His parents owned and ran a café-bar in the little town of Rea Po in northern Italy, one of those places that’s open from early morning to late at night and serves as social club, debating society, games salon, breakfast or lunch spot and aperitivo or after-dinner hangout, rolled into one. The family apartment was right above the bar.
“My parents got pretty good at making cocktails”, Mattia remembers, “but they were completely self-taught”. They had a number of books on cocktail culture, and when not at school, doing his homework or playing with his friends, the young boy would delve into them and learn some of the recipes off by heart. He wasn’t allowed to mix them for clients, but he loved to help out in the bar. On Friday and Saturday evenings, when it was all hands on deck and grandma was called in to babysit, he used to wait until she fell asleep, then sneak downstairs and watch the action from a quiet perch. During the long school holidays, he would skip summer camp to help clear the outside tables and stock the fridge.
After hotel school and a few years working as a barman in Pavia, not far from his hometown, Pastori headed for Milan, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the city’s most sought-after mixologists and cocktail experts. After honing his craft at the bars of the Armani Hotel and the Mandarin Oriental, where the guest experience, staff training and menu creation were as much a part of his job as simple bar duties, he founded his own company, Nonsolococktails, in 2016. As well as providing consultancy and organizing courses for both young and established professionals, Pastori and his team curate events, work on various special projects and stage webinars for aspiring home barmen and women – a sector that took off during Italy’s long series of lockdowns, along with the provision of ingredients, tools of the trade and ready-mixed drinks as part of the company’s Cocktail Experience packages.
Pastori’s arrival at Franco’s Bar in the spring of 2021 was a question of elective affinities. The depth of history, the attention to detail, the respect for quality artisanship and the human touch he puts into all his work are shared, he believes, by Le Sirenuse and the streetside bar it inaugurated just a few steps away from the hotel in 2015, in homage to the late Franco Sersale. A larger-than-life character, Franco co-founded Le Sirenuse with three of his siblings and became the hotel’s chief arbiter of taste and curator of décor – as well as a great connoisseur of the good things in life.
Which brings us to Franco’s Fizz, one of the new Signature Cocktails the mixology consultant created for Franco’s brand-new 2021 drinks menu (see below for the recipe), and a perfect example of his approach. In devising this refreshing distillation of Mediterranean flavours, moods and memories, Pastori was inspired, he says, by “Franco Sersale’s refined sense of taste, the way that he curated the look of the hotel and always knew where to place a new ‘ingredient’, whether it was an antique Neapolitan armchair or a Suzani rug from Central Asia”. He wanted to do the same thing “in the form of a cocktail… adding a series of elements that many people might consider incompatible – but actually, if you play with the ingredients, and have the technical knowhow, you can create a really attractive blend”.
Like Franco himself, and Franco’s Bar, the new cocktail, with its citrus and almond notes, is rooted in Southern Italy. “I wanted to get that sense of terroir”, Pastori explains. Prompted to talk the Sirenuse Journal through his creative process, he reveals that he “began by thinking citrus – specifically, two of the citrus varieties most characteristic of the south, Calabrian bergamot and the famous sfusato amalfitano lemon, one of the pillars of the Amalfi Coast’s great botanical richness and biodiversity”. The lemons would simply be juiced, Pastori decided, but for the bergamot, he opted to use a bergamot-flavoured rosolio called Italicus (common in Piedmont and Sicily, rosolio is a liqueur that is traditionally made at home, from a variety of garden or orchard ingredients, and offered to house guests).
At this point, however, something was needed to temper the acidity. “I wanted to add sweetness in a healthy way, without sugar”, Pastori recounts, “which is what led me to almond milk – a classic Sicilian beverage – rather than a syrup”.
With the base of three ingredients settled, Pastori then decided to “play with a limonata, an artisanal lemonade from the Amalfi Coast, that gives a little bit of sparkliness but also a touch of bitterness to the cocktail”. The result was a drink that delivers “all the citrusy tang of Southern Italy, but also the creaminess we associate with many of the region’s beverages and dishes”.
Many barmen would have given themselves a pat on the back and stopped there. But for Pastori, the finishing touch was still missing. “I knew the drink had to be served in a tumbler”, he says, “and I decided to dust the rim of the tumbler with pistacchio grains and salt, wetted with a little lemon juice to make them adhere”. That way, Pastori felt, “when you take the first sip, you’re getting a sweet taste you associate with Neapolitan or Sicilian pastries, but also the saltiness of the sea, like when you emerge after a swim and can still taste it on your lips”.
- 50ml (1 ⅔ fl. oz.) Italicus bergamot liqueur
- 100ml (3 ⅓ fl. oz.) homemade or artisanal lemonade
- 20ml (⅔ fl oz) organic sfusato amalfitano lemon juice
- 10ml (⅓ fl oz) almond milk
- A little sea salt and finely granulated pistachio
- Strands of sfusato amalfitano lemon to garnish
Serve in a tumbler
First, coat the rim of the tumbler with the pistacchio and salt. The best way to do this is to mix some fine sea salt and powdered pistacchio together in a tea or coffee saucer and wet the mixture with a little lemon juice, then turn the glass upside down and twist it gently in the moistened powder. Finally, place a large chunk of ice in the tumbler.
Next, place all the liquid ingredients except the lemonade in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into the tumbler. Add the lemonade, stir, and garnish with the lemon zest strands. Enjoy.
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