Ask a bartender how she got started in the business, and chances are she would give you a deep or maybe philosophical answer along the lines of “it’s my passion since I was young”. Not Italian mixologist Palmira Bertuca, who happily admitted that she fell into it by accident.
“I worked at bar on weekends upon my friend’s recommendation to make some money,” she confesses, adding that she had a couple more summer stints before she found a steady job at a proper cocktail bar. “The bar manager there was so passionate about what he was doing, and I soon realised that this was what I loved to do, too.”
(Related: Singapore's Top 30 Bars)
She hasn’t looked back ever since and has travelled to places such as London, Australia and Barcelona to sharpen her skills at renowned bars. A chance encounter with the Proof & Company people opened doors for her to move to sunny Singapore to helm Amari-centric bar Marcello, which is in partnership with Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay.
How has life been since the big move? We check up with her to find out.
How is the bar scene here different from Italy?
PB: I feel like there are more female bartenders in Singapore, me included. The bar scene here is also growing exponentially, so it’s the right place and right time for bartenders like me to be here.
Do you have any favourite local bars?
PB: Definitely! I am quite familiar with the scene here as I have been to Singapore before. But I always visit Atlas, Manhattan, which is the best bar in Asia for two consecutive years, and Origin Bar.
(Related: Manhattan Is Still The Best Bar In Asia)
How does Marcello differ from these?
PB: It’s an Italian cocktail bar to start with, and our focus is on Amari (Italian herbal liqueur). We take pride in having the largest collection in Singapore and Asia; we have over 40 varieties which we are still growing.
Why do you think it’s the best spirit to work with?
PB: It’s a flexible spirit which adds a different layer and character to any drink. You can have it on its own, too, as an aperif or digestif.
Any recommendations that we should try?
PB: For cocktails, the Better American made with bourbon, Amaro, citrus and egg white is perfect for those who enjoy a Whisky Sour.
How about the Amari that we can drink neat?
PB: I suggest the Amaro del Capo because I actually grew up with that. And it was always something I could find at my grandparents’ house or neighborhood store as a child. I also enjoy Fernet Branca and Amaro Ciociaro.
What is your signature drink?
PB: The Smoked Black Olive Negroni is one we’re most proud of at Marcello. It’s mixed with the usual Campari, gin and vermouth, but we garnish it with black olives that we smoke inhouse using cherry wood.
What is one misconception about bartenders?
PB: That we drink a lot. Contrary to what people think, I don’t drink every day because I am always behind the bar mixing cocktails.
But If you can drink every day, would you?
PB: No, I will probably only last for a week.
Other than Singapore, what are the places to visit in terms of bar scene?
PB: New York and London. Barcelona is growing, too, so that's something we should watch out for.
What's next on your list to visit?
PB: Hong Kong.
Drink of choice?
PB: I always go for the classic negroni.
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