Luca Cinalli

Updated: 27 Nov 2013 | By:

The speed of Luca’s drink preparation is fast. It seems different every time he prepares a drink, even for the same drink but yet, the drinks are always consistent. Looking at the photos we took of him during the interview, his motion was ghostlike.

In Nightjar, Luca prepares approximately 500 drinks per night at 60 recipes that he remembers by heart. Luca was brought up in a family of hospitality, from his father to brother and now him. He has worked in the industry for more than 12 years, as waiter, chef, sommelier and bartender. He moved to London six years ago and now working at Nightjar.

Luca's work station

The interview was conducted in conjunction with Luca taking orders, preparing the drinks and garnishing them to the perfection, each drink, every time. His skillfulness is like a second nature, yet so meticulous and detailed.

Mediterranean Mastery

Luca was invited as the first guest bartender for Diageo World Class Malaysia 2014 program. He demonstrated Mediterranean inspired cocktails through 3 recipes using ingredients similar to the Malaysian palate. (Bartenders can read the Mediterranean Mastery guide here)

How do you come up with new recipes?
At Nightjar, we change our menu at least once a year. I usually twist a little from the existing menu, change the garnishing, taste or the base spirits according to the customers taste. Eventually, you come up with different recipes.

What advice would you give to bartenders taking part in World Class who are creating new recipes from scratch?
Go to your local market and find the ingredients that are used to make the base spirits you are using. Break down every part of the recipe and build them up again separately. There are vermouth and gin that consist of over 40 different ingredients, rearrange them and you can make so many different recipes. For example creating sweetness, you don’t always use syrup for the sweet taste, try marshmallows, meringue and use them as garnish that can achieve the same outcome. Secondly, find alternative ingredients. For example, to spice up your refresher, use morocco mint instead of normal mint.

Then it is the steps of making the drink. First, find the sweetness that opens the flavour and makes the drink palatable. Then add sourness to compensate the sweetness. Lastly, focus on the technique. Shaking, throwing and mixing add temperature and dilution to the drink, getting these techniques wrong, you can ruin the cocktail.

How do you keep up with the uniqueness of your recipes?
We have our own herbs garden back in London and get that supply all year long. Using these spices, we also make bitters that no one else has. That I think is a good calling for creating a unique taste for our recipes.

It is easier to run a bar that compete with prices instead of with craft, how does Nightjar convince its owner(s) that this is going to be a worthy investment?
I must say that we (Nightjar) are very lucky that our owners (Nightjar bar owners are musicians) are very supportive of what we do. The first year was a very tough one but we managed to convince them with our determination by giving our best to the business. We (the bartenders) were the first to get in to work and last to leave. With that, we gained trust and I think that is the most important part of why we are still going on.

How do you get the customers coming?
Sometimes message can be delivered in silence. The customers are paying for the drink and the message in the drink must be delivered. We always do things for a reason. That’s why we are adding a bit of theatre that gives a meaning to the drink. Customers who like that will come back.

How do you deal with unreasonable customers at a busy bar like Nightjar?
We don’t have customers at the bar unless it is a quiet night. The waiters are trained to take orders and they become our voices. If there is any drunken customer, the doorman will stop the customer before they can get to the bar. Our job is to train all the stuff so that we can run the bar smoothly.

Image explanation: Nightjar deck of cards
The Nighthjar deck of cards printed once a year is a compilation of recipes from the bartenders. It is not only the bar’s merchandise available for sale but also served as coasters, decorative and menu. Luca has used the cards in one of his presentations. We find them such a great marketing tool. They are so pretty and no wonder everyone wants one to bring home with.