Q&A With Christian OzzatiAward-Winning Mixologist | 0 Comments
Q&A With Mixologist Christian Ozzati
Christian Ozzati is one of the leading mixologists in London, having won numerous awards including Outstanding Mixology at 2010’s London Club and Bar Awards and first place in the Ketel One Vodka’s ‘Rituals’ competition. He is a drink’s consultant for Bromptom Brands and previously acted as head bartender for JuJu’s (named London’s best bar in 2011 and best new bar in 2010 by the London Club and Bar Awards). He is also a member of the Experimental Food Society. Christian shared his ideas and passions with EDE ONLINE in a recent Q&A.
• How is your personality reflected in your business?
My creativity, excitement, openness, experimental, happy personality is reflected in every drink I make. Every client gets a tailored response to everything I do.
• Who was/is your mentor?
I love Heston (ie, Heston Blumenthal founder of The Fat Duck), and I’m a huge fan of a lot of chefs, I find what they do very exciting as I also have a big passion for food and tailoring taste to someone’s experience and pleasure.
• What personality traits are important in your line of work?
I find that being honest, friendly and enthusiastic about your work is essential. You should be friendly but sincere. If you offer false hospitality people won’t trust you when they come to a bar. The experience is essential. People want good service and even if the product isn’t 100% they will leave satisfied if the service goes above their expectations. I personally try to deliver an experience so unique per person that its 120% on everything they get and I give.
• Describe your idea of the perfect cocktail experience.
Step one: you come in and have a chat with the bartender, you and your friends are welcomed and you sit down. The next step is to be asked the questions that should be generic to every good cocktail bar, what mood are you in, what alcohol do you like, what do you normally drink, what type of flavours do you like? – sweet, sour, fruity, spicy. Finally, you’re served your drink with some bar snacks that accompany it perfectly – at this stage you will be eating out of the bartender’s hand … literally!
• What do you consider to be one of your most important learning experiences (a career-altering moment, so to speak)?
For me it was the day I won the outstanding mixologist 2010 – this was the day that it became clear to me that I was going to do this for the rest of my life and nothing I ever do will be anything less than more than 100% effort on my behalf; I’ll always challenge myself and improve my skills.
• Which ingredients (besides the standard drink bases) do you always keep in your bar?
Well from my point of view I love Margaritas, Manhattan’s and Old Fashion’s, with twists of course, so in I always have lemons and limes and an orange available in my house. Equipment-wise you need a shaker, strainer and a bar spoon. For glasses you need a martini and a good rocks glass. Two essential mixers are vermouth and an orange liquor like Grand Marnier. But of course my home is my workplace for a lot of clients as I create there for various brands and bars, so I also have a large collection of everything and my guilty pleasure is my champagne sword!
• What differentiates a mixologist from an experienced bartender?
They is actually a very big difference. People who think they are mixologists because they can follow a recipe and make a proper cocktail are actually bartenders. A mixologist is a creative person who can bring flavours together in a fashion that excites their customer. They can create a drink from whatever ingredients are available to them. They understand flavour, people and fashion; they are the dictators of what’s cool, good and toothsome in the world of drinks!
• What have been the most significant changes within the industry in the last 5 years? What trends do you predict for the bar scene in the next 5 years?
Well it’s funny as I’ve been in this industry for the last 5 years within London and I have seen it dramatically change due to the fashion trends, influences of the media and recession. The recession created the search for quality and the hunt for a deal and despite what we thought – which was that people would spend less – in fact the hunt for premium products and differentiation became a clear trend. In cocktails we are now seeing better distilled and more premium spirits for mixing. It’s almost when prohibition took place and from the early 1900s to late 60s. Because of the exclusivity, bars and clubs were calling the shots on what was in fashion.
• Can you name five items that you always keep in your fridge at home?
Milk, champagne, butternut squash, salad and blueberries.
• Besides working as a mixologist what are your interests or hobbies?
I love to cook, I go to the gym 5 days a week, love listening to music, surfing, I do martial arts and I love seeing the world and going home to see family when I can.
• The green/organic lifestyle: how important is it to you personally and in your line of work?
I think there is a definite understanding of what is required of us but at the end of the day people want what they want and they don’t really care how they get it.
• If you could choose your last food and beverage experience in life what would it include?
Well this is a big question. I’d say it would be a massive meal from an American crab shack with loads of friends including BBQ ribs, chicken, steak and prawns. We’d need plenty of original margaritas to complement the food and ice cold beer chasers.
• In your opinion, what are the best food and beverage parings?
For me a good piece of steak or lamb with a South American red wine is the best, but I also love a good Bordeaux with fish. In addition, I have an obsession with American food – spicy Tex Mex with beer is always a winning mix.
• What inspires you and influences your work?
I find inspiration in many things just in everyday life. But I am influenced by the latest food and fashion trends.
• If you could go anywhere in the world as of tomorrow, which destination would you pick and why?
I’d go to Mauritius, which would be the perfect escape from everything I do I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t see anyone I know and I could just leave my phone, laptop at home and escape to a beach in paradise.
• What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
I think my current job is up there, and also having my own business.
• Are you a passionate foodie as well as mixologist? What kind of dishes can you create?
Yes, definitely. I love Italian, Thai and spicy food in general. Thai green curry has to be a favourite dish of mine if not followed closely by a classic lasagne or paella.
• Do you have any tips for anyone considering becoming a mixologist? What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?
I’d say to take advice from others but don’t be afraid to do anything. You’re only as good as you think you are. If someone says you’re aren’t good, find out why and improve yourself.