Adriano Rizzuto and the counter have known each other for 20 years. Not bad, considering that he is only 36. He was born in Palermo, but his initiation took place in Turin when he was just 16, thanks to his brother who opened the doors of his bar for him at the beginning entrusting him with the cafeteria. The rest of the technical aspect was needed, because he certainly never lacked the human aspect, having a mother who is a social worker by profession and who, from an early age, instilled in him the pleasure of "taking care" of someone, be it friends, strangers or, in his case, guests.
The 2000s arrived, and with them the fashion of freestyle: bartenders, who at the time were simply called bartenders, who with mixers, glasses and spoons performed evolutions worthy of the best circus performers. Not even Adriano was immune and began to dedicate himself with passion to what would become something more than a profession, but let's start with order.
He was 29 years old when his daughter Rachele was born, the greatest joy of his life. However, with her a good deal of questions also arose, the most imperative of which concerned her future. It echoed in his head more or less like this: "Do I want to start taking this job seriously, or just do it until I get tired and go do something else?". The answers didn't take long to arrive.
In 2013 he opened his Cocktail Bar, Close, which after just a year was elected "Revelation of the Year" by Bargiornale. It was characterized, both in the furnishings and in the drink list, by a bohemian style that many would soon propose again.
In 2015 he was called by SKY to participate in Bartendency, one of the first shows dedicated to the art of mixing which slowly began to appear on the national scene, coming to interest the public almost as much as cooking.
In 2017 he graduated vice champion at the Campari Barman Competition and in 2018 his Close was included by Gambero Rosso in the ranking of the 10 best cocktail bars in Italy.
However, 2018 did not stop there for Adriano, because thanks to the partnership with Dario Tirenna it was also the year in which Hostel Drink & Hospitality was born in Palermo, a truly innovative hospitality concept which they renamed "alcoholic hospitality" .
Hostel is located in the heart of Palermo, in that Phoenician foot near the sea which represents the oldest part of the city. It is in via Materassai, near the fifteenth-century fountain which for centuries was the point of reference for merchants for the exchange of goods, in an area which has therefore always been an extraordinary crossroads of cultures.
There was a vacant space in via Materassai that was once an old stable, but for Adriano and Dario everything was clear from the first glance. A short time later, a place was born which spread over two floors and which, in deference to a place that represents hospitality par excellence throughout the world, was called Hostel.
From the street you can only see an immense six-metre glass window in pure Art Nouveau style, which arouses a certain curiosity even in the most distracted visitor. As if it were an international hostel, the first room accessed from the outside is a real hall, with hand-painted diamond tiles and a very colorful but not excessively bright rockabilly setting, the perfect setting for a simple mix like that proposed in this wing of the venue. Wines, beer and shots complete the offering downstairs, but don't think it ends there.
Before moving upstairs, let's talk about the concept that permeates the entire cocktail bar, that of hospitality. Have you ever noticed that, in the Italian language, "host" is a so-called "enantiosemic" word, that is, characterized by two meanings, one opposite to the other. In fact, a guest is both the one who hosts and the one who enjoys hospitality. In fact, here the hospitality - Adriano is particularly keen to point this out - comes from human beings who host other human beings, not from sellers who, pretending to want to make customers feel at ease, instead aim to give them anything according to what they think is most useful to sell. Here the bartenders want to get to know who is in front of them, intercept their tastes, look at the menu together with the guests and ultimately create the perfect cocktail for their needs, whether it is a classic or a reinterpretation of it.
But now we go upstairs, passing through a red door illuminated by a light that comes out softly from the barrel of a rifle. We don't know what we will find, but we are certain of one thing: we won't see any bottles on display, because at Hostel there is no concept of persuasive marketing, neither above nor below! The red door opens with a badge (in hostels, after all, you need a key to open the doors), and in front of us rise two flights of majolica stairs, one of the many elements that have been preserved from the original structure. We begin to climb the steps and the sound of a music box progressively invades the environment until halfway up the second flight, when we begin to clearly perceive a celestial melody that enters our ears and veins, music with a strong emotional impact. This is Nicolò Paganini, a composer particularly attached to Palermo because his first son was born in this city. Nothing done by chance, in short.
Paganini perhaps does not repeat but introduces us into a room with tuff walls, a nineteenth-century coffered ceiling and a desk with its back to the large windows. By taking a seat you can order classic drinks, the complex simplicity of which is somewhat reminiscent of the philosophy underlying the entire venue and also the choice of the aforementioned Paganini. The twists are good, the signatures are good, but the classics, those are unforgettable. Try mentioning the name of a signature you drank recently, no matter how good it was. Now say the first classic cocktail name that comes to mind. Easy, right? The classic is classic because it has a history, we have experience of it, we have learned to know it, appreciate it, change it and take it back, but we will never forget it. Like a Paganini melody, for one thing.
Of course, even the execution of a classic drink in 2019 does not ignore the innovation of the technique, so it is no coincidence that the ice is made with chilled water through reverse osmosis but then cut by hand into different sizes, because not all shakers are equal nor are all cocktails shaken in the same way. They are details, encounters between tradition and the desire to personalize every single cocktail and every single experience in detail. Tradition and innovation, they say nowadays, and it is therefore no coincidence that cocktails are made only with primary wine distillates, those that are occasionally considered "out of fashion" but without which nothing of what today we drink would exist. Armagnac, Cognac, Brandy… all today's spirits, or almost all, come from there. Rest assured, for example, whiskey lovers: an Armagnac won't make you regret your first love, just as rum lovers won't mind tasting a brandy-based cocktail. History in the glass, from a certain point of view.
The surprises don't end there, because adjacent to the cocktail room there is another room, the "smoking room", dedicated to smokers and which, logically, is accessed by crossing a fireplace. It is no coincidence that it is called the "Chimney Sweep's Room", a decadent-chic environment with very dark green wallpaper and armchairs with light points that we dare to define as "Caravaggesque". Here it is not possible to drink cocktails because smoking would destroy their flavor, but you can instead taste spirits that pair well with the notes of tobacco and, perhaps, an original rosolio among those proposed by Adriano.
Now excuse us, the lure of the fireplace room is too strong, our story ends here but we hope we have intrigued you at least a little, because the Hostel experience is really worth having, you will tell us too!
Hostel drinks & hospitality
Via Materassai 13, Palermo