Patrick Pistolesi is the owner of Drink Kong in Rome. He makes us two cocktails, one with Whisky and Amer Picon and the second with Eau de Vigne and Blue Curacao.
Patrick introduce yourself
My name is Patrick Pistolesi, I am 40 years old and I’m the owner of Drink Kong in Rome. I am half Italian and half Irish and it’s important because the alcohol culture is bigger in Ireland, where I spent all my summers growing up. I used to sneak into pubs and see the bartenders as masters of the night, managing everything. So I started bartending because I wanted to discover the night, the girls, and I needed money. At the same time, I studied languages and literature because I wanted to write for the theatre or act, but my stage has become my bar here in Italy. That was the right choice because I like the night and the night likes me. I began working in Irish pubs, summer cocktail bars and discotheques 21 years ago. Bartending is a hard job which drives you to make sacrifices. Your life is turned upside down and you have to smile all the time. Smiling is important in this job. When I started bartending there was no internet, nothing to learn, so each time someone went to the US or England, I asked them to buy me any book about cocktails. Step by step I started to have a name, so I moved to New York to learn more, then around Europe. Ten years ago there was a cocktail renaissance beginning in Italy, so I came back and managed a lot of bars and opened the first gin bar in Italy. I began entering and winning competitions like Nikka Perfect Serve, which allowed me to visit Japan, where I was amazed by the culture and design which has influenced a lot of what you see here at Drink Kong. I like how Japanese bartending touches the soul of the customers. After 20 years, I wanted to open my bar without compromises so it looks like Blade Runner with a rock ambience. Originally I wanted to call this bar The Arcade, but once someone told me I looked like King Kong in a bar, and then I became known as Drink Kong, so it seemed like the perfect name for the bar. We have live music on one side with a stage, a lounge area where Star Wars and Alien guys can meet, toilets which look like Tron where you can play video games, a big bar to relax in and an Omakase bar, which you can book, where you can do tastings with bespoke cocktails to make people understand the different type of cocktails. Today people come into a bar because they want to feel something, it’s recreation for adults, it’s not just to drink anymore. Recently I was in a bar with a lot of rules like no photos and when I asked for a gin and tonic, they answered they don’t do that, so I just left. Here we are at your service and you can order what you want and tell us how you want it. We also do a lot of sustainable and recycling work, but we don’t advertise that. I’ve been inspired by people in Sweden, they are so good at that, and I just try to leave a better world for my kid. Our drinks are minimalist, with no garnish except for one, the Bowie. There is already a lot to see in the bar, so we want people to focus on the taste of the drink. On the menu, you have a colour and 3 adjectives to describe the drink. I would also like to mention Livio Morena who is our head bartender, he manages everything, I am more a mood manager. I worked with him at Propaganda for the last five years.
The classic you want to show us
50ml of Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
15ml of Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
15ml of Antica Formula Carpano
Cap of Amer Picon
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
2 dashes of Maraschino
The bar you dream of
My dream bar would be in a city with a strong drink culture, so maybe in London. A place where people want to come to try sharp drinks. It would be on a rooftop with a beach, where 500 people can dive surrounded by pink flamingos, like a wild 80’s party with live rock music. A very technology focussed bar, where ice comes onto the station automatically, you can put your glass somewhere and it stays chilled, stuff like that. And because it’s in London it would have a giant dome above it, that could be opened in summer and it would be called the Thunder Dome like the Mad Max movie.
What do you do in your time off
We have a lot of dinner parties with family, and staff, as it’s important to share. When you work in bars it can become non-stop, so sometimes my wife looks at me, and I say no bars, let’s go to the cinema or a restaurant.
The spirit you like the most
I love whisky, and of course Irish scotch whisky even if I am a big fan of rye whiskey and bourbon. I love it in a cocktail because it’s strong and wild, so you have to tame it like a lion. Not everybody likes whisky and that’s why there are so many ways to work with it and you have to choose the right one because they all have different souls and personalities.
What makes a good cocktail
For me, a good cocktail is about balance and flavour and Italians have it, because of the food culture, just like the French. Because our palates are trained like that, we understand a lot of things and feel all the details that create a balanced tasty drink.
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
I love liqueurs and I love to do a pineapple manhattan, so I use the pineapple liqueur from Giffard and that’s it. Liqueurs are like when you paint, they give you all the colours you need and they are fun to use.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
50ml of Merlet Eau de Vigne
15ml of Italicus
15ml of Merlet Trois Citrus
20ml of Homemade Citric Solution
7.5ml of Sugar
2 dashes of Grapefruit Bitters
Coral Crusta with Blue Curaçao
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
You need to go to London to the Connaught and see Ago, Mariam at The Gibson and Erick when he opens his new bar. Here in Rome, of course, Jerry Thomas and a special mention to the guys at Freni e Frizioni, that’s where I go when I don’t work. In Tokyo, you need to go to High Five and Tender.
Thank you to Blue Blazer for inviting us to Rome and making this interview possible.