Born in Italy, they met in London and now work together, side by side, in the 9th best cocktail bar in the world according to the World's 50 Best Bars. It's the story of Giovanni Graziadei and Silvio Daniele, respectively Head Bartender and Principal Bartender of Jigger & Pony, the cocktail bar that has revolutionized the local and global mixing scene since 2012.
Giovanni was born in Turin, a city where after high school, "also with the help of my uncle, who works in the restaurant sector", he became passionate about the world of mixing. AND left for London with the dream of working in the best bars in the world with a still empty baggage of experiences. Here he starts working as a barback at Blind Pig, “a cocktail bar of a starred restaurant in which I later became bartender”. In the bar located in Soho, in a rather lively atmosphere he grows thanks to the manager and his first career mentor Kyle Wilkinson, two-time finalist of the Diageo Reserve World Class UK. After a couple of years, at the age of 22 he leaves to go to 69 Coolebrooke Row, where it becomes head bartender and where it trains even more on the technical side, especially with regards to menu research and development. He gets the call from Jigger & Pony in 2018, after having met the owners at an event at Gibson - another venue of the group - a short time earlier. They call him to entrust him with the new Jigger & Pony, the one that has just moved to the Amara Hotel where it is still located today.
The story of Silvio, which runs in parallel, leaves from Naples. Before getting behind the counter with bar spoon and shaker in hand, "I look out at the bar scene, from the most essential side of the area, the cafeteria". In 2012 he began his training in the sector with course at the Flair Bartender School and, after a year, we already find him behind the club counters. He, however, is ambitious and, like Giovanni, leaves for London. “It was a period in which I saw inspirational videos on YouTube of the Night Jar, the bar led by Luca Cinalli and Marian Beke”. At the end of a demanding training period, he arrived at Dirty Martini, where he had his first experience as a bartender. Between one chat and another “a barman tells me about a cocktail bar on the first floor of the starred restaurant Social Eating House”. It was the Blind Pig, where he met Giovanni – “I was a bartender and he was a barback” – and where the two worked closely together for a year and a half, the period in which the place was named International Restaurant Bar of the Year at Tales of Cocktails in 2015. “It was a speakeasy, where hip hop music was listened to and where unique and creative drinks were drunk, even in terms of names. Just as an example, the Cereal Killer was a milk punch made from cereal milk, rum and vanilla syrup and was served in a glass tumbler shaped like a milk carton.”
“In the same year of the victory at Tales of Cocktails the best team award was awarded to 28 Hong Kong Street” continues Silvio. Curiosity leads him to delve deeper into the Singapore globe, a small, young but full of energy scene, and to buy a ticket in late 2017 with a three-month tourist visa. After a month and a half gets a job at Gibson, 92nd in the World's 50 Best Bars and 25th in the Asian one. “Here I discovered a world of precision, which I would define as ceremonial. Making the cocktail took much longer and no detail was left out. The cutting of ice, for example, was our job." The blending is closely linked to Asian products, which are common here and which, for this very reason, must be revisited in an interesting way. Guava, a fruit whose flavor is similar to that of the apple, becomes the protagonist here in a higball with Altos Reposado Tequila, Ulam Raja and salt. After two and a half years, during which he became Senior Bartender, in 2019 he joins Giovanni at Jigger & Pony.
Now the roles have been reversed and Giovanni, unlike the Blind Pig, coordinates the work of Silvio and fourteen other colleagues. “Singapore is a polyglot city” – he says – “there are 4 official languages and we have one multi-ethnic team, made up of Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Korean, Malaysian, Filipino, Singaporean and Italian.” Unlike many other research cocktail bars, here the task is also to create quantity, given the 140 seats present. The offer is therefore structured in a varied way, to reach a broad and multifaceted audience. “The place has a very intense energy: the atmosphere is convivial and people can be themselves.” Silvio is of the same opinion and, thanks to his experience at Gibson, recognizes the differences. “While at Gibson there is more intimacy and the customer seeks experience, here they come for fun and, for us who work there, the essential aspect is personality”.
If Giovanni has a more managerial role, in terms of personnel management, economic accounts and menu development, Silvio has a closer approach to the counter, where he must also keep an eye on the growth of apprentices and bartenders, the first steps of a hierarchy that continues with Head Bartender, Senior Bartender (like Silvio), Principal Bartender (like Giovanni), Bar Manager (Jerrold Khoo) and Bar Program Director (Aki Eguchi).
The cocktails proposed here are very close to the structure of the classics. The element of innovation, interest and creativity, if present, is not an end in itself. In the very long menu, created to satisfy all customer needs in a very appealing magazine format, find space over 20 cocktails, some of which are timeless classics such as the Dry Martini, Negroni, Old Fashioned and Daiquiri. In parallel, is the result of research that never stops here and which is now leading to the creation of the new menu, which will be released in May. An example is Yuzu Whiskey Sour, a timeless cocktail in which yuzu jam is added to the characteristic ingredients. Another identifying cocktail on the menu, which will also remain on the menu in the next menu, is the Whiskey Highball, whose raw materials were chosen after a blind tasting. A cocktail that winks at Italy (and the East) is the Genmaicha Bellini, a drink with gin, prosecco and genmaicha – a green tea enriched with toasted rice – replacing white peach pulp.
The placement in ninth position in the Best Bars rankings it hasn't changed the game by a long shot. – “the Asian one announced the placings in full lockdown, the global one while we were open” – but gave a great hand on the home delivery service launched in the meantime, PONY. “It has certainly burdened us with a lot of responsibility because we know we are in a privileged situation” said Giovanni. To the question “what did he give you the London experience?” they both respond the basics and, for that matter the Singaporean one, according to John open-mindedness and maturity, for Silvio style, precise and 'Japanese', and the concept of 'never feeling like you've arrived'. Both will still see each other in Singapore for the next few years and who knows, in the future, they will return to Italy for a project that sees them protagonists side by side again.
Genmaicha Bellini Recipe
For the Genmaicha Puree:
Combine the tea, sugar and agar agar in a saucepan. Heat while stirring until it reaches 80°C. Pour the mixture into a container and place in the fridge until it solidifies. Blend the mixture and pass it through a fine mesh strainer, add the Gin and mix.