In late July, Giorgio Bargiani of London’s Connaught Bar was awarded International Bartender of the Year at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.
And, importantly for him, the man who has guided Bargiani along his hospitality path was also recognized: The Connaught’s Agostino Perrone took home the award for Best International Bar Mentor.
Bargiani currently serves as the Assistant Director of Mixology at the Connaught, one of the World’s Best Bars (No. 8 in 2023, No. 1 in 2021), where he and Perrone are best known for their signature and personalized Martini pours and storytelling prowess.
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His personal path started at his aunt’s restaurant bar in Pisa, Italy. From there, Bargiani worked as a bartender at local nightclubs while studying for a Communications degree, before continuing his journey into the world of luxury hotel hospitality. He started at the Splendido Hotel in Portofino before eventually taking a bar back position at The Connaught Bar in 2014, eventually becoming Head Mixologist in 2019.
Don’t be afraid of starting over
When Bargiani was 23 and in his nightlife career, he met with a director of a nightclub. “Night clubs were fun but not fulfilling enough professionally,” he remembers. “So I asked this man for advice. We went out for pizza. We ended up having three pizzas. I kept asking him how I could progress and improve.” The director’s advice? Start over. “So I started from scratch in a hotel environment. Different position, lots of training. It was tough — I realized I didn’t know a lot of things about high-end hospitality. It was a steep learning curve.”
Use your connections wisely
A connection Bargiani made at during his club days helped him get to his current location. “This man, Daniel Mannetti, I knew from the nightclub moved to London and started working at The Connaught,” Bargiani says. “The second year I was working at a hotel, he called me and said he was looking for a bar back. I was over the moon and said I’d be there to interview by the end of summer. He told me they wouldn’t wait for me. So I took one day off, flew to London, interviewed, and went back to Italy to finish the summer season. A month later, I was a bar back.”
Take what you can from your job
It seems like an ego blow to go from five-star hotels and Michelin-star restaurants to being a bar back. But not so for Bargiani. “In those days, and just like now, I’m thirsty for knowledge,” he says. “I wanted to be trained as much as possible. I wanted to start from scratch and learn every single aspect to grow with.”
Find a mentor with lots of knowledge (and time) to share
In Bargiani’s case, that would be Ago Perrone. “He’s not the type of person who will tell you what to do on a daily basis,” says the bartender. “He’ll show you a path. Early on, I’d be around him as much as possible. Before openings, on days off, even when he was traveling to events. I appreciated the trust he had and the time he took to tell me stories and talk about ideas. He’s never been, ‘Make the cocktail this way.’”
That said, Bargiani isn’t trying to replicate his friend. “He’s an inspiration, but I don’t want to be just like him,” he says. “I’d rather be the best version of myself. He’s just helping me make my personality shine.”
Create something memorable
The martini at The Connaught Bar arrives via a trolley. It features gin, multiple types of vermouth, garnishes and bitters. “You’re making your own martini,” Bargiani explains. “There’s a magic about this. We’re putting the guest on the stage of this interaction, of this show we create. We give them our time, speak to them and discuss what they like and what they don’t. It makes them feel special, like it’s a tribute to our guests. And the high pour really entertains.”
Have fun with your job
“We’re very laid back,” Bargiani insists. “What we do isn’t like the luxury of 50-60 years ago, when everything was very stiff. We’re leaning on creativity and interaction. And what I try to do is bring a big smile. I like to see people smile — I think that’s my superpower. If I know where our guests come from, or their job, or their favorite sport, I can talk about that.”
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