Antonio ‘Tony’ Micelotta

[Mark Marowitz is a special correspondent for the Museum of the American Cocktail, and continues his series of bartender profiles with this look at Antonio Micelotta from "Dukes" hotel in London]

Personally, I’ve never been there but follow me anyway. We’re going to the Dukes Hotel in London, England’s smallest castle, in search of the ‘TM Martini‘ When in London Ian Fleming stayed here. The Dukes Hotel is tucked discreetly away down a cul-de-sac on St. James Street. It stands inside a tranquil flower-filled and gas-lit courtyard.

Are you getting in the mood?

Turn off the lobby and into the elegant oak-paneled bar.

Why am I whispering? We’re seated at one of ten tables. Everyone is sipping a ‘TM Martini.’ Antonio ‘Tony’ Micelotta, the ‘TM’ in the ‘TM Martini,’ comes over to our table. The magic of his presence envelopes our table and we’re transported to the center of the universe. In a style only a trained Italian barman can invoke he asks us for our spirit choice, gin (Beefeater) or vodka (Potocki, made from Polish rye)? After 10pm vodka is the only choice because Tony doesn’t want your appetite stimulated at that late hour. Tony then reappears carrying a small rolling table with his mise en place consisting of a lemon (Tony insists on Sorrento Lemons imported from Italy exclusively because the quality of its oil is incomparable), an atomizer filled with chilled Martini & Rossi dry vermouth, and a cutting tool for the twist. Tony returns again with your choice of spirit and glasses, all chilled to exactly -17 degrees centigrade. Like a Priest invoking the holy of holies, Tony begins to create your very own ‘TM Martini’ The cocktail glass is first perfumed with the dry vermouth, then the chilled spirit fills the glass almost to the rim. A twist is cut from the lemon and the zest is released over the surface, the rim of the glass is gracefully rubbed with the lemon twist and dropped into the glass. Tony will then hand you your drink on an elegant napkin. The overall impression is hard to describe but must be experienced. Tony creates an atmosphere of refinement and charm and sophistication that is without equal. Tony then carries the table away. The ‘TM Martini’ is so unforgettably delicious that one is simply not enough but the third will be refused your most eloquent entreaties.

After six years at the Dukes Hotel and stints at the Savoy and the Intercontinental Hotels, Tony is leaving England and returning to Italy to manage the bar at THI’s (Turin Hotels International) new flagship hotel in Genoa, the Bentley Hotel.

In July 2007 Tony’s ‘must buy’ autobiography "Martini…..My Destiny" will go on sale. Part of the income will go to the Children’s Gaslini Hospital in Genoa, Italy.

Tony was born in Bologna, Italy on May 14, 1956. Tony’s mentor, Benito Lucchesi of the Jolly Hotel in Bologna, taught him the philosophy of working the bar and creating an atmosphere of warmth and hearth and home. Tony then went on to the Bellagio Hotel School on Lake Como and he graduated in 1974.

Tony’s education is an endless source of fascination for me. "How is an elite Italian barman trained," I asked? Tony responded that the Italians have been working in the service industry for centuries and have evolved a particular style that in my opinion is without peer. The Bellaggio Hotel school is a converted hotel built in the 17th century, The Grand Brittanica. Tony specialized in ‘American Bar’ which is derived from Harry Craddock’s ‘American Bar’ at the Savoy Hotel in London. During his three years there as a student Tony practiced the fifty cocktails that are described in "The Official IBA Classic Cocktail Book." Tony’s most important lesson is that "the details will create substance." And after creating approximately 175,000 ‘TM Martinis’, I think Tony knows of what he’s speaking!

The Negroni is Tony’s other signature drink. Tony believes that, along with the Martini, these two drinks are the benchmarks to measure the skill of a bartender. To quote one of MOTAC’s founders, "in simplicity is profundity!" In an ice cube filled old-fashioned glass equal amounts of Gordon’s gin, Campari, and Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth are mixed together. A lemon twist and an orange slice serve as garnish. On request, Tony will add a splash of soda. If an Americano is your drink of choice, Tony will use Carpano’s Antica Formula Italian vermouth because its taste profile best suits this drink.

A simple drink is not simple to make.

Tony is a soulful and spirited man. We here at MOTAC wish Tony and his family Godspeed, good health and good luck in their future endeavors.

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