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London, Milan and Mixology: an interview with Ennio Lettera

A chat with the mixology alchemist and owner of Kilburn in Porta Venezia

Per  leggere l’intervista in italiano, clicca qui.

If you were wondering, it was Ennio Lettera brought a corner of England to Milan. Only 26 years old – but as they say, age is but a number- with a degree in design and in photography as background, and a great desire to amaze his customers using imagination and cocktails as weapons. Kilburn is his home, A cocktail bar with a British soul that tastes of bold experimentation concentrated within four walls. He releases his skills as a mixologist behind a large wooden counter, right here in Porta Venezia.

In fact, the district is well known as a crossroads of eclecticism and sophistication; while the excitement framed by Liberty-style architecture and patches of green makes it one of the most lively districts in Milan, the art of mixing is rooted within its streets, generating a dense panorama of authentic drinking temples scattered down the blocks.

In this sea of ​​offers, – between historical institutions, speakeasies and unusual places -, Ennio and Kilburn have particularly attracted our attention: thus, we wanted to interview him to learn more about his world. Here’s how it went.

How was Kilburn born? 

Oh good question! Considering that I opened Kilburn at the age of 23, I would say that it was born from a bit of overworking, so much unconsciousness and so much unawareness. When I worked in pubs in London, I always tried to put my own things that I did, but many times I was blocked by the managers and I didn’t really like this. And then I said: do you know what I’m telling you? I’m going to open my club and do what I want! And so it was.

Is Kilburn more London or more Milan?

Honestly, I would also add Naples. I always say that Kilburn is my reflection, consequently it is Naples in the approach with customers, Milan in the attention to detail and attention to quality, and London in everything else: colors, furnishings, design, atmosphere, fragrances and above all training. After all, I learned this job there!

What are the ingredients to becoming a good mixologist?

I don’t know if I’m a good mixologist, but from my point of view it takes imagination and creativity to make simplest ingredients into something unique; the knowledge of anything is to have no limits when mixing and finally I would say the humility to understand when a cocktail hasn’t come out right, and try it again and again until it’s perfect!

If you had to choose a cocktail that represents you, what would it be?

Certainly the Ossimora. It is, in my opinion, the best cocktail that I have created. Rich in contrasts, first soft, then dry, then herbaceous, then fruity, then bitter but all perfectly balanced. It reflects me a lot. I’m a bit messy in my life too, but I know what I’m doing!

How are your drinks born? Who or what inspires you?

Honestly I do not know! I always start with an ingredient, and then try to make strange connections based on people, things or moments in my life. I don’t like to respect particular rules and parameters very much. As I said before, I do what comes to mind, but then I know if I have created something good or not. The important thing is to be aware of it!

In a good cocktail which sense should strike first: sight, taste or smell?

If I had to do a ranking, the first thing that interests me is the taste. You can give me the most beautiful glass in the world, but if the cocktail is not good, I will always remember having a bad cocktail. But if the cocktail is good, and it is also beautiful, and even perfumed, then there is a winning combo.

What do you think of the current mixing scene in Milan?

I think that compared to a few years ago, people are finally starting to appreciate the true quality of cocktails, but there is still a long way to go. The responsibility lies with us bartenders. We must be brave to also propose things against the market, to taste really good things and to make them appreciate the “Good Drink”. Many cocktail bars, even famous ones, and I say this without a doubt, make a lot of smoke, and no fire!

Is your theoretical/technical base or creative-artistic flair more valuable in your field?

I am absolutely against those who stand behind the counter and begin to repeat again and again the various things learned in the courses. Mixology is such a creative and imaginative work that it is impossible to remain attached to rules. The bases obviously serve, but then they must be totally distorted.

In your drink list is there a cocktail that could be considered the symbol of excellence of the place?

Of course yes. All! The Kilburn cocktails are so different from each other, that their union makes them the symbol of excellence of the place.

What do you like most about your job?

The most beautiful thing is the satisfaction of seeing happy people when they leave Kilburn, who greet you with a smile. Getting the consensus on your work is definitely the strength that leads you to go ahead and do more and more.

What are your three favorite places in Milan?

I tell you already, three of us can’t get there (ed. Laugh). My favorite places are all in London. The cocktail bars in Milan don’t really reflect my philosophy of drinking. Ceresio 7 is the only place where I often go back with pleasure, due to the location, the welcome and the quality.

Thank you very much and good luck with all your future projects from the editors of Flawless Milan!


Editor’s note: This article is proudly sponsored by Kilburn and promoted by Flawless Milano. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Flawless Milano possible. 

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