When I walked into 1930 I was met by a friendly looking, bearded, and well-dressed guy who approached me with a smile. I soon learned that his real name is actually Fabio. When I asked him why he calls himself Benjamin, he told me the story. His beard makes him look quite mature for his young age. When he first met the guys from 1930 they saw him with a beard, but the next time they met his beard was gone and he suddenly looked much younger, which earned him the nickname Benjamin Button. Since then everybody—even his mother—calls him Benjamin. He was born near Brescia and moved to Milan to study philosophy. The degree would have lasted three and-a-half years, but Benjamin quit after three. It’s still quite obvious today how dear he holds what he learned during that time, leading one to question why he would quit so close to graduation, but, as happens sometimes, fate stepped in. Benjamin started collecting whiskies at the age of eighteen. His friends used to drink Whisky Coke or Vodka Red Bull, but he was interested in the actual flavors of the spirit. During his studies he was working in a bar which only sold beer and champagne as alcoholic beverages, but Benjamin was there to earn money for his liquor collection. One day a university friend he had met on the very first day on campus—because they were both in the wrong room, at the wrong time, and even for the wrong class—introduced him to MAG Cafè, which is owned by Flavio and Marco who now also own 1930. Benjamin got to know Flavio on a day when Flavio usually isn’t in, and he met Marco at a later stage at 1930. They started talking about spirits and flavors. Marco loves mixology and Benjamin loves spirits—a perfect match. They offered him a job at MAG Cafè, at first only a day shift during summer. In his free time, he was learning his new craft together with Marco, because up to this point mixology was something entirely new for Benjamin. In 2014, after five months of working at MAG Cafè, he quit and started at 1930 instead. It felt like it was meant to be.
1930 is a secret salon where guests can relax and escape the stress of daily life in Milan. Around eighty to ninety percent of the guests are friends by now, and 1930 is intended as a sanctuary for them as well as a place where you can enjoy the experimental creations of the bar team. MAG Cafè was one of the first places that started be-coming more popular for its mixology. The idea was to create a place for friends in a calm environment. A card is usually required to gain entrance. If you do find the place, you can still try your luck as a walk-in and if the hosts see that you are a decent person who isn’t drunk and there is enough space, you might get in. Developing the menus is always teamwork that involves experimenting with different themes and new flavor creations. The menu comes in the form of a little booklet that is released seasonally, and it even features a novel centered around the theme. It’s very beautifully done. Recently the team at 1930 started a new endeavor producing their own spirits and amaro.
Benjamin is inspired by the history of life on Earth, because the story of cocktails is very much linked to history in general. One can come up with endless ideas based on that. His guests also greatly influence him. He likes to travel, and gastronomy and hospitality play a vital role in his creative process—he just loves to eat!—although he tries not to look too much into what other bars are doing as a source of creativity.
The Brandy Crusta is among Benjamin’s favorite cocktails. He loves the mix. It is a very special one in his opinion, since this was the first cocktail that changed the general idea of mixing and how the ingredients interact with each other. It uses lemon not as the acidic part of the cocktail but as the bitter part. Apart from that, he thinks it’s a very nice composition with an excellent flavor profile. Ti Punch and Manhattan are among his favorite “go-to” options.
He loves Athens as a city and his favorite bar is Thanos Prunarus’ Baba Au Rum (featured on The Pouring Tales). It feels like home to Benjamin. It is not a noisy place but has great music and at the same time it is very relaxed and the people are very friendly and knowledgeable. Just the perfect combination to spend a relaxed evening.
The future of the bar world
As guests learn more and more about cocktails, and the world of mixology gains significance, Benjamin sees excellence in hosting and customer experiences becoming more important in the future. People become more interested in the history of cocktails and at the same time learn about the evolution of society as a whole, as the two are interlinked. Another emerging trend he thinks will be growing in the future is the interrelationship between cooking methods and mixology.
Craziest customer experience
A while ago a guy came to the bar every Saturday for a whole month for a whisky tasting. He was a nice and friendly customer. Since the place is very discreet, it’s extremely important to the owner that customers behave well. On his last evening, this guy came in with a woman and they spent a relaxed evening together. At one point the guy left for the bathroom at which point she asked to settle the bill. Benjamin, being a gentleman, found this a bit odd, but didn’t think too much about it. So Benjamin settled the bill with her and right when they were finished, the guy returned and saw the transaction. What happened was something that neither Benjamin nor his guests expected, as the guy launched into a torrent of hatred towards Benjamin that lasted a seemingly endless couple of minutes, using all the expletives he could think of and making a big scene. All of a sudden, he grabbed the girl and left and they never returned. The whole crowd was slightly perplexed as for a short while they all tried to absorb what had just happened.
Initially Benjamin moved to Milan to have a change in his life, and he is sure that for every decision you make there is a reason and a path behind it. As mentioned before, he met Flavio on a day Flavio normally never works, and was introduced to him by a friend he also met through pure coincidence. He tells me this with a calm and content smile on his face, which is the most telling sign of how happy he is where he is right now. Milan was meant for him at this specific time in his life.
Target in life
He instantly starts dreaming once I asked this question. Originally it was opening his own bar. Now he is not so sure anymore and he thinks he would be very happy with his distillery as the love for the spirit and especially whisky itself is so big. His hunger for knowledge is endless. He wants to learn everything there is about the water of life. In the end he adds: “I want to open a bar in my own distillery, this would be the most amazing thing”.
Best decision in life
The choice to study philosophy as it taught him so much, it made him the man he is now. It teaches you to understand people, it gives you the questions and the answers about who we all are. Culture, life, human society and history! Many things he can carry over in his daily job in a bar as so many aspects come together in this beautiful space. He thinks it is sad that so many bartenders are in for the fame and not the culture. They do not live it. They lack basic general cultural knowledge and the passion.
Images: Gianliuca Crivellin Homepage