A few days ago, Drinks International’s Bar World 100 award was announced with 43 European bartenders, 24 North Americans, 22 Asians, five South Americans and three each from Australia and from Africa and the Middle East making up the 100. Within the region’s single-digit total, Argentine bartender Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni came in ninth among the top 100 bartenders in the cocktail world. His bar Florería Atlántico also came in fifth.
While reaching the finishing line of the third Atlántico Festival, attended by over 10 of the best bartenders and restauranteurs in the world, taking place in Huacalera, a small town in Jujuy, Giovannoni talked to Perfil.
Like rock-star chefs, is something similar happening in the cocktail world?
There are big cocktail stars worldwide, and many bartenders have a rock-star attitude. Argentina had Santiago Policastro, who won the 1954 IBA (International Bartenders Association) world award. Bartenders were very relevant then. Our industry went into a sort of limbo from the 1970s to the 1990s with colourful drinks and a lot of blended concoctions, and at times they lost their way. So in those decades, chefs deserved to become rock stars. Somehow, our industry is now catching up. That’s the direction in which we’re heading! Maybe not as rock stars, but for cocktails to be as recognised as food, together with its professionals.
Were there any changes in cocktails post-pandemic? Do people want to consume or experience more?
Bars are a different experience. There will always be bars, because there will always be people who want a good drink, a good experience. After the pandemic, people want to enjoy more, experience more, connect more, know new things … Bars got crowded again, people want to go back to socialising, talking and having a good time. And they choose a bar, not so much for the drink or food, but for the way they feel there. For example, the word “restaurant” doesn’t mean “we have food here” but is a place where people seek spiritual, emotional restoration, and not just because of the organic need to eat. Meeting-places and leisure are back stronger than ever, and it fills us with enthusiasm to offer something even better, to up the ante.
The Argentine food industry is seeking to rescue local flavours and products, is that happening to cocktails?
For true Argentine cocktails, we all focus on constantly seeking flavours from local products and herbs. Products, whether they’re herbs, grains or legumes, and even buds and vegetables, can be used to extract flavours through maceration in alcohol and water. Or by cooking where, for example, we use bean paste in a drink. We try modern and even ancestral cooking methods to extract flavours and turn them into liquid. In Jujuy we will start a botanic lab to dig deeper and catalogue the flavours to be able to say: “That’s the map of Argentine flavours.”
What would be the contribution of a cocktail Masterchef-style show?
Anything that’s a mass platform is good for an industry. There are programmes like that, but maybe not as popular as Masterchef. In Argentina, there is a similar show called El Gran Bartender (The Great Bartender), there isn’t one like that in other parts of the world but it would be important for our industry. There is a similar one in Brazil, there is some growth, but there is still work to do.
The bartender scene is a bit smaller, because we all eat from the time we are born and a lot of people cook. Making cocktails is different. First you need to be of drinking age, which is how it should be, but then not everybody drinks just like everybody eats. That’s the difference.
How many drinks have been concocted by Tato Giovannoni?
I don’t keep a record in as much detail as I’d like to but I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years so it should be quite a number!