Kleantino Goga: Mi-To (Tirana)

Kleantino Goga is the founder of Mi-TO in Tirana. He makes us two cocktails, one with Campari and Red Vermouth and the second with Mezcal and Grande Chartreuse Elixir.

Kleantino introduce yourself
I’m Kleantino Goga, and my journey into the world of cocktails began early in my career at the age of 16, working as a bar back and later as a bartender at a beach bar in southern Albania. It was there that I first encountered popular cocktails like the Mojito, Long Island Iced Tea, and Negroni, which sparked my passion for mixology. While pursuing my studies in Diplomacy in Tirana, I concurrently worked as a bartender at a local club and later at the Rogner Hotel. These experiences exposed me to the refined art of hotel bar culture and deepened my appreciation for diverse ingredients and customer preferences. Seeking to enhance my skills, I completed a formal bartending course accredited by the International Bartender Association (IBA). Eager for new challenges, I ventured to Abu Dhabi, where I initially served as a bar supervisor at a 4-star hotel before progressing to the role of bar manager at another prestigious venue, accumulating nearly two years of experience. Returning to Albania, I continued to advance my career as a bar manager and consultant for bars and restaurants. In 2021, I founded the Albanian Bartenders’ Association and assumed the role of president, focusing on fostering educational initiatives and driving the industry’s rapid growth. Since December 2023, I have co-founded Mi-To Tirana, a cocktail bar that celebrates the rich tradition of Italian mixology dating back to 1860. Our establishment aims to provide an experience rooted in classic cocktails.

The classic you want to show us
40ml of Campari
40ml of Red Vermouth

The bar you dream of
The bar I’ve always dreamed of is now a reality in Mi-To. It embodies everything I’ve envisioned for years. When you step into Mi-To. I’ve merged two distinct concepts into one unique experience. Mi-To is a cocktail bar that initially presents itself as an Italian-style venue focused on bitters and vermouth, offering over 11 different types of Spritz. Additionally, you’ll find a wide range of classic cocktails spanning the entire history of mixology, which inspired our choice of the bar’s name, the oldest in Italy. For the discerning patron, Mi-To offers more than just a taste of bitters and vermouth. With the right inquiry, you can delve deeper into our Mi-Tology menu, our bespoke house menu featuring cocktails inspired by the natural elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water, and Spirit. These elements symbolize the alchemical process of transformation that underpins the creation and evolution of nature. Beyond cocktails, Mi-To embodies the second concept through its decor and ambience, influenced by alchemy. A keen observer will notice elements of numerology, sacred geometry, and astronomy integrated into our design, reflecting the profound sciences of alchemy. I’ve turned the bar of my dreams into a reality, and I invite you to join me on this journey into my vision.

What do you do in your time off
In my time off, I find true peace when I’m riding a motorcycle. Albania’s landscape is incredibly diverse—you can go from mountains to sea in just 30 minutes, making it perfect for motorcycle journeys. Riding through these scenic roads, I live and breathe the biker lifestyle whenever I have free time. My passion and love for motorcycles only grow stronger with each ride. When I’m not on the road, I dedicate time to my family and we often travel together. Even during these trips, I remain a bartender at heart, always ready to craft cocktails for everyone to enjoy. Another passion of mine that I’m eager to explore further is experimenting with scents, particularly in perfumery. I believe I’ll soon combine my love for perfumes with my expertise in cocktails to create something truly unique

The spirit you like the most
The spirit I’m most eager to work with is Campari, thanks to its ability to elevate cocktails into complex, well-balanced, and visually striking creations. Campari’s interplay of bitter and sweet flavours offers a versatile base that fosters endless creativity in cocktail-making. Known for its essential role in classics like the Mi-To, Negroni, Boulevardier, and Americano, Campari’s influence in traditional mixology is undeniable. Its bitterness adds layers of depth and complexity to drinks, engaging the palate in a sophisticated manner and serving as an excellent aperitif that primes the senses for the culinary journey ahead. Additionally, Campari’s aromatic profile, with rich notes of citrus, herbs, and spices, enhances the overall sensory experience. The vibrant red colour not only makes cocktails visually appealing but also hints at the bold, intense flavours within, enhancing the presentation and making drinks more enticing and memorable.

What makes a good cocktail
For me, a good cocktail is a harmonious blend of flavours, aromas, and presentation that creates a pleasurable and memorable experience. It goes beyond just the ingredients to evoke emotions and set the right atmosphere. The perfect cocktail achieves a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and savoury flavours, ensuring no single element overpowers the others. Using high-quality spirits, fresh juices, and premium mixers is crucial, as the integrity of each ingredient enhances the final drink. The scent of a cocktail is an essential part of the sensory experience; fresh herbs, citrus peels, and spices can add enticing aromas that complement the drink’s flavour. The visual appeal also matters—a well-presented cocktail with vibrant colours, elegant glassware, and garnishes can elevate the drinking experience, making it feel special and indulgent. A good cocktail connects on an emotional level, evoking feelings of nostalgia, comfort, excitement, or relaxation. A cocktail with a story or history behind it adds depth to the experience.

What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
One ingredient I particularly enjoy using in cocktails is herbs. Herbs bring a special connection to nature and an element of alchemy to the mixology process. They offer a fresh, aromatic quality that can transform a drink, adding layers of complexity and depth to the flavour profile. Using herbs in cocktails is like tapping into the essence of nature. Each herb, whether it’s mint, basil, rosemary, or thyme, carries its unique characteristics and story. This connection to the natural world enhances the sensory experience, making each sip more vibrant and engaging. The aroma of fresh herbs can transport you to a garden, a forest, or a meadow, creating an immersive and refreshing drinking experience. Beyond their natural appeal, herbs embody an element of alchemy. Combining different herbs with spirits and other ingredients can feel like a magical process, where each addition transforms the cocktail into something greater than the sum of its parts. This alchemical aspect of using herbs allows for endless creativity and experimentation, enabling the creation of unique and memorable drinks.

The signature cocktail you want to show us
Flame of the Phoenix
50ml of Mezcal
25ml of Fresh Lemon Juice
20ml of Agave Syrup
40ml of Orange Juice
3 dash of Elixir Grande Chartreuse

Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
The next step to go for an interview is the hidden gem of Tirana, the Spyspeakeasy. Bartender’s name Is Ermand Hasalliu and he is doing an amazing job over there. You will find a proper speakeasy in town with a lot of vintage spirits. I’m very sure you will be impressed.

Thank you Sofokli for making it happen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.