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The nocturnal magic of Colosseo

text Slim Greige

December 14, 2023

Alessandro Palazzi, Head Bartender at the iconic Dukes London

The legendary mixologist who has elevated the art of cocktail making into an essence of elegant living

At the meeting with Alessandro Palazzi, Head Bartender at the iconic Dukes London, one cannot fail to notice his diplomatic charm, his down-to-earth friendliness and attention to details while he creates and mixes his famous cocktails to perfection. But then, his decades-long passion for his craft has made him a revered figure among cocktail enthusiasts all over the world. Over a Vesper Martini, invented by none other than lan Fleming himself (the author of James Bond and frequent guest at the Dukes Bar), Palazzi tells me about his journey from Recanati, in the Le Marche region, to London via The Ritz in Paris, the Bar Vendome, George V and London’s Savoy Hotel.

Alessandro Palazzi, Head Bartender at the iconic Dukes London

When you left Italy in 1975, what inspired you to become a bartender?

I studied hospitality at a catering college in the Marche region. After having gained insight into the varied departments, the one I could connect the most with was bartending. Even as a boy I always loved travelling. And since I already learned the French hospitality terminology at school,  I came to London to study English.

You meet many people from all over the world and from different backgrounds. What is the most important skill to have as a successful bartender?

To be successful you need to have experience with a variety of people. In my career I worked in some very famous hotels around the world, but I also worked in smaller places. So, you have to know how to accommodate everybody and this knowledge comes from working in different places. At Dukes Bar, we are an Italian team and are all inspired by the Italian cuisine which is simple and well-executed with only the best ingredients.


Can you share an anecdote that happened during your decades-long career?

One day, when I was working at The Ritz in Paris, Madonna and her boyfriend at the time arrived, and she asked me for a Cosmopolitan. Me being ignorant—I was quite young-I went to the concierge and asked if they could give me the magazine, but what she wanted was the cocktail. And then she said to me, “You are stupid”, and laughed it off.

You often use Italian ingredients in your cocktails, like lemons from Amalfi or organic dry Gin from Tuscany like Ginepraio. In the summer, your Lemon Verbena Martini is one of the highlights. Is there any winter Martini that you introduced?

I created the White Truffle Martini 25 years ago while I was working at Sir Terence Conran Hotel in London (now The Andaz Hotel). I realized how much white truffle was wasted, so I made an infusion of white truffles and clear vodka. I forgot about it for a month and when I tasted it, it was just amazing. I introduced the White Truffle Martini at Dukes Bar where we produce 12-18 bottles only. 

Alessandro Palazzi on London’s famed Dukes Bar

As an Italian living abroad for so long, what does Rome represent to you and what are your cherished memories of the Eternal City?

Roma is THE capital, the center of Italy. Whenever I can, I go to Rome. In fact, since catering college in Le Marche, whenever I could escape, I would take the train to see my friends in Rome. If one day I ever retire, Rome is the city I want to retire to.In terms of cherished memories, as a boy I used to go to Porta Portese market to buy and then re-sell Ray Bans in order to make some pocket money. In those days you could find great quality items. So, from my town Recanati, the birthplace of the great poet Giacomo Leopardi, I would take the train and visit Rome. I met some wonderful people along the way. Also last time at the Roma Bar Show!

Ponte Milvio in Rome

Your three favorite places in Rome?

I am just happy to stroll around Rome and absorb the history and Roman life. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One of my favorite places is Piazza di Spagna, the famous steps where I spent many hours as a young boy. The beauty of Piazza Navona is hard to resist. And of course, let’s not forget the Colosseo, because it’s an incredible monument

Your favorite drink?

The Gin Martini or a good Bourbon Manhattan and, being an Italian, Negroni of course.

5 of my favorite places

  • The favorite square

    One of my favorite places is Piazza di Spagna, the famous steps where I spent many hours as a young boy. But also the beauty of Piazza Navona is hard to resist.

  • Favorite Bars in Rome

    One of my favorite bars is called Drink Kong. Beautiful. It is one of the top bars in the world. Patrick, the owner, is incredible, as is the staff. It is one of the places I love to recommend. Then you have Il Giardino Bar 

    of the Hotel Eden and the Hotel De Russie’s Stravinskij Bar.

  • Restaurants

    The best way to experience food in Rome is at an osteria. I like the simplicity of it and Osteria Romana di Simmi is one of my favorites. I also enjoy Perilli a Testaccio.

  • The most fascinating place

    I love Villa Medici which houses the French Academy, the heart of Roman and European cultural life. It is located on the Pincio hill, on top of Trinità dei Monti, just steps away from Piazza di Spagna.

  • Experience

    I just love to walk around Rome. Wherever you go, in the center or even the outskirts, everything is just stunning.

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