Evoke, a new cocktail menu at the Donovan Bar, launches on Monday 17th July, 2023. Maestro Salvatore Calabrese and Director of Mixology Federico Pavan, together with their team behind the bar, have poured their passion into this unique collection of cocktails.
Both hailing from Italy, they are the heart and soul of Mayfair’s Donovan Bar. The philosopher and the craftsman, the Maestro and the magician. We sat down with them in the bar’s famed naughty corner to discuss what makes them tick.
"The Evoke menu is a journey. Each taste reminds you of a phase of life."
What do you love most about being at Brown’s Hotel?
Salvatore: The magic of the bar, the connection between my team and the customers. You come in and you don’t feel invisible, you feel cared for. It takes time to create that experience. It’s very special.
Federico: I agree with the Maestro 100%. The unique chemistry that comes from being the oldest hotel in London, the harmony of the team – it’s a special place.
What is the concept behind your new cocktail menu, Evoke?
Federico: We tried to immortalise every moment that people experience in life, from a first kiss, to a moment of adrenaline. We called it Evoke because we want to elicit these emotions through our drinks at the right moment for each customer.
Salvatore: The Evoke menu is a journey. Each taste reminds you of a phase of life. When it hits my lips it reminds me of childhood, when it’s in my middle palette it’s my life as a young man. But the most important thing is the aftertaste – that’s the experience of age, of wisdom, of who I am now. A good cocktail gives you all that – it takes you on a journey all the way through.
Can you describe the influence of your Italian heritage on your work?
Salvatore: We grew up understanding and appreciating incredible food and family flavours. That can’t be taken away. We bring that into our drinks by dreaming, by evoking memories from our childhood.
Federico: Think about where we came from. You’re in your grandpa’s house – he has a fresh loaf of bread. Grandma’s making pasta. All these senses, smells, that flavour palette that we discovered in our youth.
Salvatore: Fresh coffee in the morning.
Federico: All of that we bring into our cocktails.
How do you create cocktails, and how has your approach evolved over time?
Federico: We want to create a menu where, whoever walks through the door, there will be something for them. That means a long drink, a short drink, something lower ABV, a Martini-style cocktail. So we have a diverse spread. And then in the development process we need taste testers. But they can’t be bartenders, because our cocktails aren’t just going to be consumed by people with professional palettes. We need taste testers who can give us an authentic response, without necessarily knowing why they think or feel what they do.
Salvatore: We start with a theme, and then we dream. So for this theme it’s moments, experiences. Say, a first kiss. If you’re dreaming about a first kiss you’re remembering a sweet sensation, so we think about sweet flavours.
Evoke launches on Saturday, 17th July 2023 at Donovan Bar in Mayfair.