Young entrepreneur leading numerous projects in the beverage sector, whiskey enthusiast and former lawyer, Andrea Fofi is always looking for new things to offer to an audience that, like him, wants something unusual, something never seen before.
Hi Andrea, for a decade you have been an entrepreneur active in the world of mixing from the opposite side of the counter. One of your passions is undoubtedly that of whisky, on which you focused the Roma Whiskey Festival. When did it all start?
I come from a law school, I took the state exam and I worked in an international firm for 3 and a half years. The environment was too tight for me, I wanted another type of job and so I started from scratch. The occasion took place between 2011 and 2012 thanks to my best friend's mother, Rachel Rennie, with whom we decided to create a Whiskey Festival in Rome. The idea was innovative in the city and, thanks to his contact at Diageo and the support received, we started off strong with the first edition in March 2012: 1500 visitors and about fifteen large companies and independent bottlers. Thanks to the success of the event and the knowledge of people like the whiskey selector Massimo Righi and the consultant Pino Perrone, who later joined us organizers of the Festival, I became passionate about whisky, also from a tasting point of view. With them I then started the Whiskey & Co project.
Was the idea of a festival dedicated to whiskey also unique in Italy or was there already something similar? Did Covid-19 prevent the success of this year's Roma Whiskey Festival?
There was the Milano Whiskey Festival, born 3-4 years earlier, which we analyzed in depth to propose something different. While their festival was organized like a fair, ours wanted to stand out right from the start, offering a much broader demonstration section, in addition to tastings and masterclasses we included mixing, food pairing, music and much more, to make the event is a real show. Covid-19 prevented the organization of the Roma Whiskey Festival 2020. It was initially supposed to be held live in mid-March, then we postponed it to April but even then we were unable to organize it. We thought about converting it to digital mode but in the end we preferred not to, because we do hospitality and serve drinks. The possibility of tasting and smelling a product would not have been communicated online and, in this case, the virtual mode would have significantly reduced the meaning of the event.
In February 2015 you opened Whiskey & co., an elegant shop focused on the world of whisky. Was there already a market in this sense? Where is it? Do you also offer the possibility of online purchasing?
Also in this case, Massimo Righi, Pino Perrone and I wanted to propose something innovative. Both in the capital and in the rest of Italy there were no similar realities, except for a few exceptions and among these precisely that of Massimo in Formigine in the province of Modena. At this juncture, the idea was to aim to create a meeting place on the topic for enthusiasts. We opened it in via Margutta, a stone's throw from Piazza di Spagna. We are currently selling online, which has become increasingly necessary in this last period because, being in the historic center, our store was very popular with wealthy tourists - Russians, Americans, Chinese - who are now unable to travel and come to visit us. for the reasons we all know.
In October 2019, your latest visionary idea took place, the first Roma Bar Show. Can you tell us the format?
Roma Bar Show follows international trade events in the beverage world, such as the Berlin Bar Convent or the Athens Bar Show. The format is that of a large B2B fair to which large groups and as many companies are invited. In parallel, off events are held in which the capital's cocktail bars and their bartenders are involved, supported by international guests invited by companies for the occasion, main seminars and masterclasses with the presence of speakers from all over the world. In short, it is a big party that sees the entire national and international industry involved for 5-6 days.
What was the response last year? And this year's?
Last year the event was an enormous success compared to expectations, to the point of making it a full-fledged European bar show. We recorded a record number of 10,000 entries. This year the event was scheduled for October 5-6 but we had to cancel it, for the reasons we all know. In view of the next edition, we are thinking of planning some preparatory stages, through a tour of the various Italian cities from north to south, to involve the bars we want to support.
How do you see the world of events? Are you planning on doing any other projects?
Honestly, reluctantly, very bad at the moment. Everything that is a concert, gathering, show and cinema is put at risk, at least until the vaccine can be carried out. I believe it will be possible to return to pre-Covid-19 levels no earlier than 2022-2023, also for what concerns the tourism sector. Despite this, one of my desires is to create a new 'no-alcohol' fair, hopefully as early as 2022, I'm working on it. For this end of 2020 and for most of 2021 I have decided to stop to safeguard, optimize and improve the projects I already have under my belt. Among others, which I have not previously told you about, there are VII Hills Gin, a project launched in 2018 and for which, in addition to becoming a partner, I also acted as marketing manager; Primo Aperitivo, an idea born with the guys from VII Hills, Danilo Tersigni and Filippo Previero, with whom we wanted to create the first range of Italian ready-to-serve 100% premium cocktails (Negroni, Americano and Sbagliato) mainly intended for the foreign market and finally, the latest addition, ORO Whiskey Bar, the first whiskey bar in the capital, opened again with Pino Perrone, the bartender and consultant Daniele Gentili and the invaluable contribution of Laura Tancredi, responsible for communication and concept, on 29 September. ORO is the end of a journey that began in 2011 with the creation of the Roma Whiskey Festival and which over the years has seen the birth of Whiskey & Co and the Whiskey Academy, a training school led by our Ambassador Chiara Marinelli. We just needed a place where we could drink and taste whisky, and that's why ORO was born. Here, customers have the opportunity to choose from a selection of over 500 labels and a one-of-a-kind cocktail list created by Daniele Gentili. Apart from being the creator, for ORO I mainly deal with promotion in terms of marketing strategy and management of relationships with companies and partners.
What's your favorite cocktail?
Absolutely the Negroni made with VII Hills Gin, an Italian classic of which I love the combination of flavors and the great customization to which it lends itself. I also really like Brooklyn, for the whiskey base and for the connection it has with New York, the city where the cocktail takes its inspiration and to which I am very attached. However, among the ingredients, Amer Picon cannot be missing, a French bitter made like triple sec - a triple distilled orange liqueur - flavored with quinine, gentian and other spices.[:]