Ivan Romano, Deputy Bar Manager, Fifth Floor Bar At Harvey Nichols:
Where did you learn your craft?
My family have been in the restaurant business for two generations so I’ve always been used to a bar environment. I remember when I was a little child I loved spending time behind the bar with my dad, watching him working. Even at an early age I knew there was something special about bars, I loved the atmosphere and the people. When I was about 20, I started working as a professional bartender. The more I did, the more I loved it and here I am.
Places you’ve worked?
I started in the family business then worked in a few local bars in Italy. In the UK I worked behind the bars at the Millennium Knightsbridge Hotel, Holiday Inn Gloucester Road and Bar Centro Nottingham. Next I worked at HN Fifth Floor before a brief stint at the Polo Bar. I came back to the Fifth Floor as it’s the bar where I can best express myself.
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
The beautiful team we have here. That goes for the bartenders who have come and left this bar as well as the ones who are still here. They are all inspiring to me because each individual has different strengths and skills. I learn a lot from all of them every day.
What makes a good barman?
Apart from having the knowledge, passion and pride for what he does and the drinks he makes, the perfect barman should be a good listener as well as a friendly person and an attentive reader of body language. A good barman is someone who is capable of creating an environment that makes each client feel they are in their own personal bar – a place where they are known and feel comfortable. That’s my definition of the ideal barman.
Which barmen do you admire and why?
Well, he’s someone I have worked with and learned a lot from… and his profile fits the description above. He is creative, has lots of love and enthusiasm for the job and he’s a friend of everyone: bar staff and customers alike. You should see him when he does the cocktail masterclasses here – people just love him. He’s a unique character and his name is Stany Visciano.
Shaken or stirred?
Shaken of course! It’s much more entertaining and theatrical. People are watching you and as a bartender, you feel like you are performing on stage.
What’s your favourite drink
A well-made Old Fashioned.
On your menu?
The Cosmonaut because it has everything a good cocktail should, i.e. premium ingredients, great looks and a delicious taste. It reminds me of the Sky Cruiser (one of my creations made with champagne foam).
What’s your definition of a bartender and a mixologist?
In general, a bartender needs to know a lot of common and classic cocktails, serve many people at once, think quickly and reflect the image of the bar. The mixologist tends to focus on the art and craft of mixing cocktails, studying the flowers, the combination of alcohol with fruits or spices, experimenting with lesser known distilled spirits and mixers, and overall pushing the limits of classic bartending.
Where do you fit in?
I have been involved with the now very successful Cocktail Masterclasses at the Fifth Floor bar and I have developed myself as a mixologist because I wanted to create and experiment with new trends.
The great thing is that I had to think of a formula to teach people how to make drinks and keep them interested in what they were doing. I needed to add the human touch, the funny side, the interaction with the other guests and the hosting skills of a bartender. I can definitely say that I am a good host with some mixology skills.
What’s your favourite ingredient?
I can’t really say I have one favourite ingredient but I like to play around with spicy ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla, cardomon and exotic fruits.
Where do you drink off duty?
When I was younger, I used to visit lots of cocktail bars at least twice a week. These days I prefer a good drink accompanied by a good meal. I love the ritual of having an aperitif, delicious food complemented with good wine and an exceptional after dinner drink in a special and warm atmosphere. PJ’S in Fulham Road is my favourite right now.
Essential piece of bar kit?
A cocktail shaker and mixing glass.
Most unusual request at the bar?
In a cocktail bar you mean? Decaf mochaccino with soya milk and no chocolate on the top!
Failsafe cocktail to mix at home?
Classics such as rum punches and sangrias.
If you could mix a cocktail for anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d choose Winston Churchill as he was a great politician who had a special relationship with alcohol. I love that fact that he famously declared that his absolute rule of life required drinking before, during and after meals. So who better to create a cocktail for?
Your definitive cocktail recipe for us to add to our collection
A taste of Europe, New World and The Orient together in a sophisticated combination of Makers Mark Bourbon, Cointreau and mangosteen, which is sweet and citrussy with a peach flavour and texture. All adjusted by a mix of Luxardo Amaretto and Galliano liqeours at the drinker’s discretion (the Amaretto and Galliano are served on the side in the mangosteen shell).
You can see Ivan in action at: The Fifth Floor Bar, Harvey Nichols, SW1X 7RJ. T: 020 7235 5000.