Thirty-six years old and originally from Florence, Daniele Cancellara is the bar manager of Rasputin, a Florentine speakeasy born in mid-2016. On 10 September, in collaboration with the artisanal distillery Winestillery, he launched a unique innovation inside the venue. It is R x Winestillery, the smallest Martini Bar in the world, thanks to only two seats, and the only one in Italy. We interviewed him to find out the details and background of this recent and unique opening, in the heart of Florence.
Hi Daniele, can you tell us why you thought about becoming a bartender and how did you arrive at Rasputin?
While I was a bartender to pay for my studies at university in Florence, I became passionate about the world of mixing. I started in the sector, first in small Florentine bars, then in cocktail bars and then in hotel bars. After my last job, at the Golden View Open Bar, in August 2016 the owner of Rasputin, Marco Vinci, who had opened the place just three months earlier, called me. He was looking for a bar manager and I introduced myself immediately. When I started, Rasputin was already a secret bar.
How did the idea of opening the smallest Martini Bar in the world come about? When did you open it?
Florence lacked a place dedicated to Martini and therefore, together with the owner of Rasputin Marco Vinci and Enrico Chioccioli Altadonna of Winestillery, we thought of opening, inside Rasputin, the smallest Martini Bar in the world. It only has two seats and is called R x Winestillery. The bar is located at the entrance to Rasputin, in a small space that has never been used until now. We opened it on September 10th and the name was chosen for the exclusive collaboration we have established with Winestillery, the first artisanal distillery in the Chianti Classico region.
What can you drink inside? What is the exclusivity of R x Winestillery?
In the 40 minutes you have available you are served by a personal bartender and you can order one or more cocktails of your choice, from a menu entirely made up of Martinis. There are the more classic Martini, Vodka Martini and Dry Martini, but also less conventional proposals, such as the Bitter Sweet Martini. All the cocktails that can be tasted are entirely prepared with spirits from Winestillery, which supplies us with some 0 km products. Here you can taste the Tuscan Dry Vermouth, exclusively for us, and the two products of the Limited and exceptional releases project: Slow, a liqueur based on gin and Sangiovese pomace, and Copper Strength, a very pure undiluted gin bottled at full still strength.
Returning to Rasputin, what mixing philosophy do you propose?
At Rasputin we offer technically simple cocktails, in which one of the strong points is our research into the raw material: in addition to selecting excellent bases - it is no coincidence that we have over 300 different whiskey references - we also look for high quality fruit, spices and tea. Furthermore, behind each of our cocktails there is a story, because tasting it must be a 360° experience. We dedicated the previous menu to the seven deadly sins while the last one, the current one, to Sergey Merkurov, the creator of the Russian erotic alphabet in Stalin's time. We have interpreted it in a mixed key with 26 signature cocktails while we have always chosen to create the classics only on request.
Over ten years have passed since you started working in this sector, in Florence. Has the taste of the city changed over the years?
Yes, it has evolved a lot in the last 6/7 years. Great credit goes to the Florence Cocktail Week, which allowed greater attention to be paid to quality mixing. The production of local spirits has increased, especially gin but also grappa and brandy, and an evolution of those with a more deep-rooted history is also evident.
Since Rasputin is a secret bar, the question comes naturally. How can you access it?
Unlike other secret bars, we do not select at the entrance because we believe that the over-the-top research that we carry out is already capable of selecting a more attentive and non-occasional clientele.
What is your favorite cocktail?
The Martini cocktail. It is a drink that I love to drink and to which I am very attached. It is simple, because it requires only two ingredients, but at the same time it is difficult for a bartender to make.