When it comes to his philosophy of mixology, Miami-based bartender Valentino Longo follows a maxim from a fellow Italian, Leonardo di Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Growing up in Rome, Longo worked throughout his youth with his father in his photography studio—but when the industry started to go digital, he lost interest and searched for a new outlet for his creativity. Inspired by his sister, a chef, and their grandmother, who had run her own restaurant, at 20 he decided that his life’s ambition would be to open his own bar.
His first job at a hotel in Rome taught him one important lesson among others: He had to learn some English if he wanted to work at a bar in Europe. He headed to London, where he joined one of the city’s most prestigious hotel bar institutions. The seriousness of the cocktail world in the English capital cemented for him that this was the industry he belonged in.
International travel exposed Longo to more of the world’s bartending styles, from the precision and perfection of cocktail bars in Japan to the more casual drinkers in the U.S., some of whom still requested their Martinis shaken. He found a home in Miami, working at bars that borrowed from European cuisine and customs.
His experiences have led to a creative process that, perhaps influenced by his work with his father, tends to start visually. “I try to envision what I want to achieve from the cocktail, how I want it to look.” Once he knows the kind of glass the drink will go into, he begins to brainstorm the flavors that will work in it. The advice from his father that’s stuck with him through the years? “Everything depends on your vision, don’t worry if [it] isn’t understood.”
BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® Gin, in partnership with Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, is proud to present ‘The Canvas Project’, a content series featuring the creative passions of the 12 finalists in the 2020 Most Imaginative Bartender (MIB) Competition. From photography and videography, to home gardening tips and mindfulness tutorials, the webinars are designed to spark inspiration and discovery, and foster connection by sharing bartenders’ personal passions in times of hardship.
Last year’s iteration of MIB introduced the Canvas Challenge, a $25,000 grant awarded to a finalist to turn their creative vision into reality. This ambitious test further heightened the imagination component of the competition to a new level and served as a reinforcement of Bombay Sapphire’s belief in the innate creativity of bartenders, which often translates outside the glass as much as it does inside of it.
The episodes of ‘The Canvas Project’ are designed around the Canvas Challenge submissions of the 12 finalists, who hail from Portland to Atlanta, Toronto to Miami, giving viewers a peek inside the inner workings of the program.