Palazzi Vesper Meets Bell & Ross Bellytanker in This Special Limited Edition
Revolution collaborates with hall of fame barman Alessandro Palazzi, Bell & Ross and The Rake to create the ultimate martini lovers’ timepiece and community symbol.
When it is announced one day that the world’s sybarites have rallied together to create the Mount Rushmore for the world’s greatest bartenders, invariably, a vast litany of names will be put forward. Individuals like Colin Field of the Ritz in Paris, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert of Habana’s famed El Floridita, or even the nameless barman at the Café Cassoni who in 1919 enlivened an Americano with a shot of gin, thus creating The Rake’s most beloved beverage, the Negroni. But taking center stage in this totem to liquid edification will undoubtedly be the Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan of the bar crafts, one Alessandro Palazzi.
A slim, impeccably neat man of dignified bearing, with a warm endearing manner and a lightly Italian inflected, deep soothing voice worthy of a nighttime DJ, the incredible Palazzi is the single most renowned bartender in all Christendom and beyond. Indeed, his name is uttered amongst the martini cognoscenti with the awed reverence normally reserved for messiahs and prophets. He plies his signature trade at the charmingly cozy Dukes in London’s Mayfair. So revered are his signature martinis that his fame has spread throughout the world. Getting a table to sample Palazzi’s ethereal beverages is comparable in difficulty to getting a table at the members-only Italian red sauce mecca Rao’s in New York, or the three Michelin starred sushi restaurant turned insiders’ club Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.
Matt Hranek, founder of WM Brown magazine and cocktail connoisseur ne plus ultra, says, “Dukes is the promised land of martini culture and Alessandro Palazzi is the high priest. No one can call themselves a true martini fan without having made the pilgrimage.”
Says Mark Cho, the individual who introduced me to Palazzi and his mythical, ethereal, multi-layered palimpsests conjured from bottles kept perennially on ice and poured directly into oversized martini glasses, “For me, Dukes Bar, thanks to Alessandro, is the greatest community gather point for like-minded people on the planet; people who love elegance, nuance, style and a good time. It’s a place that militates against the ephemera of modern life. Dukes is for people who have time. Because you don’t rush through a martini made by Alessandro. You savor each sip, and each taste is a talking point. It’s always a wonderful crowd. I applaud him for creating this wonderful sense of conviviality and belonging.”
With a following in the legions, there must have been the temptation to privatize his bar, but for Alessandro, it’s about keeping a welcome ambience open to anyone lucky enough to be able to book a spot in one of his plush overstuffed chairs. Says Palazzi, “I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s and the sense of social equality for my generation is very important. The objective was to create a club without it being a private club — where all are welcome and you always meet the most wonderful people and have the greatest time.”
The Rake’s editor Tom Chamberlin adds, “I love the sense of egalitarianism created by Alessandro. When you walk into the bar you might see any of The Rake’s great friends from the musician Gary Barlow to the film director Paul Feig. Everyone treats each other affectionately. This is based on the tone set by Alessandro.”
The Greatest Martinis, Bar None
Alright, let’s not kid ourselves. Yes, Dukes is hard to get into because so many people want to go there and they only have so many seats. And presumably, Alessandro’s regulars are given some degree of favoritism, which is true of any great Michelin-starred restaurant or legendary bar. But once you’re seated, everyone’s equal. And you are never rushed.
Just how famous are Alessandro’s martinis? Ismail Rafai, The Rake’s chief operations officer elaborates, “I’ll give you an example. One night, The Rake was having an event at Dukes where Alessandro was crafting his signature martinis and, in particular, his sublime Vesper. As such, we had booked the entire bar. But there was a young lady standing outside the door. She was alone, well dressed and very elegant. She explained that she had heard about Alessandro’s martinis and was back in London for one night and wanted to try them. She wasn’t on our invitation list, but we decided we should let her in because she had such great style and humor. She came in and spent the rest of the evening with us. It took me 30 minutes before someone explained to me that she was the Academy Award-nominated actress Florence Pugh.”
Much has been made about the rule at Dukes that you cannot order more than two martinis in a row. This is for good reason. Because all the spirits that go into each drink are kept at a near-frozen state of suspended entropy and only converted into kinetic intoxicating energy when poured into a double-sized martini glass, you can’t compare them to a drink that’s mixed with ice.
Says famed director Paul Feig, who founded Artingstall’s gin brand which is served at Dukes, “It’s a serious rookie mistake to think you need more than two martinis. That’s because the concentration of the spirits, the gin or vodka, or amber vermouth are completely undiluted and served in a glass twice as large as normal. When new people tell me they want to order a third, I tell them to take a walk to the toilet and come back. Oftentimes, they will return looking bewildered saying that they can’t feel their legs.”
Mark Cho shares with a laugh, “Because I’ve been coming since I was a teenager, Alessandro has given me special dispensation to have two and a half martinis. But the first time I drank the final half martini, I ended up not inside the taxi waiting for me but under it.”
