SB meets… Angelo Sparvoli, St James BarBy Alice Brooker
Italian bartender Angelo Sparvoli talks bartending around the world, current and future industry trends, and St James Bar’s upcoming cocktail menu.
Sparvoli was appointed as head bartender for St James Bar, based at the Sofitel London hotel in St James, London, in November 2021.
He took over the role from Stanislav Andreuskevic who joined the five-star hotel in August 2021, but left in November that year.
Sparvoli has spent his career honing his bartending skills working across the globe, having worked in venues in Italy and Portugal, as well as a three-week stint in Japan, and landing positions at The American Bar at The Savoy and Kwānt bar in Mayfair, London.
The 28-year-old sits down with The Spirits Business to discuss his international career, sustainability in bartending, and the hotly-anticipated Once in a Lifetime menu to be released in August/September.
You’ve worked in Japan, Portugal, Italy, the UK – how does bartending differ from place to place?
It’s very different. The clientele is different from country to country – it depends on the drinking culture. For example, I love Japan, because everyone is very relaxed. If you have to wait 10 minutes for your drink, no one will complain. It means you can take the time to make everything perfect, and the Japanese are perfectionists! It’s great for the guest experience. When you step inside a bar there, you forget about time. I only spent three weeks there, and worked one week at High Five in Tokyo.
In Portugal, I bartended in the Algarve, and it was very much a party place. It was more about fun, with simple drinks and shots – a very young environment. For the local people, similar to the locals where I come from [Italy], you’re hardly going to make anything different from the Spritz or Negroni, because they are traditionalists – but in bigger cities, the culture is growing.
In London, they’re more open-minded. You can experiment, and it’s less challenging to make people happy.
What are your ambitions with bartending at St James?
We want to create awareness of the bar. Not enough people know about St James Bar. The building used to be a bank, back in the day, and most people pass by and don’t know there’s a hotel inside. Our biggest challenge at the moment is to promote the bar and make us noticed more in the industry. There’s a PR plan, a work in progress. In April, we did a takeover in Amsterdam. We need to try and create connections with other bars around the world. When I was at The American Bar at The Savoy, I found that to be a good way to make connections.
What’s your favourite part about bartending?
You get to know so many stories, meet people from around the world, all from different cultures. It pushes me to travel around. You make a lot of friends and make people happy. It’s the best thing about bartending. You get to learn from every person you meet.
What trends are you seeing in the industry right now?
These days, sustainability is a really big topic. It’s more than a trend, it’s a necessity at this point. We try to use our resources in a wise way. Plus, low-ABV drinks. There’s a much bigger focus on healthy drinks, the market for low-ABV is getting very big.
Tequila and mezcal are having a moment. At the bar, we sell so many Margaritas. It’s not too surprising, but we see it more compared to other things.
Any predictions for trends we should look out for in the future?
There will be a big revolution in the non-alcoholic market, due to health necessities, people don’t want to drink too much nowadays. But you still want to enjoy something, like having a drink with friends. It is definitely a market that is going to get bigger in the close future.
Sustainability is a hot topic in the industry right now. How is St James Bar getting involved in this?
We are just implementing this aspect. We’re about to launch a new menu, Once in a Lifetime, in late August/September, but we’re just finalising a few bits.
We’re saving the banana peels from breakfast, and making an infusion with them, by leaving them in hot water. We use fermented strawberries too – strawberries that are about to get thrown away, and aren’t presentable, are fermented. We give them a second chance. Then, we will use the leftover strawberry pulp to make a dust, which can be used as a garnish.
Can you tell us more about the Once in a Lifetime menu?
The main focus for the menu is to make our guests’ lives easier when it comes to choosing a drink. You can relate the menu to classic options. When people ask you for a Margarita, we offer the twists, and we can promote our proposal of drinks, and people can try something different. You can try a Margarita in any bar you go to.
There will be a selection of about 16 drinks. Every quarter, we are planning to add on a couple of seasonal drinks, so we can play with seasonal ingredients. It makes it more playful for guests, and us. It keeps our creativity flowing.
For more SB meets, read our interview with actor and comic Aisling Bea on her role as an ambassador for Jameson Irish whiskey.