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Enzo Canales
Partnership with

Enzo Canales

Bartender/Entrepreneur

Enzo Canales, head bartender of Gravy's Cocktail & Music in the town of Villena (Spain), and with a great presence in national mixology championships (finalist and winner in many of them). He defines herself as a nonconforming professional who tries to differentiate himself and have a "POP" vision of mixology, to make it easy to understand for her audience.

Enzo Canales – Presentation and interview- #TeichennéFamily

Interview with Enzo Canales

How do you describe yourself?
I am a lucky person because I have found what I want to do with my life, I enjoy working wherever I am, and because I currently have the opportunity to develop professionally alongside my family and a team I can trust. I’m a nonconforming professional and, above all, an individual who tries to differentiate herself and have a POP vision of mixology to make it easy to understand for my audience. I’m Enzo, and I’m Bartender.

The Gravys, a family business founded in 1979, transferred in 2001, and recovered in 2014, pulls out of university in Valencia to be in charge of the business, along with your family, and so a new stage in your life begins. How have you dealt with that responsibility?
At first, I didn’t feel responsible because I felt it was only temporary for me. I was lost studying Law and Criminology, some very interesting subjects that become burdensome and boring in a public academic environment (just like law per se, hehehe). The fact is that I realised I needed to do something more on the artistic/creative side, so I became more involved in the family business while waiting for my admission to a private film school in Alicante, which was closed down later on, and, just by chance, I got into a mixology course at the CDT in Alicante… And here I am.

You believe that continuous training is essential in your industry. But if we were to compare training on the one hand and experience on the other, what is the right balance in your opinion?
My entire professional career is based on training, on evolving as a professional, and on being knowledgeable about the sector and the industry.

“If you don’t leave your comfort zone and don’t evolve, you fall behind, because this is a creative and constantly evolving sector.

I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to leave my own business and be able to work for others, learn about other logistics and, above all, to live experiences. Everything contributes to the whole. For me, the best would be to work at a place that offers continuous training and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Enzo Canales Gravys

In that constant training approach, is participation in national and international competitions important?
As I said, contributes to the whole. Participating in a contest is a tremendous growth and self-knowledge experience in itself. It helps you push past your limits and develop your problem-solving skills. It’s always a positive experience, whether you win or not is irrelevant. It is true though that your name becomes more popular if you do well in contests, and that is very important in terms of positioning in your the professional career, but the people you get to meet by yourself, growing horizontally instead of just going up are even more important. As a great friend of mine says: ‘The only contest you have to worry about winning is the one you take part in every day at your own bar‘. In other words, ‘real competition is against oneself’.

Nature, proximity, and organic are concepts on the rise in the food industry. Do you think that this can be exported to the mixology industry? Are these concepts present in your work?
I believe that mixology is already working towards that. Bartenders are increasingly looking for home-made products, making their own premixes from fruit and natural ingredients.  Syrups and pulp brands are also focusing on adding increasingly more fresh fruit as ingredient. We must be careful with the “organic” concept, as it is a label that is subject to compliance with reasonable cultivation criteria, but which my grandfather who grows tomatoes in the family garden is not going to get since it is not a product meant for sale. Does that mean that organic tomatoes are better than my grandfather’s? Let me tell you: They are not. I prefer proximity over organic, but always without obsessing over it.

We were surprised to learn about your master’s degree at the Basque Culinary Centre, a technology centre specialised in gastronomy. What did studying at a high level school contribute to your professional development? Would you recommend it? How did Patxi Troitiño influence your professional career?
My time at the Basque Culinary Center certainly makes a big difference in my continuing training process and in all the courses and lectures I have been able to attend. The knowledge, techniques, and concepts are so diverse that I decided to take a break from training to be able to assimilate all the information received. And, although the technical level is very high, what I liked the most was living with the team. They have both colleagues and teachers immersed in mixology 24/7 for over three months. Patxi and I used to say, as a joke but being grateful, that we had participated in a symposium on Bartending philosophy rather than a master’s degree in mixology. It is a unique and highly advisable experience.

“Patxi is much more than a mixology teacher, he is a guru to be followed.”

This guy really does magic with the cocktail shaker, and, as a person, he is one of the industry’s greatest psychologists and coaches, even though he doesn’t know it. I have a lot to thank him for. He knows who to keep around himself, he has a wonderful team of friends and professionals who are superstars. Like Kazu, the man in the shadows, one of my favourite bartenders in the world.

