‘Be prepared to have a plan B, or C, or D,’ says Simone Caporale of Sips in Barcelona.
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Simone Caporale is something of a renaissance bartender — he’s a busy guy with many projects on the go, and one headline recently asked if he was the world’s busiest bartender. He might be busy, but he’s also one of the world’s best.
At the moment, he’s in the process of expanding his Barcelona bar Sips, which opened in 2021 and landed at number three on The World’s 50 Best Bars list this year. And a quick look at what he has on the go at the moment will give you some idea of the scope of Simone’s career: along with Alex Kratena and Monica Berg, he’s behind the innovative Muyu liqueurs brand; he also launched Amaro Santoni; worked on another brand, Canaïma Gin, which sustainably sources botanicals from the Amazon (and raises money for conservation efforts); took over ownership of the historic Boadas bar in Barcelona; and most recently launched The Art of Shaking, a subscription training program for bartenders that teaches you the things you don’t get to learn in every other cocktail course.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to learn from Simone in this week’s episode of Drinks At Work.
We’ve had a few weeks off the podcast as we went into production for the first Boothby Drink of the Year Awards, but we’re back with a couple more episodes to finish up 2022, the first of which is episode 29 and this chat with Simone. He’s someone who embodies the show’s ethos of talking to people with interesting and creative careers in drinks, and a great interview. I spoke to him over the web and found him at 3am in Barcelona, having just finished service at Sips — we had a few connection issues, but we got there in the end, and he had quite a few pearls of wisdom to impart.
We spoke about how he got into bartending, how his early life shapes the way he approaches hospitality, what he looks for in a great bar, and what a typical day in his life looks like.
Below, get a look at some of the quotable highlights of the interview, but I’d suggest a listen to really dive into what Simone says — he’s a great example of what someone can achieve in this industry.
The Quotable Simone
“It’s hard, but every job is hard in my opinion. But if you love what you do it will be less hard.”
“My first month of work was cleaning toilets, picking up dirty glasses around the dance floor, washing them.” He started, like many guests on Drinks At Work, at the bottom.
“And today, guess what? I’m still collecting glasses, taking care of the bathrooms — I’m stuck in a time machine.” You might own the world’s number three bar — and joked around with Jamie Oliver — but the job is still the job.
“The way you make me people feel will eventually change the taste of the cocktail.” The ingredients you use in your mixing are important, but don’t forget that the most important element of the drink is your hospitality.
“Be prepared to have a plan B, or C, or D, or eventually the whole alphabet of plans. But the foundation is what should never change.” Having structure in your knowledge and your approach allows you to be flexible and creative.
“We decided not to do a course about how to make cocktail, instead how to think cocktails.” The Art of Shaking, Simone’s subscription training program, doesn’t teach you how to make a Mojito, but instead delves into the creative process and challenges you to think differently.
“If you want to carry on bartending, stop thinking with the mind of a bartender.” It’s important to know your classics and what you’re doing, but to go further with your career, says Simone, you’re going to need to think outside the traditional realm of the bartender.
“Take the time to make mistakes — that’s the best way to learn.” There are no shortcuts to getting to the top of your game.
In other news...
Australian Cocktail Month, the month long celebration of cocktails organised by Penny Sippe, is back in May next year. I've loved being a part of the festivities in its first two years, and few people work as hard to elevate bartenders and bars in this country as Penny does, so it's great to see the event taking place around Australia for a third year running. If you want to get your bar or your brand involved, get in touch with Penny on firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, find out the work involved and the motivation behind it in an early episode of Drinks At Work with Penny right here.
I'm putting together a piece on the big year in bars that was 2022, and want your feedback and comments — I'd love to know what you think have been the big trends, your favourite openings, the people you think have done well this year for themselves and for the industry. Please let me know at email@example.com, I'd love to hear from you.