Gianluca Capilungo joined the Aqua restaurant group as bars manager in September 2017, having previously worked in the same position at Soho House & Co's High Road House. He tells Janet Harmer how he introduces customers to new drinks and shares the secret behind the ultimate cocktail
How did your family background inspire you to enter the hospitality industry?
My family in Italy has always been my inspiration for working in the industry. My mother was a chef at a family friend's restaurant and, when I was 12 years old, I started working there to help with food prep. Then, when I was 14 years old, I was eager to learn more, so I got a job at my uncle's restaurant as a barista and also learned how to make ice-cream and cakes in the restaurant's bakery.
Restaurants were always a big part of my upbringing and so I can't imagine another industry I'd rather be working in or have had more of an interest in.
Why did you decide to pursue your career in London?
I came to London when I was 19 to take my career to the next level. There are so many amazing restaurants and bars here and I knew it was a place where I'd challenge myself. I just wanted to be part of the buzz that was and is happening in the industry here.
Will you be staying in London despite the concerns around Brexit?
You recently spent two years as bar manager of Soho House's High Road House. How did that experience develop your cocktail-making skills?
I learned a lot. A well as expanding my cocktail repertoire, for me, it was really all about the management experience that I gained. I did a lot of training, which was really helpful in getting to know different brands and cocktails.
What is the focus of your current role?
I like to stay focused on the things that matter - the team, making sure there is consistency in the drinks and creating new and interesting drinks for the menu.
What makes the perfect cocktail?
Simplicity. Cocktails don't need to have a lot of ingredients or be overly complicated. You can have a minimal number of ingredients, as long as it's balanced. My favourite drink at Aqua is our Capsicum Cup, which has five ingredients and red pepper as the focus.
How do you encourage customers to try new cocktails and unusual spirits?
I find the best way to challenge a guest's perception of a spirit or flavour is to tell them about the tasting notes and ask them to sample and maybe compare it to something that's similar. I'll also ask them if I can make them a drink and then I'll use the spirit or flavour they don't like, which often changes their minds as it's different to what they expected.
Where does the inspiration for making new cocktails come from?
I read a lot about the history of spirits and future trends. I also go out a lot to see what other restaurants and bars are creating, so that always helps.
What is your ultimate cocktail?
A Manhattan made with sweet vermouth and bourbon rather than rye. It's classic and simple, yet the flavours can change dramatically depending on which spirit you use.Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In