Interview with Sergio Grandolfo

Bartender | Cacao | Vancouver

Originally from Milan, Italy, Sergio started out with a career in music which included his studies at Stylus College of Music & Sound as well as Università degli Studi di Milano; he was also experienced in performance, management and production. His focus expanded and his interest grew into learning about what people were drinking here, he was a bartender at Milan’s Callisto Cafe, a local haven for musicians and artists.  He then experimented with infusions and organic cocktail making. After moving to Vancouver, he worked as the Bar Manager at Secret Location, then a Bartender at Meet on Main, and now the Bar Manager at Cacao.

You can follow Sergio on Instagram @sergio_grandolfo

How did you end up becoming a Bartender?

It was in the summer of 2009, I basically waited for the right moment in my life and my mentor Roberto Uberti, from Calisto cafè in Italy, activated my passion that was sitting there for a while. I remember when I was playing in Tokyo in 2005, I was really intrigued by an amazing bartender, he made me think about what I was drinking in my life and why I had to research more.

What are some of the unique cocktails your customers have asked you to make?

I remember that one customer over the bar asked me to impress him with fire and flames. I took advantage of the situation and I played around a classic version of the incredible Blue blazer by Jerry Thomas.

What goes into creating a new cocktail? What inspires you?

I see the process of making cocktails as a relief for my soul: everything that comes in my head and I can’t process it, I’ll try to shape it in a form of a drink. I know it sounds really poetic, but that’s the way I experience it. My main inspirations are coming from the people that surround me, customers or whoever wants to share something with me.

Tell our readers about your vegan lifestyle and how you design your vegan cocktails

I’ve been vegan for almost 20 years now, I felt that it was a right choice for me a long time ago. I make any kind of cocktail, I would never say no to a customer, but I love to express my creativity without using any animal product. It’s good for many reasons, it’s even something different for the guests that i serve, I loved to see their faces when they realize that instead of egg whites I use a mixture of chickpea water and beans proteins.

Everything for me comes from the past, from the research that I do, applying new techniques and methodology to make every cocktail accessible to everybody, vegan or not vegan.

How would you describe an “Edible Cocktail”?

I always wanted to create a cocktail that was edible, for many reasons: the ritual of drinking could be mixed with many playful actions, like eating it in a form of popsicle or as a cotton candy or as a foam or even a lollipop. I guess that those are my childhood memories.

Describe the foaming process of your cocktails?

I love playing with textures, make drinks in a shape of a foam, or adding a foam as component to a drink it gives a different approach to the guest. I learned the art of foaming from Chef Jefferson Alvarez, and I’m playing around it with our Chef de Cuisine Matt Gayowski to find as many as possible combination to satisfy my curiosity and to bring it to the table for my guests.

What are some of your favourite foods/dishes?

I love simple things, basic flavours, everything well done and prepared with a bit of research behind it. Seitan is my favourite type of food in any kind of shape or seasoning.

Where do you get your inspiration to create your cocktails at Cacao?

At Cacao, I’m working with great personalities and with great creative people. When I come to work and I talk a lot with my coworkers: I usually start my shift getting  a coffee with our floor manager Zain Jaya, we talk about many things and when I don’t know something I ask him to explain it to me; could be food, ingredients, terminology etc.. from that point on I involve all the kitchen (sometimes they are tired to see me) Chef included.

So here’s how I create my cocktails: with the art of sharing and making a lot of mistakes on the way.

The most important part of my creations comes from every sincere, positive, or negative feedback that I can get from whoever drinks my cocktails.

I am surely not perfect, I want people to be satisfied with what they are receiving from me.

What type of drinks do you like personally?

I like well balanced drinks, not a fan of sours, I’m a huge fan of bitters and amari, probably due to my origins.

What are the most unique ingredients you have used to create a cocktail?

Definitely aquafaba, Tonka beans, nitrogen, wines reductions.

What is your favourite dish or dishes that you like to eat with a cocktail?

At the moment, I love the Arepa with mushroom chorizo that we serve at cacao, an incredible Vegan and gluten free dish with corn bread and a negroni, simple and tasty.

By: Richard Wolak