Salvatore Calabrese on his journey from apprentice to maestro

Friday 16 November 2018 10:31am

SB meets Salvatore Calabrese and hears stories about the stars who have flocked to drink his influential creations.

In the summer of 1966, an 11 -year- old Salvatore Calabrese started working behind the bar at the Reginna Palace Hotel in Maiori, on Italy's Amalfi Coast.

It was while working at the Reginna hotel that Calabrese met the man who would become his first mentor, Signor Raffaello, head bartender at the four star hotel.

"He was the kind of person who could charm the socks off of anybody," says Calabrese.

By the time he was 21, Calabrese had become the youngest maitre d' on the Amalfi Coast, and set his sights on London.

Calabrese was drawn to a position at London hotel bar Dukes where, after his rival for the position suffered an unfortunate flambe incident, he became bar manager.

The inspiration for the first, according to Calabrese, can be traced back to a simple desire to boost his salary, which at the time was based on a percentage of the bar's weekly takings.

Realising he would always be limited by quantity in the small hotel bar, Calabrese began investigating ways he could improve quality and increase value.

Calabrese soon earned himself a reputation as "the crazy guy that made 'liquid history'," he says.

Calabrese says he came up with the technique to please American journalist Stanton Delaplane, who immortalised the method in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"My Martini even had the seal of approval from the Queen," says Calabrese.

[caption id="attachment_706068" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Calabrese tending bar at Dukes[/caption]

However, one night, Calabrese's reputation as an "artist of hospitality" gave him an experience he says he will never forget.

"I had Stevie Wonder come to my bar," says Calabrese.

When he isn't rubbing shoulders with the world's biggest stars, Calabrese can now be found serving as drinks maestro at the Donovan Bar at Brown's Hotel in London.

Following a residency at the London hotel bar in December, Calabrese has now joined the venue indefinitely.

The drinks offering has also been transformed Calabrese's menu is inspired by 1960s photographer Sir Terence Donovan, a close friend of the Forte family, who own the prestigious Brown's Hotel.

"I wanted to make sure we didn't lose the identity of the bar," says Calabrese.

As we discuss drinks on the menu at the Donovan Bar, it's clear that after so long in the industry Calabrese is still wildly passionate about his craft.

Source: The Spirits Business