Fresh Perspective: Copa daOroas Vincenzo Marianella

At his bar Copa d’Oro in Santa Monica, Calif., Vincenzo Marianella crafts drinks to order for his guests using a menu based on what’s freshest in the market each day. He also is willing to stretch the limits of what’s acceptable as an ingredient, not insignificant at a time when bartenders are busy looking everywhere for unusual ingredients.

Copa d'Oro

NCB Mix: Your bar, Copa D'Oro, is known for two very modern innovations: the market menu and the custom-made cocktail. What challenges do these create for you in running the bar?

Marianella: It requires a very well-trained staff, which takes time, and attention to every ingredient I choose for the bar to ensure consistency.

NCB Mix: How do you go about assembling the market menu? Do you limit yourself completely to what's being sold in the farmer's market?

Marianella: I use whole foods sometimes as well as organic juices. For most of the produce, I visit different farmer’s markets every day so that we always have fresh, seasonal ingredients.

NCB Mix: Do you find that customers easily adjust to your concept?

Marianella: Very easily actually — they get very curious watching us make drinks for other guests and once they see how the process works, they love it! Sometimes we get customers who prefer to drink a standard vodka soda, but we’ll try to encourage them to try something new. There hasn’t been a complaint yet.

NCB Mix: Do many guests really challenge you and your bartenders, or are they still tentative about the process?

Marianella: Some of them challenge us big time (mostly regulars), but we lead most of our customers though the experience. We say keep it simple and you will get a better drink at the end of the day.

NCB Mix: You also employ a lot of amari and other Italian cordials in your drinks, which most Americans don't really know — how are you convincing your guests to try them?

Marianella: I use them as a modifier in drinks instead of as a base for the cocktail. For the guest who wants to try the amari for the first time I “cut off” the edge of the product with fruit or a dash of simple syrup.

NCB Mix: You don't seem to have many limits when it comes to creating drinks — I remember we've talked before about your sauerkraut drink — remind me how you came up with it. (Editor’s note: Marinella’s Sour Kraut is made with Martin Miller’s Gin, Cointreau, orange marmalade, Dijon mustard and fresh lemon juice.)

Marianella: I was having a very good inspired night. I walked into the kitchen because a friend of mine wanted something very different and I was looking around and saw the mustard next to the raspberry jam. I thought the two flavors didn’t perfectly work together, but right next to the jam was the orange marmalade and I said, “Why not?”

NCB Mix: What's been your favorite challenge recently in making a drink at Copa D'Oro?

Marianella: Grappa.

NCB Mix: What's your favorite drink these days?

Marianella: I'm really flexible as long as the drink is made with fresh ingredients and well balanced. It is very difficult for me to have a bad experience, but now that the winter is here my spirit of choice is changing from tequila to Scotch whisky. Highland Park, Balblair and Laphroaig are my choices.