ELEPHANT PEOPLE: An interview with Miguel Angel Palau Bianchi
Head Bartender & Staff Manager at Bar68 / ElephantROOM
Ex Barman Tickets Tapas Bar, CEO & Founder Baropolis
The Elephant Room is a pop-up project created for individuals who like to discover or share new flavours, bartenders want to be adventurous with innovative ingredients and “urban travellers” of today who seek to expand or share their horizons.
WHAT MAKES YOU AN EXPLORER?
I always used to believe and say, that I’ll never know where I am going to be tomorrow and where my line of work is going to take me. I grew up in Argentina and have an Italian passport. I moved to Chile with 19 years to start working with parts of my family in nightlife and gastronomy. We used to run a few clubs and restaurants together. I lived about 2 years of my life in Italy and I have almost been in Spain for 14 – 15 years now.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE BAR SCENE?
I made my first experiences working together with my brother and family running businesses in Chile. The demand for quality products in South America in these days were not as high as in Europe or other places around the globe. At that time we did what we could. Our cocktail line was really basic, so we used to do Mojitos, Caipirinhas and Pisco Sours, which was one the most popular drinks these days…
By 2006 my professional career took the biggest step so far. I had the chance to work in Bergamo (Italy) at a newly opened friend’s place. The concept of the place was based on Sushi & Cocktails. Here I could develop my skills in American Bartending, Free Pouring and a more contemporary Cocktail Philosophy. I have learned to take care of the “little things”, that I still believe make the difference in Bartending: customer service, working with high quality and “fresh” products and to be passionate about what you do.
WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR JOB AS A CHEF BARTENDER INTERESTS YOU THE MOST?
I am not really interested in being a chef. I am fortunate enough to be in a role where I have to take greater responsibility for a place. I guess after years of involvement, I naturally slipped into that role. During all these years I could gather a lot of experiences working with different people, in different places all around the world and today I am just trying to share this experience with my staff. And I think, that is what I like the most about it and what makes me feel good.
I pretty much remember the time, when I was younger and had much less responsibilities, besides making drinks and saying “Hi” to the girls that sat down at our bar. To be honest: Back in the days that also made me quiet happy … but times just have changed.
I believe that the more you know about our profession the more fun it is to pass that repertoire on to your clients and it gives you more possibilities to actually interact with them or just to make them happy. I don’t like to squeeze myself into uniforms and hide myself behind protocols. I prefer to be who I am and enjoy what I do. That’s the way I prefer it.
HOW HAS THE BAR SCENE IN BCN DEVELOPED OVER THE YEARS?
Well… personally I am lucky to have had the possibility to work at “41 Degree” of Albert and Ferran Adria. I believe since the involvement of these people in the cocktail scene, it has changed very positively in Barcelona in terms of performance and image. The change is also the result of the work of lot of bartenders, executing the level and philosophy of performance needed and demanded in that line of work. I guess, since then the cocktail scene has received much more awareness and appreciation from the mainstream public. In fact, thanks to the work and passion of a lot of fellow bartenders and visionaries, Barcelona has created a quiet interesting bar scene and businesses that are in a constant growth.
WHAT MAKES BAR 68 DIFFERENT TO OTHERS?
We try to be authentic! We try to follow the line of a classic cocktail bar interpreted in our ways with that “little extra of creativity” without losing the focus on quality products or innovative ideas. Our travels have just begun a few month ago, but it will take us in the close future from the creation of our own “homemade” bitters, to the already existing homemade syrups etc. “Homemade” Style is and will be the key for the definition of our Bar proposal. That’s what we believe in and that’s’ what our customers appreciate.
“Homemade” is risky, but we strongly believe that “to be different” is important in the game of success and on the long term always has a chance to prevail.
I guess you have seen a lot of initiatives presenting different kind of alcohol brands over these years.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE ELEPHANT ROOM IN GENERAL AS AN IDEA AND PROJECT?
I believe that the Elephant Room is a very innovative project and adventurous approach that breaks with rusty traditions and old fashioned horizons. I believe that the project idea is looking for the honest feedback of the brands’ client and gives everyone the chance to interact with the brand. It’s a very honest approach! Nobody is born to be a star. As long you are listening to your people or potential clients you have the chance to improve and become successful.
I have experienced at the Elephant Room a series of very well organized and also very different kind of tastings and I think that the Elephant Room Tasting Experience is very different of what I have got to know so far.
The way the Brandambassadors caught the attention of the attendees by letting them discover the positive difference of the Elephant product towards other premium brands, without prejudices, without manipulation and without any arrogant attitude regarding competitors, was very well done and shows quiet clear the attitude of the brand, its philosophy and confidence about its product quality. And the most important of it all was that people actually appreciated it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ELEPHANT GIN?
I think Elephant Gin a product, with very nice aroma and comes very welcoming flavour. I wouldn’t drink one litre of it straight, because it’s rather dry and neutral, but in the afternoon hours of my free time, I would without any problem enjoy 2 or 3 Gin Tonics or Cocktails only with Elephant Gin. We have created during the Elephant Room drinks Mule, Negroni, Dry and Cosmopolitan style and guests liked and appreciated very much.
The rest, especially the packaging and the design of the bottle is perfect and very well done.
WHAT IS THE BEST DRINK/MIX OF ELEPHANT GIN? WHICH OF OUR ELEPHANT ROOM SPECIAL MIXES DO YOU LIKE THE MOST?
I love to enjoy myself very much and that’s why I love all of them!
And that’s why we integrated all of the Elephant Gin Cocktails into our menu, because we like them all. We have created them all together with you guys, that’s why I am 100% behind them. I might be not the biggest critic, but all our clients gave only positive feedback about them and that is what matters.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD AN ENCOUNTER WITH AN ELEPHANT YOURSELF?
When I was about 8 years old I queued up at a circus ticket counter in order to get my entrance pass. I remember quiet clear the image of that poor elephant in chains next to the box-office peeing like crazy. We all had to move away from that huge puddle he created….
Since we started talking about the Elephant Room project at Bar68 I couldn’t get that memory out of my mind. I don’t know why, but this is sadly the only memory I have of an elephant next to me…