Diego Cabrera (Buenos Aires, 1979) is the mind behind Salmon Guru, an eclectic, kitsch bar and one of the most famous in Madrid, which is ranked 24th on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2021. Currently, 5 pisco-based cocktails out of a total of 25 with alcohol are displayed in its iconic space. A few days ago, the Argentine mixologist based in Spain was in our country to carry out a series of activities around the pisco.
Cabrera traveled to Ica to prepare his own ‘blend’ and, in addition, announced the new project “Cocteleras Sin Limites” which aims to encourage the projection of Peruvian bartenders and help them complete their professional training in the best bars in the world. Both activities were promoted by Pisco 1615.
We found him behind the bar Martinez Tailoring –the fashionable hidden bar in Lima– surrounded by bartenders while preparing cocktails with pisco as the protagonist created especially for an event. Surprising the customer is part of his philosophy and, for him, each cocktail must contain a unique and unforgettable experience: “People go to a bar to be surprised. We lived through two years of a pandemic, isolated from our friends, locked up in our houses and now we go out to drink and live unrepeatable experiences. A cocktail is ephemeral, it is the most luxurious thing you will be able to find, it lasts as long as it lasts”, he tells us.
We talked to Cabrera about his passion for our flagship distillate and his work behind the bar.
– It is not the first time you come to Peru. What is it that attracts you to the country?
Any excuse is good to come to Peru because you leave with a lot of knowledge, more mature, you learn a lot about gastronomy, cocktails, and flavors. This time he brings me Pisco 1615 with a brutal project, not only for the possibility of making the blend or collaborating more closely with the brand, but also for everything that is being developed, being able to contact the new generations of bartenders and being with them first-hand . Everything that is happening worldwide in cocktails is tremendous and Peru is no exception.
– Now that you live in Spain and travel through Europe and Latin America. What is your panorama of contemporary cocktails?
It is the true golden age of cocktails because now we work with knowledge. There are projects like this one (Sastrería Martínez) which is a new project. When you enter this bar you can be in any city in the world. Before, to drink, you had to go to two or three cities, now to drink a good cocktail you can be anywhere in the world. What is happening is tremendous, how creativity and development are being applied, how the world is growing.
– What was it like in the past?
I have the opportunity to travel and it never ceases to amaze me. I have dedicated myself to this for 23 years and before that you would go to work at a cocktail bar and hopefully you would make cocktails. Now, you have a series of machinery, a cocktail station, before with luck you had water nearby. They seem crazy things, but the new generations don’t know that a cocktail station, an offer of drinks and a team like this one that is dedicated only to making cocktails is a luxury (pointing to the Sastrería Martínez bar). I never cease to be surprised because I had to experience the other.
– In Salmon Guru you created at the time a card called Amazonia. Have you been to the Peruvian Amazon?
This is my fifth time in Peru. If I had to choose two countries in Latin America or the world, I would say Peru and Guatemala, they are two countries that bring together everything I like as a country, such as the friendliness of the people, culture, history, gastronomy and nature. We were in Tarapoto and we took out an ephemeral letter that was going to be there for three months and in the end it was eight because there was no way to take it out. It was a bombshell of flavor and changed the cocktail scene in Spain because we made a series of Amazonian tableware and used topicals. When you think of the Amazon, you think of a piranha, a bee that is going to sting you, a poisonous spider, so we use those topics because we need it to be a success, and it was. People were going to try the fruit and wanted to replicate the tableware. We told them to make their own with the craftsman who made ours and we generated a tremendous amount of work for that tableware.
– You are passionate about pisco. What is your vision about our distillate?
It is a very versatile drink, a distillate that generates sympathy, it is easy to mix it and have a wide range of pisco. Before it was limited to acholado and now the cocktail is made to measure for each client using a specific pisco (torontel, italy, albilla, acholado, mosto verde), people are having this type of knowledge, it means that the category is growing a lot and occupies a position on the tremendous chart. Before you had a cocktail with pisco, pisco sour or a variation because they didn’t know how to mix it. I am zero orthodox and I am not afraid to mix things up or what they will say, so I have no problem using –if I think it goes well– a green must for a cocktail, before it was a sin. If more variety is sold, pisco can continue to grow, innovate, develop. If you limit yourself, you are doomed to stagnate.
– How was your first encounter with pisco?
I have been working with pisco for many years. With my brother we made our first steps with pisco sour, which is a basic cocktail, when I didn’t even think I was going to work with the cocktail bar. At home we would have parties with caipirinhas, pisco sours or whiskey sours. Within the ignorance we did not know how to mix cocktails, we just had fun and made them in a Tupperware. Since then I had always heard of pisco and cachaça. When I had the opportunity to get into the cocktail bar I started to investigate. When they arrived in Spain, there was only pisco acholado and a single brand, today there are 10 brands and each one with 15 varieties, what has happened in the last 15 years is tremendous.
– What is the best time of day to have a cocktail?
Music is the art of combining sounds, cocktails is the art of combining flavors. The cocktail is also a non-alcoholic cocktail, you can have a shake in the morning, for example. At sunset I find it ‘super cool’ to have a cocktail, it seems sophisticated to me.
– What does it mean to you to be at the bar?
It fills me with energy, it rejuvenates me, I know how to relate better when I’m behind the bar, it’s hard for me to relate if we don’t know each other, I’m more introverted. When I’m behind I become an extroverted person, it’s tremendous, but that’s how it is. I don’t know why it happens, I don’t get tired, it’s like endorphins are generated, adrenaline. I’m lovin ‘it.
– What advice would you give to a bartender who wants to start their own menu?
Knowledge, not create from ignorance. The more knowledge you have, study and train your palate, the more you will be able to create and the better. And self-criticism, if something is not good, it is not good, try it first, it is not necessary for others to try something bad, be the filter.
How was the exact moment when you decided to dedicate yourself to cocktails and that your life would be this?
When I went on a trip to Europe and ran out of money, I realized that I had a profession that can be applied anywhere in the world and I could be traveling indefinitely. That was the moment when I decided that it would be my career. Before it was a hobby to have money, travel and cover my expenses.
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