Interview with the Mixologist, Rodrigo Tartaglia by Ana Pavón

How did you discover the world of cocktails, and when did you decide to pursue this profession?

It came naturally, because it was where I felt comfortable, it chose me. Without giving it much thought, I found myself working in events with friends. I’d always worked in the entertainment industry, in discos and bars. Working as a bartender is always particularly appealing, especially when you’re young. It’s fun, and it also allows you to be creative. That was 30 years ago, no less! [He laughs].

Did you have a teacher, or are you self-taught?

I didn’t have a mentor. Back then, mixology wasn’t as widespread as it is today, so, needless to say, I had to be self-taught! [He laughs]. The first step was to join a Cocktail School (Canadian Bartender’s School, George Brown College). My role models, or teachers, have always been the chefs I’ve worked with (SCHILO, Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam, among others). I’ve also learnt a lot from all the bar managers I’ve worked with, although training and updating in this field form part of my routine. I travel every year to continue acquiring new knowledge and techniques, although it’s never enough, as the sector evolves very quickly, it’s on the rise… Nowadays, I’m learning from my team of bartenders and chefs at Nobu Marbella.

 

At NOBU, do you have cocktails à la carte, or do you take a personalised approach?

We provide both. Our menu is extensive in terms of flavours; Japanese whiskey, Peruvian pisco, tequila, Japanese gin, organic products such as Açai; spicy notes, jalapeño, ginger… We like to try our hand at improvising versions based on the client’s taste, although the classics in Nobu Marbella are also ‘signature cocktails’. We adapt the measures in proportion to our glassware, and balance the recipe to cater for our clients from all over the world.

Can we enjoy your cocktails in the Hotel rooms?

Yes, we offer room service, of course.

Which is the most popular cocktail?

Our top ten are very diverse, Classic and Signature Cocktails, as well as Mocktails, such as the Lychee Passion or the Spicy Lemonade, but without a doubt, the Lychee Elderflower Martini, our version of the Espresso Martini, our Moscow Mule with fresh ginger juice, and the Smoky Passion, with tequila, mezcal, basil and passion fruit, or our Sakura Fubuki, with Roku Gin & Yuzu Tonic.

Which is the most popular cocktail?

Our top ten are very diverse, Classic and Signature Cocktails, as well as Mocktails, such as the Lychee Passion or the Spicy Lemonade, but without a doubt, the Lychee Elderflower Martini, our version of the Espresso Martini, our Moscow Mule with fresh ginger juice, and the Smoky Passion, with tequila, mezcal, basil and passion fruit, or our Sakura Fubuki, with Roku Gin & Yuzu Tonic.

How often do you change the menu? Where do you seek inspiration from?

We like our creations to be available to all the clients that visit us throughout the year. From Easter and throughout the season we offer the same range, and then we introduce cocktails for the winter, such as The Tokyoner, with sake, green tea liqueur, hibiscus and ginger liqueur, finished with a passion fruit and yuzu foam. The inspiration, in my personal case, is intuitive, the desire to excel encourages me to create and improve. With regard to Nobu, I find it easier, because contemplating such a gastronomic choice in itself inspires me to create the pairing, based on its countless Asian and South American flavours, with the added contribution of our local products.

Can you give us a tip to prepare a refreshing cocktail?

Don’t overdo the alcohol base, use natural products, achieve harmony in the mixture…

Any cocktail book you recommend?

‘Cocktails and Drinks Book’, by Javier de las Muelas, but undoubtedly, the collection of ‘Cocktails, Cocktails and Bartenders’ published by Bullipedia, which my colleagues at Nobu gave me for my birthday. It’s a work of art in itself.

Are there any special bottles behind your bar? Anything unique?

Many… Hibiki 17, a Japanese whiskey that combines the best of Suntory’s 3 distilleries, evoking the “Echo of Time” in its design, or the Macallan Rare Cask, in which different notes can be discerned from one bottle to another, due to the complexity of its barrels, which will may well not be used again in another Macallan, the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 1985… but for this new season there’ll be a lot of surprises!

What’s it like to work in a bar-restaurant like NOBU?

Exciting, without a doubt, a privilege, the ongoing challenge of satisfying our clients, surprising them on each visit with a different feature, in an atmosphere of respect and professional courtesy that creates a unique ambience, which our clients perceive during the service, and in particular when they arrive to the greeting, “Irasshaimase!” (Welcome!, in Japanese)

Is there an anecdote you’d like to share with us?

Normally the anecdotes in this environment originate from experiences with our clients, whose confidentiality is given the utmost respect. This creates very specific expectations when serving celebrities with a certain “naturalness”. That’s an anecdote in itself!

Interview by: Ana Pavon

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