With a cornucopia of fresh fruits, herbs and dehydrated orange slices, and jars of pickled this-and-thats covering the bar-top, Matthew Biancaniello has turned the Library Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel with its horn-armed animal-hide covered chairs, into a gothic farmer's market for boozehounds.
Something of an upsetter win at last month's Chartreuse contest at The Doheny, Biancaniello has a lot of people wondering just who the he is and where he came from. Squid Ink paid the rookie a visit to find out.
Squid Ink: You haven't been bartending very long, correct?
Matthew Biancaniello: This is the first bar I've ever worked in and I've been here fourteen months. Before that I worked in catering.
SI: And you went up against all the heavy-hitters at The Doheny and won.
MB: I wrote on my blog, it was as if an unseated tennis player had worked his way into The French Open.
SI: Have people been saying you haven't paid your dues?
MB: I was warned the night before the contest that it was gonna be me and Matty Eggleston in the finals and that he would win, but what happened was, it was me and Matty in the finals, but I won.
SI: People came in the night before to check you out?
MB: Yeah, it was funny because no one comes in here and asks for a Sazerac and an Aviation unless something's up. Experience is only time and I don't have that. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm totally self-taught thru books, experimenting, watching people....I know I look like a guy that's winging it but I really wanna learn.
SI: Your drinks are so food based, why didn't you become a chef?
MB: I could never be a chef, I couldn't be around food like that.
SI: Does that have anything to do with the film you made, The Bread Basket?
MB: Yeah, Bread Basket was based on my eating disorder. I went to OA for a year and healed a lot of stuff, lost weight, got into yoga, and stopped beating myself up. Making cocktails like this allows me to channel my passion for food in a really healthy way.
SI: Tell me about some of the things you're working on.
MB: I have a concoction called The Humpty Dumpty, which is bourbon, cherries, vanilla, almond and egg white. I freeze it using liquid nitrogen and then put it in an ISI charger and it gets all broken up and I serve it in an ostrich egg.
SI: How do you drink it or eat it?
MB: With your hands like popcorn! I also wanna figure out how to make mojito popsicles.
SI: The best summer treat ever.
MB: Can you imagine how many of those I'd sell if we had them out by the pool?
You can find Matthew at The Library Bar Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights and with any luck, enjoy a little "good humor" poolside.
Last Tango in Modena
Makes: 1 cocktail
2 ounces Hendricks gin
1 ounce aged balsamic vinegar
St. Germain foam (see recipe below)
1. Muddle the strawberries and balsamic vinegar.
2. Add Hendricks.
3. Shake and strain into old fashioned glass over ice.
4. Top with St. Germain foam and garnish with a strawberry.
To make St. Germain foam
Makes: Enough to top off four cocktails
2 ounces Saint Germain
2 ounces egg white
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1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
Combine all the ingredients in an ISI foam charger and charge. If you don't have an ISI foam charger (a who, wha?) dry shake 3/4 ounce egg white with 3/4 ounce St. Germain and layer on top of your drink.