I, too, have succumbed to Alessandro’s titanic powers. One Pitti Uomo, Mark Cho had hired Palazzi to guest bartend at Harry’s Bar Florence. I was supposed to attend a symposium on men’s style in an hour and decided to stop in. Palazzi had made me my very first Vesper. His secret is that instead of Lillet Blanc, he substitutes a special amber vermouth he had created in collaboration with Sacred Gin of London. The flavor profile was subtly nuanced. The drink has this almost magical uplifting effect. I began sipping on this drink and after what I thought was 15 minutes, I checked my phone, surprised to see several missed calls from my fellow panelist and founder of WM Brown magazine, Matt Hranek. I rang him back and he explained that our symposium had already started and the organizers were panicking over my whereabouts. I checked the time and realized I had spent an hour talking to Mark and Alessandro.
There is also something special about the environment Alessandro creates in that people go dressed up. Men are, without exception, in tailored jackets and four-in-hand silk woven ties with nary a barchetta chest pocket left unadorned. Women are beautifully turned out. The horological finery in Dukes Bar is exquisite. Palazzi is always in his perfectly cut white peaked lapel jacket, horizontally staged pocket squares and velvet evening slippers.
He says as he flicks a drop of vermouth, used to just lightly scent his martini glass, into the carpet at Dukes with the effortless nonchalance of Larry Bird at the free throw line, “I think when you create something special, where it’s about really relishing a moment, you invariably want to look elegant. I always respect that the client here makes an effort.”
And it is for this reason The Rake and Alessandro Palazzi naturally fell into a very special relationship, the equivalent of the U.S. and U.K.’s most favored nation free trade clause.
A Unique Collaboration with Bell & Ross
Of all the individuals I call friends in the watch industry, it was Bell & Ross’ co-founder Carlos Rosillo that I knew would appreciate Dukes the most. I’ve always thought that Rosillo could have been born into another century, where manners, elegance and grace were the yardstick by which a gentleman was measured.
He is always perfectly dressed in a myriad of styles, ranging from traditional suiting to urban country-chic combinations of tweed jacket, gilets, ascots and boots. He is also, like myself, a sybarite of the highest order with a special passion for cocktail culture. As such, one evening when we both knew we would be in London, I knew I had to introduce him to Dukes. “What do you mean there is a two-martini limit?” said Barbara, Carlos’ wife, until she saw the size of the martini glasses and Palazzi explained that all its ingredients would be poured unmixed directly into this chalice.
We stared at our drinks with a sense of awed reverence. We all agreed to take our first sips directly from the glasses placed on the table as they were each filled all the way to the very rim. Carlos laughed as he tasted his martini, stating, “That is absolutely delicious. I can’t believe a martini can have so much flavor.”
Barbara’s eyes grew large as she realized the potency of her drink. She said, “As I assume we are all going to drink two martinis each, I think I should just say, ‘See you tomorrow’ now as I expect our memory might be, shall we say… quite foggy.” Jimi Williamson and Brandon Hinton of The Rake team both laughed in agreement. It is hard to describe the sensual pleasure provided by Palazzi’s martinis. Unlike most cocktails in the mouth, they have a tendency to build in length and energy even as you feel an increasing sense of pleasant buoyancy.
For our second cocktail, we all agreed we needed to try Palazzi’s famous Vesper. He replied, “I have been working on a version of my Vesper; I think you might like it.” Besotted by the immense generosity of Palazzi’s gesture and already feeling the effects of martini number one, I could only nod in joyous assent. The Vespers arrived. Their amber hue already gave a visual clue that they would be quite different. We all took our first sips. Then, we could only collectively gasp. The taste was simply sublime.
Rosillo and I looked at each other. As if reading each other’s minds, we both thought of the same idea. What if we were to create a very special watch, made in a limited series of 50 pieces? The timepiece should be inspired by Palazzi’s Vesper and he should have a hand in designing it.
Immediately, we set to work on the design, FaceTiming Bell & Ross’ other co-founder and creative director Bruno Belamich. We decided on a bronze cased Bellytanker Chronograph that owners would be invited to start when they sat down at Dukes and then stop only when they left, so they could keep track of time passing, to resolve any issues with temporal awareness as I had in Florence. The dial of the watch should reflect the stunning amber hue of Palazzi’s Vesper. For the subdials, we were inspired by the markers in certain vintage exotic dial chronographs, but we turned these markers into miniature martini glasses.
The overall result of this chronograph is something we are all very proud of. But even more than a handsome chronograph, its power lies in its role as a community symbol, one dedicated to the greatest barman on the planet.
Bell & Ross × Alessandro Palazzi × Revolution & The Rake Bellytanker Chronograph “Vesper”
Movement: Self-winding caliber BR-CAL.301; 42-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date
Case: 41mm; CuAI7Si2 bronze; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Sunray brushed with applied, gold-plated indices
Strap: Black calfskin; satin polished bronze folding clasp
Price: USD 5,250
Availability: Limited edition of 50 pieces
FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-301; 42-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date|
|Case||41mm; CuAI7Si2 bronze; water resistant to 100m|
|Dial||Sunray brushed with applied, gold-plated indices|
|Strap||Black calfskin; satin polished bronze folding clasp|
|Limited Edition||Limited edition of 50 pieces|