Ryan Gavin is bar manager of Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar in New York
How did you get started in bartending?
I left Australia for the first time at 18yrs of age on a rugby trip organized by my school. At the end of the tour I just simply stayed in London.
Needing a job to sustain myself I did what all gap year students would do when in London: I got a job working in a pub. This was the beginning point for my passion towards hospitality and of course making cocktails.
What is your favorite spirit to work with at the moment?
I have always loved gin. It’s been such a growth category over the past 10 years. It seems a new gin is popping up every day these days from all over the world. I love the vast array of flavors and aromas you can get with this spirit, and how each gin has something different to say about where it comes from and who makes it.
You’ve worked in some of the major cities in Australia, plus London and Rome; how does working in New York compare?
New York is simply bigger and busier. There are so many different people from all over here, and with that comes so much diversity of palates and inspirations.
Strange to see how much American whiskey and tequila dominate the orders coming across the bar. I’m used to a much more balanced mix including gins, rums and other clear spirits.
Your time in Rome influenced the cocktail menu at Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar, can you tell us about some of the Italian-inspired drinks and how you came up with them?
Time spent in Italy was all about the food and drink. My exposure to some of the most simple yet delicious food and an array of delicious amari have given me inspiration of a whole spectrum of flavors that I incorporate into some of the cocktails at Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar. One such drink is the Buffalo Fizz, which combines gin, Scotch whisky, lemon, ginger, burrata water and amaro in a silky fizz with a delicate creamy texture.
What’s the most popular drink on the list at the moment?
People are going mad for the Seasonal Sgroppino. We blend with a milkshake maker blood orange sorbet, a little vodka, Montenegro and prosecco. This simple delivery of a classic Italian dessert is served long and icy with a beautiful rich citrus flavor.
What’s your current go-to cocktail or beverage?
Lately I’ve been getting back to basics—drinks with fewer than three ingredients, like the Sidecar, Rusty Nail or Boulevardier. I love seeing how other bartenders select their ratios and what choices they make with their brand of spirits. Small differences can make all the difference.
You’ve competed in a number of cocktail competitions. What advice do you have for a bartender entering their first contest?
The best advice I was ever given is to be yourself. Make a drink that tells a story and you can confidently link with your own experiences. These make a presentation a lot more genuine and can help put you at ease when performing in front of a crowd.
Would you share one of your favorite drink recipes?
I created the Pangu cocktail for a restaurant opening in Sydney.
1 ½ oz. Silver tequila infused with pandan leaf and coconut oil
½ oz. Dry vermouth
¾ oz. Lemon juice
½ oz. Watermelon and pink peppercorn syrup
Shake, fine strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with pandan leaf.