We’re thrilled to be partnering with new hospitality venue Fable Melbourne for a cocktail making masterclass on the Hellenic Museum grounds. Running as part of our inaugural Hellenic Arts Fest, Fable’s Head Mixologist Alessandro Nardini will take guests through the creation of three distinct cocktails and his inspiration for them.
We sat down with Alessandro to learn more about his Italian heritage, his love of Greek mythology and passion for cocktail creation prior to the masterclass.
Hi Alessando, you’re originally from Rome. How does an Italian end up working at a Greek-inspired restaurant in Melbourne?
I landed in Australia five years ago. When I arrived, I wasn’t planning on staying in Melbourne but I fell in love with the city, the hospitality industry and opportunities here. With my background, I’ve been fortunate enough to work at some of Melbourne’s most notable bars including Beneath Driver Lane and Nick & Nora’s. I was looking for the next step in my career and wanted more of a say in the creative direction of the venue and its drinks side of the business. When the opportunity at Fable popped up, I jumped at the chance to join the team. The role would be challenging; launching a brand new hospitality venue in Melbourne is no mean feat. But Fable was built on the ashes of Melina on the Rooftop atop the Greek Community Building in the heart of Lonsdale Street. Venue Owner Gehan (Rajapakse) and Executive Chef Alex (Xinis) give me trust, freedom and the ability to lead the bartending team. I wanted to keep the storytelling tradition alive through the drinks menu, inspired both by Greek mythology and the venue’s Greek heritage, and the uninterrupted city views from the 14th floor.
What is it about ancient Greek mythology that inspired you?
I have always loved Greek mythology and how these ancient stories have been transmitted orally throughout history. You could even say mythology is a kind of religion in ancient Greece. Achilles and Hercules are my favourite characters and the Iliad is my favourite epic poem, even though I hated it in school because we had to translate it…
In Greek mythology, hospitality was a divine right of guests and a divine duty of hosts. All strangers, without exception, were under the protection of the almighty Zeus – the patron of hospitality (xenia). Even if your enemies came to your house, you had to be hospitable to them. So, for fear of the gods, the ancient Greeks created an entire ritual around the idea of hospitality and opening their homes to everyone, both friend and foe. For me, hospitality is important to the history and ancient culture of Greece and they truly complement each other.
Fable’s menu tells a story with every drink. Tell me how you pair stories with cocktails?
I wanted to be as creative as possible when I designed the cocktail menu. I aimed to connect each drink with an artwork, an artist, myth or character from history. I thought to myself, “what are the flavours that best express this character/story/artwork” and then I tried to reimagine them as a beverage. This reimagining includes everything from the colours, flavours, and alcohols to the glass shape, embellishments and presentation of the drink. I don’t aim for my creations to be too abstract, I want people to connect with the drink they chose and let each cocktail speak for itself and tell its story through flavour and taste.
Tell me about your inspiration for the three cocktails we’ll be making in the Hellenic Museum x Fable Cocktail Workshop?
Given this is an introductory class, I chose cocktails that were simple yet delicious. I was also mindful of their alcohol content given I don’t know attendees’ individual preferences. I have chosen two of our signature cocktails, The Birth of Venus and Le Chat Noir, for the class and have also created Mt. Ida especially for the Museum.
The Birth of Venus is a low-ABV drink, meaning we use lower-alcohol ingredients. Named after the famous Botticelli painting, this beautiful artwork lends itself to light, bright and fruity flavours. We’ll be using elderflower liqueur, apple and citrus to pay homage to the goddess Venus.
Le Chat Noir is a twist on the espresso martini. Named after the first cabaret in Paris 1881, young artists and writers would consume alcohol while telling each other stories and discussing politics and philosophy. We’ll be using homemade filter coffee (an ode to Melbourne), chili, salted caramel, vodka and dark rum for a dark and mysterious beverage.
Lastly, Mt. Ida is a bespoke creation with direct ties to Greece. This cocktail was created as the perfect summer accompaniment, featuring the flavours of the mountains citrus and raspberry. Mount Ida is the highest summit in Crete and the birthplace of Zeus. According to Greek mythology, white raspberries were stained red when Ida, nursemaid to Zeus, pricked her finger on a thorn.
What are some of the trends across the industry at the moment?
There are three trends that I can think of at the moment that are sweeping the industry.
Low-ABV (or alcohol by volume) cocktails are reshaping our ideas about drinking. Using lower-alcohol ingredients such as vermouth, sherry, and liqueurs, we can create drinks that are still incredibly tasty but with a lower alcohol content. For me, it’s all about the flavour and not about getting drunk. It’s our job as bartenders to educate people about the drink they consume and to be more mindful about their decision making.
Alcohol free cocktails
Continuing this attitude change towards alcohol consumption, zero alcohol drinks are on the rise! The no alcohol cocktails we make are deliberate, tasty, technical and complex, and allow people to still have a great time. Give one a try next time you go to your local bar.
Tequila has really made a comeback! Customers are rediscovering their love for the Mexican spirit. We make a delicious Caballero – a tequila-based cocktail here at Fable.
Lastly, what’s your favourite cocktail?
This is a very difficult question to ask someone who works in food. It really depends on the time of the day / the season. The three that come top of mind are a Sweet Manhattan, Dirty Martini and Amaretto Sour. When I think of Greece, I think of a Dry Martini complemented with fresh oysters. I’d want to create a fresh, Mediterranean vibe.
We are so thrilled to have Alessandro at the Hellenic Museum on Sunday 6 February. Over the course of an afternoon, you’ll learn how to mix, shake and stir three different cocktails and explore the history and techniques of cocktail creation.
You can also visit him Wednesday to Sunday at Fable, and enjoy an unmatched vantage point of the city of Melbourne.
Book your ticket to our Workshop here.
Sunday 6 February
1 – 3pm