Exquisite Cocktails With Minnow's Marco Giovanelli

TOAST chats to tipple-tastic Marco Giovannelli about this season's sensational cocktail trends!

It’s full steam ahead for the festive party season, so TOAST has had a chat with Marco Giovannelli, cocktail expert of super stylish London bar and restaurant Minnow, to learn more about his passion for mixology and craving for new ingredients.

Remember when Sex and the City made Cosmopolitans cool? Jeff Lebowski couldn’t get enough White Russians, and obviously after seeing Bond no one could order a martini ‘shaken, not stirred’ without feeling a bit silly. There was a time when classics such as these were about all that was on offer too, but not anymore…

I’m seeing lots of ginger and cinnamon at the moment, both as ingredients and garnishes” explains Marco Giovannelli, general manager and cocktail expert at hip new London hotspot Minnow.

Creams and foams on top of drinks are also quite popular and I like this technique, it provides added texture and it looks great, if it’s done well that is…”

Born in Rome, it was nearly 10 years ago when Marco discovered his love and talent for mixology. A friend convinced him to do a cocktail making course at a school that he had set up and the rest, as they say, is history.

After my first class I knew there and then that I had fallen in love in all things cocktails. Soon after, I worked alongside him at Baccano Bar in Rome, and so I was lucky to pick up the tricks of the trade first hand” explains Marco.

Less than a year later Marco arrived in London looking for his next opportunity behind the bar, and he spent time working his way through some of London’s top restaurants before arriving at Minnow; a popular new neighbourhood restaurant that opened its doors in Clapham Old Town in July this year, offering sophisticated and modern seasonal dishes and, thanks to Marco, a seriously impressive cocktail menu too.

Minnow Front

Minnow Interior Image By Jafe Nina Sarkhel

The cocktail menu was designed with our locals in mind, so we decided to develop a list that was inspired by a Clapham landmark or famous Clapham character” explains Marco proudly.

The Temperance Fountain, which the restaurant actually overlooks, is made with dry gin, organic sweet vermouth, Campari and our own beer jam. And The Natsume is very popular too, named after a Japanese novelist who lived in Clapham called Natsume Sosēki. That one is made with sakè, green tea syrup, lemon juice, ginger and egg white

My mouth is starting to water at this point…another popular cocktail on the menu is The Minnow, named after the restaurant itself, which is a completely seasonal cocktail that uses the freshest, local ingredients that Marco can get hold of.

I’m using a bergamot spirit at the moment which is becoming very popular. It really deserves the attention because it’s amazing!” he explains.

Marco is referring to Italicus – an historic Italian liqueur that is set to become one of 2018’s hottest cocktail ingredients. It can be used in creative, complex concoctions or add just a splash to jazz up champagne or pimp your Prosecco.

I like to support smaller spirit producers who are using interesting methods to continually perfect their product” says Marco.

Fresh and new ingredients excite me and inspire me to experiment and develop new recipes of my own. I’m passionate about working with what’s in season - when ingredients are used at the right time their flavour and colour sing to me!”

Minnows Marco Giovannell Edited 1

But what, I wonder, about the classics? Now don’t get me wrong – I am no purist and I am lucky enough to have even tried Marco’s Minnow - it was a well considered, beautifully crafted cocktail that tastes absolutely delicious. But sometimes, after a long week, only classic dry martini will do.

I’m also big Martini fan. Whether it’s a vodka martini, or a sweet martini, dirty or with a twist” Marco grins.

I love to perfect the classics and when I am creating something new I tend to use the classics as a starting point, and deviate from there ” he adds.

Many classic cocktails have a good story behind them, take the Negroni, for example. I think it’s important each drink has a story behind it so the drinker feels part of something bigger, and immediately has more respect for how it’s made and its flavour.”

The most widely reported version of the Negroni’s origin – in case you were wondering - is that it was invented at Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy back in 1919. Legend has it that Count Camillo Negroni asked his friend, bartender Forsco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, which was the Americano, by replacing the soda water with gin. Forsco obliged, and he also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano, to signify that it was a different drink. The drink was an instant success and before long everyone was coming into the bar asking for a ‘Negroni’. I wonder, with his passion for creating new mixtures and his in depth knowledge of ingredients, perhaps Marco will be responsible for creating one the cocktail classics of the future…

I don’t have a particular style, but I do know what I’m not” he explains.

I feel my style is far from the nightclub vibe - I prefer less flaring and quirky glassware, and instead to focus more on using high quality ingredients for an audience who are willing to explore new combinations. I’m not saying my style is better - it’s just my preference

Minnow itself is that wonderful combination of a stylish, laid-back restaurant that serves up fantastic food, combined with an expertly run bar boasting an excellent cocktail menu. So you can pop in for a delectable meal, indulge in a delicious cocktail or two, or you can do both – a habitat that Marco believes is on the rise.

Minnows Marco Giovannell Restaurant

Minnows Marco Giovannell Table

There are definitely more speakeasys and specialist cocktail bars popping up around the city and throughout the UK, but restaurants are also making more room for cocktails on their menus” he explains

Some restaurants are starting to offer food and cocktail pairings, and incorporating cocktails into the whole dining experience from start to finish”

Minnow have in fact gone one step further and this month they will be hosting their very own cocktail master classes, so you can now pull up a chair at their long luxurious marble bar and learn some of Marco’s secrets first hand. And with the party season upon us, there has never been a better time to start shaking up your own tasty tipples at home.

There is a belief that cocktails are tricky to make at home and require a lot of expertise and ingredients, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Practice makes perfect, so start by trying out a few different recipes with some friends and build your own repertoire for bigger occasions encourages Marco.

I would say start with the shorter ones with fewer ingredients. In fact the classic Old Fashioned is perfect for trying at home

And you can find Marco’s recipe for just that over on TheEdit now. Once you’ve perfected your technique do give us a call - we’d be happy to pop over for a sample… 

Minnows Marco Giovannell Spotlight

Minnow is at 21 The Pavement, Clapham Common, London, SW4 0HY. Their cocktail classes are on 14, 21 & 28th November and are priced at £15pp which includes making one cocktail and bar snacks to compliment the evening’s drinks.

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