The gin and tonic boom in Spain, as a trendy mix, is an unprecedented case in Europe. For the consumer, do you see it as a preliminary step towards a cocktail?
Yes, I see it as an introduction to the world of distillates and mixology. Even today, the industry continues to release new gins and tonics brands into the market, and ‘gourmet’ customers are quite familiar with the best known ones… Everyone likes a Gin Tonic. Even if you don’t like dry, bitter flavours, you can’t resist the seduction of a cool, ice-filled ball glass. There will always be those who are loyal to traditions, but I think most people don’t want an actual Gin Tonic but rather something fresh, long, and easy to drink. They feel the same about strawberry, lemon or orange. Let me give you a tip to replace the easy drink with something a little bit more “complicated” like a Gin Fizz. At GRAVYS, something that is being very well-received is the PINK FIZZ, a long mix of Gin, strawberry, and Aperol finished with a touch of soda.

Where do you start when creating a new cocktail for GRAVYS?
First of all, we try to ensure that the menu is always balanced: That no distillate or flavour profile is missing. Thus, in recent months we have introduced some cocktails with sake, pisco, or mezcal. On the other hand, when we hear about a new product, we exploit it a lot, giving it a thousand different blends and shapes, starting by letting ourselves be carried away by our common sense and then turning it around completely, trying ‘impossible’ pairings and unexpected techniques and transformation, etc. Most of the times we end up realising that we have to trust our common sense, and other times we encounter very positive surprises. Finally, we start by considering the customer’s imagination and needs, satisfying their curiosity and customising drinks as they would do it themselves.

We love to adapt to our audience’s tastes, but without neglecting our quality standards and our professional criteria.

You usually participate in some events with Pepe Orts, our collaborator and friend, what about those experiences?
Yes, Pepe Orts is also a part of the Teichenné Family and I think we have a very nice pupil-student relationship, deep-rooted several years ago. Pepe and I are growing together, personally and professionally, along with our other partner, Aristides Cruz. I am very fortunate to be a part of Pepe Orts Mixology Team and to be able to absorb all the knowledge that these two geniuses that accompany me have. We are very excited about the consulting projects we are getting involved in, and you should know that we will be very active in the national mixological panorama.

Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Teichenné. How did you learn about us? What are your favourite products?
It was a friend and colleague from the industry, Begoña García, who first mentioned to me the different Gins you have in your portfolio, which I think offer an excellent quality-price ratio. At GRAVYS, we work with all your Gins and they are very well appreciated by the audience. The last one introduced..

Gin l’Arbre, is a complete success and a more profitable alternative to other Mediterranean style gins.

The products I like the most are liquors, as they let me play a lot by combining them to create new recipes. Lychee liqueur, grapefruit, blue curaçao, or cherry brandy have become a must in my bar to create our POP cocktails. Yet, in my opinion, the crown goes to, of course, MACHETAZO. It is the first MEZCAL I know of made with papalote, an alternative Agave to espadín, that chips in more complex and interesting notes. When we serve a cocktail with Machetazo, we include a small measure of the distillate neat, so that its completely naked taste can be appreciated.

In Teichenné we are committed to the mixology sector, supporting its true adviser, the bartender, above all. What do you think about this commitment?
I certainly agree. Most customers do not know (and they shouldn’t know either) about the products they can choose to consume at the bar. Information is obtained from advertising, social trends and, of course, directly from the Bartender. I think I can speak for my colleagues when I say how comforting it is when customers trust your judgement and ‘leave it all to you’. When that happens, I want to give back to this person by offering them the best possible experience, choosing products whose quality standard I can personally vouch for, in addition to being able to complement the experience with a brief explanation of the drink and information about the main product involved.

“I don’t like to serve products I’m not familiar with or don’t trust in terms of quality. My customers will trust the drinks I trust.”

I therefore encourage brands to continue to make their products known to bartenders and to do so as transparently as possible.

