Luca Gandolfi had two “bullets”: the first was standing behind a bar counter making cocktails for his customers, and the other, dazzling, was sailing. Just as a good bartender can mix ingredients to create perfect drinks, so did Luke with his passions, inventing a new job. The “Sailing Barman. What it’s all about and how he did it, he tells us himself in this interview, full of useful tips and easy easy recipes for those who want to make knockout cocktails on a boat (and enjoy a cappuccino in the roadstead).
Hi Luca, how old are you and where are you from?
I am currently 36 but this is the year of 37. I am class of ’82, born and raised in the province of Bologna developing s and z quite a lot.
How did your passion for sailing come about?
Randomly. A friends’ adventure vacation, improvised and organized in a few days. I was 20 years old. We sailed for two weeks between Elba Island, Capraia and Corsica. After some time I began to search for those sensations serially. I have never found a dimension, a place, a context comparable to sailing where the feeling of detachment from everything, the everyday, the work, the thoughts, was so clear.
What specifically does your activity as a “bartender-sailor” consist of?
The ‘idea came to me out of a mix of needs, even selfish needs, and ideas including looking for ways to get out at sea more often despite the limited time my first job leaves me (I work as a trainer for a well-known roasting company and also travel often in the other elements: in the air and on land). Hence the ‘idea to formulate weekends where I pamper guests by combining the other passion and activity that over the years I have limited more and more: making cocktails.
As soon as I drop anchor at sunset or enter port I set up the cockpit and get to work. Of course, unfortunately, almost entirely for them alone. I treat myself to one very light drink. I have to say that it is also very popular to wake up where I make coffee and cappuccino with manual emulsion tools. It is a very very popular formula for those celebrating bachelorette parties, bachelor parties and birthdays on a boat. But I assure you, not only that.
How have you equipped yourself to “practice” as a bartender on board as well?
This was one of the “difficulties.” I don’t own a boat at the moment where I can dedicate a fixed part of me with all the ‘necessities. I prefer not to tie myself to one place and rent according to the area I want to navigate. I mainly organize weekends and often move around the Tyrrhenian Sea: Cinque Terre, Liguria, Elba Island, Capraia.
As they say, of necessity virtue: I have therefore prepared a “kit” inside a semi-rigid bag divided into compartments with all the tools I need so that it is easily transportable and does not take up too much space in the boat (I do not use straws or any plastic material as much as possible, in case there are many variations I adopt: edible or compostable straws for example). Actually in my dreams I visualized a sleek case, like that of professional killers in movies, framing tightening on the detail of the zipper opening. Clack. Let the dancing begin. But for obvious logistical and space reasons, I had to curb my imagination.
The most challenging situation in which you made a cocktail on board?
With the premise that in boating the priority must always be focused on safety I decide how to move according to the situation at hand. I was at ‘anchor in a well-known Elba roadstead and a constant wave of about 0.5 m had risen, annoying enough, aggravated from time to time by the passage of ferries. I did not set up the usual outdoor station, left the guests comfortable on deck, and literally “surfed the boat” preparing cocktails in the dinette with all the bottles well secured and stowed. I came out dripping with sweat but a winner. And the waves fortunately subsided shortly thereafter.
What advice would you give to someone on a boat who wants to improvise as a bartender?
Definitely to make life easier: baptize a few alcoholic ingredients at a time, and then rotate them for variety. This is to not have too many glass bottles around and then play a lot with fresh fruit and different citrus to do twists on classics and not-so-classics like daiquiris, moscow mule, caipiroska…
Give us recipes for three easy cocktails to make on the boat?
Just because you are the ones asking! The main advice is never to overdo alcohol. The cocktail should be balanced, thirst quenching, and should not “put us on the spot.” That said already having a ron (or rum or rum) and a vodka we can already formulate several things. Three out of all:
Mojito: only squeezed (no crushed) lime juice, white cane sugar, freshly “slapped” mint leaves to amplify the scent, rum (possibly Cuban distilled) and soda or sparkling water (if you have the chance keep a seedling or two in the boat, it is ornamental, smells good and allows for a fresh mind).
lime juice (but substituting it with other citrus fruits such as pink grapefruit or bergamot gives great satisfaction), vodka and ginger beer (now if found several on the market, I recommend looking for something not too sweet with the right “zingy” character).
here we can indulge with the fresh, ripe fruit we have on hand. All that will be needed will be sugar, squeezed lime, vodka, also manually broken ice, and whatever fruit you have on hand. Over the years I have tried versions with: strawberries, melon, watermelon, peaches, passion fruit and even grapes.
A refreshing and invigorating gin and tonic with Italian distillate and Mediterranean character is also always a winning choice. Here I have a lot of fun with the spices I have on board to recall the botanicals.
Since you work in roasting–do you also have any tips for lattes and cappuccinos?
Certainly. An excellent alternative to the mocha for coffee lovers are the french press (the plunger coffee maker, also useful for tea and herbal tea lovers) and the aeropress (a newly invented compact coffee-making tool). Two tools that take up little space and allow us to play a lot with doses and brew times to give more or less strength to our coffee, personalizing it. Among other things, they have a more controllable extraction than our beloved and volcanic mocha. For cappuccino it is important to heat the milk without exceeding 65°(a kitchen probe thermometer is small, convenient and costs very little in case) and then it will be sufficient to emulsify it manually with a milk frother. The pleasure of a cappuccino on a boat as soon as you wake up in the roadstead is priceless.
Those who would like to contact you, how can they do so?
I started only by word of mouth and phone contact (392 3754130) then for fun I opened a Facebook page a short time ago. “A Barman in Sailing” precisely where I post photos and videos of me or guests on board sharing moments spent together. And cocktails drunk.