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A Conversation with Top Notch Italian Mixologist Cristina Bini

In America we talk more and more about mixologists, who are creators of new drinks, engineers of liquor stills and with their creativity give life to wondrous innovations of colorful and fragrant cocktails to be enjoyed.
By Riccardo Costa

A Conversation with Top Notch Italian Mixologist Cristina Bini

Casa Lever has chosen the path to promote the trend of the Italian aperitivo giving an international touch to it. The general manager Andrea and bar manager Daniel, have given this thought and have taken a step forward in what was once the simple happy hour. The indomitable queen of the bar of Casa Lever is Cristina Bini, Florentine by adoption, with an incredible, transmitting passion in every drop that she pours in a drink. Cristina uses Mediterranean herbs, spices, just like an expert chemist of the late 800′s, she’s able to control the taste of each cocktail in a different and surprising way. It’s a delight to see her studying bottles, smelling the herbs and giving birth to a sublime creation. Let’s see what she said:

Why this passion for making cocktails? Where was it born? Who inspired you?
Honestly just curiosity, the idea of being able to match liqueurs, syrups, essences and various additives fascinated me ….

Where and when was the first time you had a cocktail? Were you excited or did you think it “could be better”?
At home: definitely old school, open the cupboard at home and begin to be curious while staring at labels such as Vov, Carpano ancient formula etc …..
I remember that every bottle had the recipe on the back, and so I began to experiment ..

Wine, beer, spirits, what do you prefer and why?
I respect all three of them, they speak of liquids with history, passion, perfumes ..

Can you feel the taste on the palate before creating something original or do you go a bit with the instinct?
When I was a child, I spent entire afternoons watching my great-grandfather, who in his garden (Pistoia, Tuscany) cultivated all the herbs of the rural Tuscany, with vegetables, roots, fruit, a real botanical garden. I … touched, smelled and planted all these herbs etc … then over the years they entered in my DNA …

What’s something that you would never put in a cocktail and why?
It is a question of formula. You can’t exclude putting something which at the moment you do not understand or do not know how to mix …Anything can work but each ingredient should only have its moment.

What’s the best cocktail you’ve ever tasted?
A very classic Sidecar, made by Bryan, the mixologist at the Monkey Bar NY.

Do you think there can be a combination of cocktails and various foods, such as meats, pasta, fish or is it a role devoted exclusively to wine?
In Italy I made a parade: absolutely yes, pairing cocktails is more challenging than wine: certainly, but equally fascinating

Which creation were you more proud?
Cooking liquid or trompe l’oeil, in Italy, Florence: I recreated a plate of tuna Sashimi using liquid molecular cuisine.
I solidified a drink turning it into the shape and look of an eye that deceives, you get like a plate to eat, but actually you get drunk.

Do you accept criticism by non-specialists or do you sometimes think that they are not constructive?
Of course, my open-mindedness leads me to always listen…

What’s a goal that you would like to achieve? What’s next?
I believe that every means in life can make us do something on a social level… A year ago, I started a research on insects for food: I discovered the nutritional value and the lack of diseases where the diet is supplemented with insects and some seaweed …
So I began to garnish cocktails with cooked insects …

Riccardo Costa

Riccardo Costa

Riccardo Costa, was born in Bologna, one of Italy's food capitals. From the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Riccardo earned a BFA. In Italy and New York he worked as an assistant to director Spike Lee, among others. In his free time Riccardo is an accomplished chef. Learning to cook from his grandmother, a famous Bolognese socialite from the '50s, he assimilated all the century-old family culinary secrets. He has recently penned a cookbook of some of these traditional Italian recipes, which he shares with friends, acquaintances, celebrities, intellectuals, politicians, and artists who come to his apartment to eat exceptional food, discuss ideas, and network.

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Originally Published: May 30, 2013

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