Following Funkin’s successful partnership with Dan Redman-Hubley, the company’s first ever Innovation Champion, the innovative cocktail company called bartenders to submit their best ideas of what Funkin’s next big product should be. The best ideas earned five bartenders the opportunity to compete for the title of Innovation Champion at The Cocktail Trading Co and it was Massimo Zitti of Manchester’s Cane & Grain who was crowned winner.
Why did you enter the competition?
I like entering competitions because I love the adrenaline and the confidence it gives you, but this year I’ve been focusing on creating drinks and writing cocktail lists. It was the idea of innovation that made me want to enter the Funkin Innovation Champion competition.
What are you most looking forward to doing as Funkin Innovation Champion?
I want to work with mainstream bars to help them learn about making really well-balanced drinks. Overall, I’m looking forward to the creative aspects of this role and what ideas I can come up with next.
What inspired the cocktail you presented, Kind of Cool?
My inspiration for the cocktail was Miles Davis. He was probably the biggest innovator in the history of jazz. He created Kind of Blue, a controversial album that made jazz popular around the world and his first album was called Birth of the Cool, which is where I got the name of my cocktail from.
What do you like about Funkin’s product range?
It’s really accessible and practical. Funkin helps bartenders develop flavour in cocktails, especially in high volume bars. The quality range contains lots of different flavours and is always growing. It allows bartenders to play with drinks and be creative.
At the final you got to try and use Funkin’s new Citric Syrup – what did you think?
It’s a very clever idea. I make cordials all the time and to make a cordial you need citric acid, which can be very expensive. Using this citric syrup allows you to create an instant cordial. I add a dash of citric acid to many of my drinks, so this is very interesting for me. This type of innovation can be a way to get bartenders who work in bars, pubs or clubs with no kitchen or back bar to make better quality drinks by using this product in a creative way.
What’s your background in the drinks industry?
I’m from Rome, Italy and started working in bars there at 16 to pay for instruments and amps as I’m also a musician. Then I worked in Wales for a while and moved to London where I ended up managing 22 members of staff at only 19. I joined Tiger Tiger in Manchester, then Socio Rehab before spending three years in Barcelona working at No Se? I also worked at Grazie in Paris and had my own bar in Rome for a while. I moved back to Manchester and Lyndon [Higginson] asked me to manage the First Floor Bar when he opened Cane & Grain last year. I now manage drinks for all of his venues, including Keko Moku, The Liars Club, Blackdog Ballrooms and all three floors at Cane & Grain.
What was your favourite part of the Funkin Innovation Champion Competition?
Probably tasting my second drink. I hadn’t even tried it before serving it! It worked exactly the way I wanted it to. As a bartender you have to be able to make up a drink on the spot and be good under pressure.
Kind of Cool
Glass: Glass pot
Garnish: Cheese cloth with a musical note dusted on top with cocoa powder
Method: Shake everything on ice. Single strain into the glass and serve on ice.
40ml Spanish white rum
40ml homemade almond half and half
25ml FunkinPro Passionfruit Purée
20ml homemade port and black cardamom liqueur
20ml pineapple spiced butter syrup
10ml Funkin Sugarcane Syrup
5 drops lactofermented fig salt solution
Glass: Metal tin
Garnish: Rose dusted with icing sugar and mint sprig, served with white chocolate squares.
Method: Shake all on ice and single strain on crushed ice.
40ml Moroccan mint tea blended with dry port
20ml Plantation 5yo
20ml Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
20ml fresh lime juice
10ml Funkin Sugarcane Syrup
10ml FunkinPro Citric Syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
5 drops sea salt solution