Sofokli Cali is the founder of Nouvelle Vague in Tirana. He makes us two cocktails, one with Rye Whiskey and Homemade Ginger Syryp and the second with Gin infused with Mountain Tea and Barley and lemon juice.
Sofokli introduce yourself
Hello, I am Sofokli Cali, co-founder of Nouvelle Vague, Tirana, 38 years old. I come from a “traditional” family in the south of Albania. By 1990 when the dictatorship regime felt, as most Albanians did, we immigrated to Athens, Greece. After finishing high school, I returned to Albania where I studied interior design. Then practically I was living in both cities Tirana and Athens. I remember when I was 16, my first time entering a bar and being fascinated by this whole mechanism, so I didn’t lose the chance to pursue this born passion, while as a student I started to work in the hospitality industry. I have tried almost any position in the job (barback, mezeri waiter, floor runner, bouncer, bartender) and every single night I was finishing my shift happy and fulfilled, I enjoyed it very much. In 2009 after a lot of talks and “negotiations” with my parents, together with my brother-partner Evi, we convince them to economically help us and at the age of 25 I fulfilled my dream to open “Bossa Nova”, my first ever bar. Bossa Nova was a cocktail bar in the south of Albania where we come from, it was something new for the Albanian public: music-wise, design-wise and service-wise, it was successful! Bossa Nova stands for the new wave which indeed it was, so after the first successful season and before getting into the second one I paid a visit to my brother Evi who was leaving in Tirana. The idea was to open a bar in a city, Nouvelle Vague, the urban version of Bossa Nova. After 2 years on 22 December 2012, Nouvelle Vague served its first drink.
The classic you want to show us
50ml of Rye Whiskey
20ml of Sweet Vermouth
20ml of Homemade Ginger Syrup
20ml of Fresh Lime Juice
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
1 dash of Chocolate Bitters
The bar you dream of
For 3 years now I dream and vision a bar located on a high building in the centre of Tirana with a traditional and minimalistic design, high ceiling, and a total of 500 m2. It will all be about circular economy based on the agrotourism concept. It will have its farm, a big preparation room and a distillation room. It will produce its beer, wine, and spirits. It will represent in the most modern way an old traditional village guest house. Big credit for this dream goes to Line in Athens.
What do you do in your time off
I dream of having more time off, but I don’t want to complain! So time off is also about good management. I try to be the most selfish that I can and do only things that make me happy. So being a father of two and a husband, spending time with my family is my priority which makes me happy the most. Otherwise, lifting weights and boxing is my stuff parallel to listening to and selecting good quality music.
The spirit you like the most
After our latest menu origin’AL, I have been having a crush on raki (a traditional spirit we have which most commonly is a grape distillation). It has a very strong and complex flavour; imagine it as Pisco but a lot stronger. The old generation loves it, as it was the only spirit Albania could have, and the new generation hates it for the same reason. Using it in your cocktails is challenging, not only for the recipe combination but also to convince youngsters to try it!
What makes a good cocktail
A good cocktail from my point of view needs:
A good inspiration point will be the storytelling of the drink. A careful ingredient selection that expresses who you are. A careful layers design which at the finish point will have to pair with each other. Then try all possible combinations between the ingredients and quantities. But the most important, do it with passion and love!
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
My love for ingredients is like the ingredients themselves, seasonal. During summertime my favourite ingredient is watermelon, because it has it all, water, juice, sweetness and acidic regulator, you only have to add the spirit and you have a deliciously fresh and popular drink.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
50ml of Gin infused with Mountain Tea
20ml of Gin infused with Barley
30ml of Honey and Mountain Tea Syrup
10ml of Lemon Juice
Top with Sparkling Water
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
I will send you to my second hometown, Athens. I would suggest you interview one of my favourite souls in the Industry, Vasilis Kyritsis and have him talk to you about what I consider to be the bar of the future, LINE.