BRUNO VANZAN: KING OF ITAL­IAN COCK­TAILS

All About Italy (USA) - - Content - Alessan­dro Creta

Ro­man by birth, Mi­lanese by adop­tion, ac­claimed cock­tail mas­ter Bruno Vanzan won the 2008 Mon­di­ale Flair – the World Flair - award for ac­ro­batic bar­tend­ing in Turin while bring­ing home the In­ter­na­tional Bar­tender As­so­ci­a­tion’s (IBA) 2016 “Best Cock­tail” award from Ja­pan.

Slicked back hair, fash­ion­ably clad, a wide smile and arms that jug­gle bot­tles, glasses, and shak­ers like an ac­ro­bat — 33-year old Bruno Vanzan is known as one of, if not the best, Ital­ian bar­tenders to­day. He boasts of over 150 in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, over 40 vic­to­ries un­der his belt, books, and a TV show. His young but daz­zling ca­reer, which started when he was 18-years old, un­folded sur­pris­ingly. “I was the last among my class­mates,” says Bruno, re­call­ing his tough train­ing and prac­tice. How­ever, this hard work and ded­i­ca­tion are the foun­da­tions for the tal­ent now sim­ply known by his last name, Vanzan, one of the sec­tor’s most her­alded world­wide. Af­ter all, a bar­man who gives a show is also con­sid­ered a per­form­ing artist, en­ter­tain­ing the pub­lic with tricks and “magic” while mix­ing a drink. So we talked about this “art”, asked him to open the doors to his world and take us be­hind the counter on a tour amongst glasses, shak­ers and lots of ice.

What are your mem­o­ries of the first time you took a glass and shaker in hand?

It is a me­mory that is still firmly planted in my mind. How could I for­get? It was 2005 and I was work­ing in a sub­ur­ban bar in Rome, I did the messy stuff, I cleaned up ... I just cleaned up, but one day about 2 years later they told me to make my first cock­tail. I fell in love with this pro­fes­sion im­me­di­ately.

Why did you choose this path? Was there a pin­na­cle mo­ment or event that con­vinced you?

I stud­ied at the Air Force Academy, but my roots are hum­ble. While I stud­ied, I worked at a bar to earn money (I’ve al­ways had a strong char­ac­ter). Then I was struck by a health is­sue and gained 90 kilo­grams (198 pounds).

I was teased at school and there­fore, bar­tend­ing was a way for me to get re­venge. You see, when I was be­hind the bar I felt pro­tected from the out­side world and felt like a star on stage. It was then that I de­cided I didn’t want to be a great bar­tender…i wanted to be the best.

How much did you have to study, train your­self and make mis­takes be­fore reach­ing this level? The great­est dif­fi­cul­ties, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the fact that you are a “flair bar­tender”?

Dif­fi­cul­ties are life’s mo­tor of life. With­out them, we don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the vic­to­ries. When I took my first “flair” course, my teacher told me that it was not for me.

In­stead, I wasn’t dis­cour­aged. I went to a park ev­ery night to train 6-7 hours in a row so I could go back to school the next day and show what I was made of! Well, from that day on I’ve al­ways done it like this: the oth­ers train 10 hours? Then I will train 11!

Mix­ing ac­ro­bat­ics with cock­tail prepa­ra­tion is in it­self not easy... why do you think this blend was so suc­cess­ful?

Fine drinks made by ca­pa­ble hands is key, then add spec­tac­u­lar prepa­ra­tion and ev­ery­thing be­comes more in­ter­est­ing and en­joy­able. Though it doesn’t seem like it, this is an old pro­fes­sion: the “flair” was born in 1800, when Jerry Thomas, the first bar­tender in his­tory to add this el­e­ment of en­ter­tain­ment, wooed cus­tomers with fancy, skill­ful hand move­ments dur­ing prepa­ra­tions of cock­tails like the Blue. Skills, there­fore, that have con­quered and con­tinue to con­quer pub­lic and clien­tele.

You have taken fine-drink prepa­ra­tion to TV, so broad­cast­ing is not just for haute cui­sine…

And thank good­ness. And es­pe­cially for me since I am not a great cook. Jokes aside, I am lucky to have been the first bar­man in Italy, in 2010, to show Tv-view­ers that cock­tail prepa­ra­tion can be an ex­pe­ri­ence of good taste.

Trav­el­ling, dis­cov­er­ing other cul­tures and im­prov­ing through ex­pe­ri­ences is a cor­ner­stone for great chefs. Is it the same for a high-end bar­man like you?

Cer­tainly. I lived in Africa for two years, in the US for one year and in my role as brand am­bas­sador and com­peti­tor I have vis­ited over 60 coun­tries. Un­der­stand­ing comes with ob­ser­va­tion and find­ing in­spi­ra­tion in what is be­ing of­fered. Some­times sim­ple things, dif­fer­ent cul­tures, tra­di­tions, lan­guages, col­ors, and emo­tions are just around the cor­ner and can pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion, ideas and one-of-kind cock­tails.

Hun­dreds of tro­phies, nu­mer­ous com­pe­ti­tions un­der your belt, world recog­ni­tion: now that you are wellplaced, how do you see your­self in 10 years?

With a few more wrin­kles! Let’s say that my life has al­ways ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions, but that is backed by con­stant prepa­ra­tion and real ef­fort. Noth­ing comes for free. I hope to be a good man­ager of my com­pany. I have a lot of trust in the guys that make up my team.

What is the most dif­fi­cult cock­tail you have ever made? And the most sat­is­fy­ing?

Ev­ery­thing is dif­fi­cult. Repli­cat­ing a drink for hun­dreds of peo­ple is never easy, but the most sat­is­fy­ing is the Sushi Mar­tini, the cock­tail that won the 2016 IBA World Cham­pi­onship in Ja­pan in Tokyo! It feels like my lit­tle baby that I have to take care of and pre­serve.

TV, books, com­pe­ti­tions, train­ing; what are Bruno Vanzan’s fu­ture projects?

Bruno Vanzan has a thou­sand ideas, a thou­sand projects. 2019 will be an im­por­tant year for my life both as a bar­tender and as an en­tre­pre­neur: I will re­lease my own prod­ucts in Jan­uary, the re­sult of 3-years of work be­hind the scenes. I hope that when peo­ple open “the bot­tle” they can live a sat­is­fy­ing taste ex­pe­ri­ence and per­ceive the love and pas­sion, cre­ated as my lit­tle dream.

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