Is it important for you to bet on domestic products? Or is it the devil you know better than the devil you don’t?
No prophet is accepted in their own country. Every geographical area has its treasures, it’s about discovering them. Whether they are more important in one place than others depends on how they are sold, on marketing strategies. I won’t delve too much into the case of Italy, but it is a clear example. Good quality product, regardless of its origin. Of course, we should always take local products abroad and make them known, because producers do their job, and we should be the evangelists of our homeland. And there’s no need to go too far, if you want, I’ll show you Villena whenever you like.

What responsibility does the bartender have in the consumer’s bad (or good) habits?
A lot. I think the bartender, and not the customer, should keep the counting. It’s like when I go to the mechanic, I don’t have to understand what he says, but I trust he won’t lie to me. The same applies to the bartender, we have an obligation to educate and take care of our customers. As regards responsible drinking, we should focus more on quality and less on quantity. Sometimes, we work for businessmen who care about numbers, and they see that any given pink liquid is very profitable and that it is what brings food to the table, and blah, blah, blah. Sounds like the easy way to me.

 

Now, let go through a few multiple choice questions.

Stir or shake?
We all like a nice shake more than a stir, but I also like to use the spoon a lot.

Whiskey, rum, vodka, or gin?
Ugh… You can’t make me choose!! Look, I can tell you what I don’t like. It’s hard for me to understand vodka, and when I make a vodka-based classic, I always tend to change the main distillate, because I like to add more personality to my drinks, which is hard to do with a neutral distillate. Come on, I’d choose an agricultural rum or a nicely cask-aged whisky, two completely unrelated products.

Barman/maid or Bartender?
Bartender, no doubt about it. If we serve, we all serve. We have to break through the differences.

For a gin and tonic, gin glass or tall glass?
The ‘Spanish’ gin and tonic must be appreciated, with its glass, its ice, and its correct proportions. I’ll take the gin glass, but yet being aware about other international ways of playing the trendy mix.

Molecular or classic mixology?
Classic, pop, and uncomplicated. I really admire molecular mixology and love to watch videos about the ‘Viscosity’ craziness, and I don’t shy away from working on it in the future, but my team, my customers, and I need to be at a more comfortable level in terms of logistics and profitability for the moment. Besides, it seems that the classics to be re-discovered never end.

Tiki or Flair?
I love TIKI’s mixology, in fact, I would like to delve into it, because I think it has a very exploitable POP side that would meet the Spanish taste. As regards flair, it is important for me to add moves to my routine, as any detail can be considered a working flair and those little tips help attract the customer’s attention and keep them connected to ‘what happens behind a bar’. But as for the two concepts, I try not to become obsessed and flow with the recipes and techniques. In any case, the more, the merrier.

Boston, Manhattan, or French cocktail shaker?
Classic cocktail shaker for classic cocktails and a two-piece for battle times. Mostly because Juan Valls recommended that to me, and everything this man says is sacred word. My respects.

Is it essential to work with jigger?
If you control ‘free pour’ and you practice before service, go ahead. I think it depends on the type of service you are involved in. When we work the ‘rogue’ way, it pays to do without measures and to give customers a sense of freedom and ‘controlled’ disaster.

From 1 to 10, where 1 is a non-alcoholic cocktail and 10 is a high alcohol content cocktail.
I prefer five 3s than three 7s. I mean, I’d rather enjoy having more drinks, including variety among them, than being knocked over right from the start and not being able to enjoy more experiences. I like to play with the glass for a little while, because I can’t sit at a table with an empty glass. It is a fairly widespread feeling in society, and it has a name: Cenosilicaphobia (fear of the empty cup).

Something more personal.
My personal ID is 48646965X, my bank account number will cost you a couple more drinks…

Mountain or beach?
Anywhere, but in the shade.

Rock, rap, or reggae?
I can listen to almost any kind of music. I always have Radio 3 on in the car.

Black or white?
Grayscale.

Horror movie or romantic drama?
I couldn’t choose. I’ll stick with ‘Disturbia’ and any Tarantino film.

Sweet or salty?
Salty. It’s hard for me to enjoy desserts, cocktails, or foods that are overly sweet. Chocolate, always a 70% minimum cocoa.

Meat or vegetables?
I enjoy meat very much… Especially game meat, but my body (and my conscience) is increasingly asking for vegetables.

Teichenné or Teichenné? ;-)
TEICHENNÉ capitalized and underlined ;)

Welcome to the family, Enzo!

Vídeo-recipe cocktail Flash by Enzo Canales

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