My barman is Torinese born and raised. He plays the trumpet in the locker room during breaks, spends hours philosophizing on life and love in the piazzetta, and found himself on the list of 50 Best Bartenders in Italy in 2021 (per the Diageo World Class Competition).
He’s quiet, he’s kind, he’s calm. Insightful and approachable. But he’s not just my barman, and he’s certainly not just a barman. Andrea Delorenzo set out to curate a cocktail menu based on a place he knows and loves, Porta Palazzo, and the people he has the pleasure of serving each day: “It’s a dialogue between the cocktails and the neighborhood.”
Within the Porta Palazzo quarter, the eponymously-named Porta Palazzo market, Europe’s largest, is one of Turin’s many gems and lies a stone’s throw away from the Duomo and the Porte Palatine. Here you’ll find a wealth of what Andrea calls “le botteghe Italiane”–small, often family-run food shops brimming with history, culture and amazing ingredients. The kind many of us know can only be found and flourish in our favorite Mediterranean country.
Each named after one of the area’s famed bottegas, Andrea’s “Porta Palass” cocktails can be found at Combo Hostel, a chain of modern Italian hostels in Italy’s bigger cities (in addition to Turin, Milan, Venice, and Bologna). This particular location, where Andrea is a resident bartender, is a restored firehouse and hosts local Torinese and laid-back travelers for small bites, artisanal cocktails and even the occasional DJ set or pop up.
Take, for example, the Regia Farmacia cocktail, just one off of Andrea’s hit list, named after the Regia Farmacia which became famous in Turin in 1824 as the pharmacy of the royal house. A spinoff of the classic cocktail Hanky Panky, his twist includes gin (Tanqueray 10), a licorice tincture and Balsamo di Gerusalemme, an herbal liqueur and historic product of the farmacia from the year 1600. As legend has it, the Balsamo’s recipe–which contains myrrh, aloe, a mastic shrub and incense–was found in the 17th century by an unnamed Italian cleric who claimed the liqueur could cure all illnesses, but the first recorded recipe comes from 1824, when it was adapted for the Savoia Court to sip on in palace quarters. In Andrea’s cocktail, the Balsamo spirit is enhanced by a smokey essence, achieved by burning a spice, typically pepper, on wood and holding the glass on top for just a moment. Best for after dinner, the punchy drink’s flavor is deep and lasting, the perfect balance of sweet and smokey.
Andrea’s menu was born when Italy underwent the first lockdown. The country was on front pages for its dire situation, but also for the gorgeous spirit its citizens had when each night someone would give a gift to all those locked away. Whether it was a trumpet show, painting on the balcony or singing songs together, Italians kept spirits alive. Andrea found himself wondering, what could a bartender do? “For me it’s very important the questions of why we drink, why we go out, and why we should not be satisfied with just a gin & tonic,” he told me. He wanted people to remember their drink, be interested in its story, and be aware of the moment and place they were in.
The result was his Porta Palazzo cocktails, which epitomize Turin itself and spotlight the neighborhood, its historic bottegas and their special products–a priceless part of the local heritage. He wanted cocktails to be more than just drinks and bartending to be more meaningful than the definition it holds on paper. Incorporating the ingredients of the neighborhood was a way to achieve this goal and help local businesses along the way. In good times and in bad, local products are given the attention they deserve on his menu.
“If I run a bar with a big heart, I contribute something to the city. Shops like Ditta Ceni [a multi-generation organic grocer] and Rosa Serfino [an erboristeria from the late 1800s] do that too. They are the soul of a city. I want them to live on.”
Andrea has definitely succeeded in what he set out to do. More than just alcohol, his mixes contain history, tradition, family.
In the Drogheria Rinaldi, a chocolatey drink with zappy chili pepper, you are drinking Rinaldi black tea infused with vanilla from a bottega dating back 100 years.
In the Ditta Ceni, you are drinking smoked rice, courtesy of generations worth of Cenis, within a creamy, sweet, smooth whiskey and horchata blend.
In the Rosa Serafino–simple and aromatic with a hearty kick of bourbon–you are drinking ginger essence from the laboratory of an erborista who hasn’t changed its mission, or look, since the 17th century.
When you drink Andrea’s cocktails, you are facilitating communication and connection between people, place and time. You are drinking a small sip of Torino itself.
ANDREA’S HIT LIST: “PORTA PALASS”
Drogheria Rinaldi (Ketel One, chili pepper and Rinaldi black tea infused with chocolate and vanilla) – This shop has been around for over 100 years, always serving up artisanal teas, coffee, natural groceries and household goods
Ditta Ceni (Johnny Walker Black Label; smoked rice from Ditta Ceni, turned into horchata; and fig marmalade) – Ditta Ceni has been family-owned for generations and specializes in an assortment of seasonal rice and beans, but also carries carefully curated products from around Italy. For the fall season you can expect to see organic Fagioli di Badda di Polizzi, Lenticchie o Fave di Ustica and Noce Lara di Treviso.
Rosa Serafino (Zacapa 23, an aged rum, with smoked honey and ginger essence directly from the laboratories of Rosa Serafino) – Though Rosa Serafino is no longer owned by the original family, it was opened in the late 1800s and most of the architecture of the shop remains the same today. The erboristeria makes essential oils and essences in a laboratory within the bottega.
Regia Farmacia (Sometimes Villa Ascenti, sometimes Tanqueray 10, but always with local Balsamo di Gerusalemme and licorice tincture from the neighborhood) – A 17th century spice shop turned 19th century Regia Farmacia, or “pharmacy of the king”, this bottega has been producing Balsamo since its inception as a pharmacy in the 1800s. Think vermouth, but smoother and lighter in the mouth.
Il Mercato (Talisker, a single malt Scotch Whisky, Combo cordial–a seasonal variation cordial currently done with pear, ginger, sichuan and timut pepper–and a splash of soda) – A famed open air market in the center of Porta Palazzo bustling with fresh food and vibrant culture. The market opens during the early morning hours and closes around 4 p.m. Here you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, some of which go straight into the Il Mercato cocktail!
Photography by Olly Twist