Innovation is just as important as the ingredients
The true skill of an erudite mixologist boils down to one thing: Being able to take something very complex and produce something very simple. An understanding of terroir, flavor pairings, and chemistry is only part of the recipe for success — one must also possess an innate sense of balance and a thirst for innovation.
That’s exactly the ethos that coffee connoisseur Marco Arrigo lives by. His approach to crafting unique concoctions behind the scenes at London’s storied Bar Termini is one of constant iteration. Arrigo, who works with world-renowned coffee company illy, acknowledges that his methodology to mixology can teeter on compulsive. “I think I’m obsessive. I look at something and I know how to improve it, and I can’t ignore it,” he says in a recent video produced by illy as part of the brand’s #LIVEHAPPilly campaign.
Arrigo thrives on tinkering behind the bar and in the kitchen. In previous interviews, he’s discussed how much he enjoys uncovering new ways to awaken the palate — he expresses disdain for “copycat” menus that remain the same year after year and are replicated in café after café.
This attitude is precisely what has led Arrigo to continuously experiment over the years: His career adventure is truly a never-ending story. “We put things together that shouldn’t go together, and we modify, and we improve,” he says. “It’s nice to make such big changes to something and make it better — make it work.”
Arrigo expresses that he’s more creative in the evenings, noting that he finds pleasure puttering around the kitchen and his garden, fiddling with unexpected flavor combinations. “The house has become the laboratory where I do all my work,” he says.
Throughout Arrigo’s time working with illy, he has had the rare pleasure of experiencing the perfect pairing. One of these, he says, is the Vodka Espresso cocktail by Dick Bradsell — “the only mix [of cocktail and coffee],” he calls it.
Another is illy’s Cold Brew coffee consumed on a hot summer day. “Cold Brew coffee is a very refreshing coffee drink in the summer,” says Arrigo. “illy Cold Brew is really, really pure. It’s better than drinking carbonated, soft, sugary drinks.”
Arrigo considers himself lucky to feel a strong connection to and love for his work. “I think passion for what you’re doing is the most important thing,” he says — though he notes that such enthusiasm can “get me in trouble,” thanks to his guiding philosophy that perfection is rare, and that iteration must be constant.
Ultimately, Arrigo believes there is joy in simplicity — and in the eureka moment when the ideal blend of ingredients comes together to create something special. “Happiness comes when you do something at home in your kitchen time and time and time again and get it perfect and balanced and deliverable,” he says. “And to see it on the menu and to see it come out from the bar, always perfect.”
Watch the full interview with Marco Arrigo on illy’s website, and share your own experience with the perfect pairing by exploring the #LIVEHAPPilly hashtag.