Leonardo Leuci & 1962 – One of Heering´s 200 years

Words by: Fabio Bacchi

He’s almost breathless when he arrives, Leonardo Leuci, the Commodore as his fans call him, and his cherished “crew” have a jam-packed set of tasks. Instinctively he says, almost as if talking to himself, “I think I’d like to run a historic coffee shop”.

Let’s be clear: if the inventor (together with Roberto Artusio, Alessandro Procoli and Antonio Parlapiano) of the “Jerry Thomas Project”, the bar which introduced the (very successful) formula of a speakeasyto Italy, identifies the comeback of tradition and historic coffee shops as a future trend, we should probably bet on it. He was already far-seeing with the Jerry Thomas, the first Italian speakeasy, which was born as an after-hours laboratory for certain bartenders, and that today is an award-winning cocktail bar that is highly regarded in international mixology.

The origins of success

“It was 2010,”explains Leuci,“I had been back in Italy for a year and was absolutely certain that the role of the Italian barman was about to change”. In what way?“Look at the British. The customer is always king, satisfying your clientele is the main objective. The opposite is true in Italy: the barman only thinks of himself, and in most cases, he thinks he’s king.”What do you think your contribution to the Italian bar industry has been? “We brought the focus back onto the bartender as a true artisan of drinking culture.” The speakeasy though, as a formula, has done its time. “Yes, true. We are on the downward slope of the curve. The trend of going back to tradition remains though, I mean the idea of a bar as a place for socialising. This is how I see historic bars coming back.” Are you ready to open one? “There’s no rush.”

 Wishes that turned into projects

I ask: and Vermouth? “This is an idea I’d had for ages. Already back in 1999 I used to ask myself if it were possible to have only one brand of Vermouth. It had always been one of the fundamental cocktail ingredients, sadly forgotten. So when we opened the “Jerry Thomas Speakeasy”, we decided to look for producers of vermouth on the ground, as an alternative to the big name brands.”You were looking for the lost vermouth? “Exactly. In 2010 we got the formula: 30 litres of what we would later call ‘Vermouth del Professore’. It was an artisanal aperitif, developed in collaboration between the Jerry Thomas Project and the Antica Distilleria Quaglia that today is exported all over the world.”Then there was the Emporium, the spirit shop. And Mezcal? “‘La Punta’ is a project being run mostly by Roberto Artusio, who has a real passion for Mexico. The project is following a similar journey as the Vermouth. The idea is to increase the value of Mezcal by protecting those small producers who risk becoming extinct.”How so? “We will support projects to keep those small businesses going, like for example, building wells for the small villages of mezcaleros, paying for the product. Through bartending we have granted many wishes, and we will continue to do so.”

Bar stories

Leonardo has travelled around the world, and has many stories to tell. One is about Cherry Heering and which he keeps close to his heart.

“At the end of the 90s I was working in a nice cocktail bar near Rome, in the historical centre of the city. One day during aperitif hour, a lovely old lady with a strong accent from the north of Italy come to the bar and start to explain to me that she hadn’t gone out for a drink in a very long time. This was because her old friends didn’t often go out anymore, but at the time she was on a little holiday with her son in Rome. So she said she wished to have a drink in a nice bar. After a few minutes of old memories she asked me for a Sherry”.

A Sherry Brandy, I asked!  “To be honest, the request sounded really strange to me. So I tried to get a better understanding, but when I asked if she wanted a Cherry Brandy she answered, ‘Yes yes, a Sherry Brandy. I used to drink it 30 years ago and I loved it.’ I decided to pour a glass of Cherry Heering instead of the Spanish wine”. And then? “She took the glass and start to sip the drink, and after the first sip she told me ‘Ooooh this is very good … the best one. The others I tried yesterday tasted like Marsala and I don’t want Marsala, I want this!”.

Bartending of the future

What do you see on the horizon? “To me, going back to old authentic recipes will become more and more of a trend in the next few years. Understanding those recipes, using them again, giving them a new life will help a new generation of bartenders understand the importance of historical roots in this profession. This is also why I believe in professional training, training that is serious, correct and passed on well. Training that gives merit to recipes and products that are still used today thanks to their ability to always remain contemporary, like Cherry Heering for example. Some things don’t happen by chance. Training must be a conscious luxury in this line of work.”

One year, one recipe

“1962 was the year Italian radio broadcast the first Beatles album. In Italy, this was when brandy and vermouth were very fashionable. The 60s were those years of protest, revolt and renewal. They are a great source of inspiration for me.”

