cane invited us for lunch at the Roosevelt Hotel. I think that’s when I met her for the first time. She was working up in Westlake, P6, I think it was called. We started talking, and I was about to leave Providence, and for some reason we stayed in touch. I asked her if she wanted to take over the Providence cocktail program. I introduced her to Donato [Poto]. They loved her, of course. Because she’s good, not because I introduced her. And then I had so much stuff going on at that time, I needed some help, and I thought she was the perfect person to help me out.
What’s the biggest challenge in consulting on a bar program?
Once I sign the contract, the challenge is not there anymore, because I don’t just take any job. This is not really my job. I have Copa. This, for me, I love to do it, but on my condition. Once the people that hire me accept my conditions, there are little details here and there, but they’re no big deal. It’s easy for me. I came up with my system a long time ago, so that’s not difficult. The customers, meaning that hire me, accept my conditions. My conditions are very simple. I want only fresh ingredients, nothing Pasteurized, no sour mix, and I don’t work with certain brands. That’s it. Because of Marcos Tello, who created the cocktail community in this town, it’s very easy to get the staff. Usually, one of the conditions I put down is a minimum of five days of training, because I don’t teach them a bunch of recipes. I teach them a system. I teach them my philosophy, my system, so I need time for them to understand. It’s kind of like I have to break it down and build it again.
So you rely on The Sporting Life?
Yeah, I got the staff for this place and the other place I’m consulting for, from The Sporting Life. This has been barely three days of training, instead of five. They have a very strong staff here. And also a guy who wasn’t part of The Sporting Life who used to work here before, when it used to be the Hideout Lounge, he got really into it and he’s doing well.
How did the SHOREbar opportunity come about?
I don’t do any PR. It’s just word of mouth. Mark Verge from Westside Rentals. He’s a partner with Cedd Moses. He owned Hideout Lounge and he recommended me, I think.
What does a cocktail have to be to go on the menu here? What’s the concept?
That’s the point. I don’t believe in the best bar. Cocktails should be like a cuisine. Is Italian the best cuisine? No. Is French the best cuisine? No. They’re all great cuisines. The same should be with cocktail bars. They should have their own themes, done properly. I talked with the guys several times to understand what they wanted, location, clientele, and built the cocktail menu around that. Everything’s fresh ingredients, there’s a little bit of tiki influences because we’re by the beach, and of course everything has to be fresh and refreshing, but at the same time, a mix of classic and stirred drinks. All the people understand the big influence behind cocktails, and a spirit selection that’s balanced between boutique and well-known spirits. That’s what’s behind SHOREbar.
How did the opportunity come about with Trattoria Neapolis?
Trattoria’s been happening for over a year. I love those guys as well. Actually, they accepted my menu yesterday, and the funny thing was, they wanted a short menu, and they got double the size it was supposed to be. I got them tasting, and they didn’t reject even one of them, so it was great. It’s the same philosophy, fresh and balanced, but with an Italian twist. It’s a different philosophy. This is a bar. That’s a restaurant. This is by the beach. That’s in Pasadena. It’s Italian. So I’ve got cocktails that fit the theme of the bar or the restaurant. Like my good friend Gaston [Martinez] from Milagro Tequila said, “Cocktails should be the garnish of your experience.” They cannot be exactly the same for each place. Cocktail is a big word.
What’s your reaction to the more widespread appearance of more Italian, Amaro driven cocktail programs these days?
Amaros were always part of my culture growing up. My dad has a bunch of homemade amaros at home, so it’s nothing new for me. It’s great they’re now available. That’s the great part. My only concern is right now the trends are born very quick, and they die quicker. So hopefully those stay. It’s a big part because it’s mainly the modifying part of the cocktail, so I think those are going to stay longer. Two years ago was a big year for rum. This year’s going to be pisco. Three, four years ago, what was it? Tequila. Five years ago it was rye whiskey. It goes up and down, up and down. Amari, I think are going to stay a bit longer, just because it’s a component that helps the cocktails. It’s not the base of the cocktails. Really, bartenders can play around with that.
How are you able to maintain balance in your life, if you’re even able to, between Copa and these consulting projects?