Plinio Veloso, Head Barman, is a man who knows a good drink. Relaxed and at ease in the elegant surrounds of Stables Bar at The Milestone Hotel, Plinio has been working to create the perfect Old Fashioned to serve his discerning guests. Having joined just five months ago, we caught up with him to find out how he’s settling in…and to sample his new signature drink.
Sitting back in his chair, Plinio flashes a confident, happy grin. “When I came for my interview,” he says, “I completely fell in love with the place.” Gesturing around at the soft leather and rich accents of the bar, “I knew for a fact that I’d be happy here, and I am!”
Mere months in and Plinio’s confidence and welcoming energy is tangible in the intimate bar, from the cheerful shine of the brass barware he’s introduced to the flair and flourish of the new Milestone Old Fashioned, developed with the help of the Milestone team.
Part-flavour sensation, part-spectacle The Milestone Old Fashioned has landed on the menu at The Stables Bar, and is set to become a longstanding favourite. It’s a “classic with a twist”, says Plinio; a modest way to describe the cocktail, which comes served in a sparkling glass dome, smoked with apple shisha and orange peel.
The whisky for Plinio’s perfect Old Fashioned is aged on-site in wooden barrels that have been prepared with neutral spirits and Canadian maple syrup. Even the bitters used in this complex cocktail are a Milestone innovation, made to their own special recipe. Currently, patrons can order either the traditional whiskey Old Fashioned, or try an alternative version using barrel-aged rum.
“Eventually we’ll have barrel-aged tequila to use as well,” says Plinio. “But, obviously, if someone loves a particular spirit, we’ll use whatever they like and smoke it for them in exactly the same way.”
This is an idea echoed by one of the cocktail’s co-creators, Fabrizio Russo, Food and Drink Manager at The Milestone.
“We may not be reinventing the wheel here,” he says with a smile, “but we are giving it a much faster spin!”
Over three months in the making, The Milestone Old Fashioned is now a reality – but its creators like leaving the door open for future experimentation.
“Creativity has always been at the heart of cocktail making,” says Plinio. “That has always been where the skill of a bartender really lay. After all, before the cocktail books were written, back in the 1800s, a bartender might have six or so spirits to hand…the rest was imagination.”
He leans back in his chair, gesturing at the generous shelves of sparkling, exotic bottles decorating the bar behind him, saying: “Of course, today we have a lot more! But that just means we can be even more innovative.”
And innovative they have certainly been. After being blended in the wooden barrels, aged, and then mixed expertly by hand, the almost-finished Old Fashioned then goes into a purpose-built glass dome to be smoked. And, as the dome is lifted, the delicate velvety smoke is softly released, letting you catch the scent of the drink before your lips make contact with the glass. Balanced and rich, this Old Fashioned is everything the showmanship suggests.
“Balance is one of the most important things in a great drink,” Plinio explains. “But sometimes bartenders forget that actually the most important thing is receiving people. You can study the wheel of notes and aromas and you’ll become an expert at mixing drinks, but if you don’t have the personality, if you’re not a good host, you’re missing half the job.
My favourite part of my job is meeting new people. From behind the bar, you can connect with people, make new friends, and you can – on occasion – make someone’s day. That’s what makes me happiest in my job. After all, the guest’s experience – part of The Milestone Old Fashioned Experience – starts when they walk through the front door of the hotel. The drink, the experience; it’s all one and the same.”
Creative, delicious, and served with style and care, The Milestone Old Fashioned is certainly an experience to be sipped and savoured. But don’t just take our word for it; try it yourself at Stables Bar. After all, Plinio and his perfect Old Fashioned might just make your day.
Header image © The Red Carnation Hotel Collection