From salmon-flavoured gin to chorizo-flavoured whisky, Antonio Naranjo sees no limits to the weird flavour mixtures he can introduce to his cocktails.
“I at all times attempt to go to the bizarre elements that individuals don’t know,” he says. “If I have to make a cocktail bizarre, I’m going for one thing like anchovies, or possibly salmon or possibly cheese. One thing usually you don’t discover within the bar.”
The Cuban mixologist has been enjoying with folks’s palettes for years, since he first determined to turn out to be a bartender after leaving Cuba at age 20. His recipes go far past your traditional cocktails, producing what he calls “disruptive drinks.”
Born right into a household of artists, Naranjo says his great-grandfather was one of many first ‘cantineros’ in Cuba, a pioneer of the elegant bartending custom the nation grew to become identified for. Naranjo says he stumbled into bartending as a result of folks assumed he knew how you can make cocktails as a consequence of his heritage.
“My first time making drinks was in hostellery faculty,” he says. “When visitors ordered a drink they might at all times give me this duty (to bartend) as a result of I’m Cuban they usually suppose for certain I understand how to (make drinks). And I liked it.”
However the turning level for him, when he actually started getting inventive with cocktails, occurred whereas he was an apprentice for the world-renowned cooks Ferran and Albert Adrià. Naranjo says he spent six months at their Barcelona institutions Tickets and 41 Levels, the place the Michelin-starred cooks impressed him to “combine with sense.”
“(The Ferrans) at all times stated to me, it’s worthwhile to ask all of the questions on why this color, why these flavours, why this alcohol base,” he says. “And as quickly as you will have all of the solutions and the cocktail is blended, then it’s achieved.”
After his apprenticeship, Naranjo additional honed his expertise at Himkok in Oslo, which constantly ranks on each annual listing of greatest bars on the planet. And in 2017, he seized a possibility to open his personal cocktail bar in Barcelona’s El Born neighbourhood, which he referred to as Dr. Stravinsky.
Creativity with out limits
The tiny bar on the nook of two pedestrian streets is so exhausting to seek out that it’s turn out to be an inside joke that individuals solely arrive at Dr. Stravinsky accidentally. Naranjo doubled down on the thriller by adorning the partitions with unlabeled bottles, giving it the attract of an old-school apothecary.
“I believe the vibe of the bar was to make folks really feel bare once they get inside as a result of you will have bottles with out labels they usually don’t know what they’re going to drink,” he says. “They’re in our palms. That’s essential as a result of then we will play with shoppers in our personal approach.”
Dr. Stravinsky grew to become a playground the place Naranjo’s creativity might run wild. He says he wished his bar to be utterly totally different from any cocktail bar he had seen earlier than. Stravinsky wouldn’t serve beer or wine, it could not use industrial elements and every little thing could be made by hand.
The menu introduced “a cosmos of flavours” to information folks when selecting their drinks, primarily based on flavour profiles they most well-liked. Naranjo’s groups additionally started experimenting with maceration, fermentation and micro-distillation, including uncommon flavours like roots and soil to totally different spirits to provide complicated cocktails.
“I believe a very powerful factor once we opened Stravinsky was that we had the chance to make all of the concepts I had in my head with out limits,” Naranjo says. “That, I believe, was the important thing to creating Stravinsky totally different – the chance to be inventive with out limits.”
His gamble paid off. In a metropolis saturated with bars, Dr. Stravinsky shocked everybody by changing into a runaway success, profitable a string of prestigious bartending awards. Two years after opening, it earned a spot on the listing of The World’s 50 Greatest Bars 2019, rating twenty fifth.
Layers of flavour
Making all of the elements of his cocktails from scratch permits Naranjo to regulate each side of the ultimate product, from how a lot sugar is added to what number of spices are concerned. He says he wished to additional discover how these layers of flavour can change cocktails together with his new bar Especiarium, which opened after the Covid-19 lockdown in Barcelona.
“If you happen to ask for a traditional cocktail, most individuals will let you know it has three elements,” Naranjo explains. “However for us, this traditional cocktail the place they see solely three elements truly has 74, as a result of all these alcohols have totally different spices inside. That’s why I believe spices, as quickly as you perceive them, may give you the most effective merchandise on the planet.”
The menu he created at Especiarium places savoury cocktails within the highlight. A number of the signature drinks embody his “Curryquiri” which blends curry-infused rum with lime and easy syrup, or his “Risotto Martini” made with blue cheese-flavoured vodka. His “Saltbae” cocktail is a novel twist on the Bloody Mary, with a theatrical presentation that contains a mechanical arm within the pose made notorious by Turkish influencer Nusret Gökçe.
Naranjo says one in every of his long-term profession objectives is to vary the way in which bartenders are seen by society.
“I believe all bartenders are cooks of cocktails as a result of now we have the chance to combine flavours and textures,” he says. “I see that now persons are taking a look at bartenders otherwise. We had been combating ten years in the past to vary folks’s minds. We’re inventive folks, we’re not simply celebration folks. We’re individuals who make experiences.”