 

THE RADIO

20 ml Italian Brandy

20 ml Dark Jamaican Rum

20 ml Cherry Heering

25ml lemon juice

10 ml sugar syrup

10 ml egg white

2 dash all spice bitters

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass

Glass: Vintage coupette.

Garnish: Grated nutmeg

 

 

Ana Maria Tarrus & 1955 – One of Heering´s 200 year

Words by: Fabio Bacchi

A cosmopolitan mind-set, with that fun-loving Latin touch (she’s from Girona after all), which helps her find the best in every situation. Ana Maria Tarrus, brand coordinator of Molinari in Italy, joined the spirit industry six years ago. She came from an illustrious, very different career path, working for international companies at the forefront of technology, such as Airbus and the Eurofighter project.

When Ana Maria Tarrus arrived in Italy, she decided to settle there because she saw that it was the cradle of that culture which she loved so much. She loves that bartender’s soul made of inspiration, creativity and hospitality. She values it in every country where for work she meets a bartender who expresses it. The phrase said by someone who fully understands the essence of the bartending industry is enlightening: “You can’t pretend to be someone you aren’t in bartending. Your real self comes through. In this way, professional sharing is very typical, and can be used to leverage the growth of the role of the bartender more and more. Bartenders share their experiences, they exchange information. In this way great attention is paid to their professional role.”

The art of meeting and getting to know people

The social aspect of the bar and spirit industry drew Ana Maria in from the get go. “Personal involvement is so prevalent that once you’re a part of it, it’s difficult getting out. You get to know people closely,” explains Ana Maria. She speaks like one who has been swept away, captivated by this world that she regards as her natural environment. “I’ve had wonderful professional experiences, within major companies, but of course within rigid structures and the limits of perfection, they were cold. Then I met Angelo Molinari of the famous Sambuca and everything changed.” In this way Ana found herself being part of that touring circus that moves from one bar show to the next. She met bartenders and figures within the spirit industry. “I was at the Athens Bar Show last November with our mixologist and suddenly our distribution partner in Greece showed up at our stand with a wonderful woman. I remember hearing here and there among our mixologist and bartenders friends: There is Mrs Heering! There is Mrs Heering! I immediately imagined that that woman was an institution as well the product she represents! Adéle Robberstad was then introduced to us and from the first moment we shared a wonderful chemistry that led us to run around the fair, visiting other brands and friends, sharing drinks and great jokes. Our humour, curiosity and passion for our products made that evening an amazing cocktail of moments, which “Heeringsed” our hearts and brought us to wish and hope that our products can match as well as our souls!”

Thoughts on the present and future of the industry

“Bartenders are becoming more professional as happened to chefs worldwide a couple of decades ago. In my opinion, this has two positive aspects: on the one hand they are able to understand the products better and combine more flavours and aromas, providing the opportunity of mixing ingredients more and better as happens in a cocktail. On the other hand, this brings them also to rediscover traditional and quality products. I believe that two aspects are important in the future of the spirit industry. These are responsible drinking and the increasing focus on the environment. These are the focus for all family companies which recognise themes in their history and their own values. We’ve continued to make consumers aware of the importance of responsible drinking with advertising campaigns; the last one was in Italy in 2013. As for the environment, we believe that this issue affects us all, and we all need to contribute to safeguarding it.

The year celebrating the Cherry Heering bicentenary

1955 was the beginning of the famous Dolce Vita. More and more movie stars came from all over the world to shoot movies in the Cinecittà studios of Rome and were seen in the city centre, particularly in Via Veneto. It was also the year that Sambuca Molinari was introduced to the jet set. For this cocktail, Ana Maria: I’ve called on the collaboration of Antonio Parlapiano from the Jerry Thomas Project Speakeasy in Rome. The proposed cocktail for the Cherry Heering bicentenary is a reinterpretation of Ngiam Tong Boon’s Singapore Sling,with an Italian twist to achieve a balanced flavour of Arrack from Goa.

The Arrack Job Cocktail

Ingredients

20 ml Molinari Sambuca

30 ml Cherry Heering

30 ml lime juice

45 ml freshly squeezed pineapple juice

2 dashes of Angostura

Top with herbal soda (quinine, gentian and absinthe soda)

Method: shake

Glassware: high and narrow tumbler without ice

Garnish: dried pineapple

 

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