Bringing Italian spirits to life in Australia

As the Managing Director and owner of Experienceit Beverages Johnny Latta has honed a passion for independent craft beverages across beer, wine and spirits.

As a family who lived in Italy for some time, it was inevitable that those two worlds would eventually combine, as he explained to Bars and Clubs.

“Myself and my family lived in Italy for a long time and so we’ve seen the evolution of Italian spirits. Everyone knows Campari and Aperol and they are becoming bigger and bigger but there’s many traditional versions of those in Australia.

“So the concept I was trying to achieve is that when you go out in Italy, Campari is a staple, everyone has it, but there’s all these new artisan spirits makers popping up. Torino, which is where the ones we’ve got are from, is where Campari, Aperol and Martini were born. So that whole vermouth, bitters, aperitivo, is from that Torino, Piedmont region.”

Talking through the process bringing some of these exciting brands to Australia Johnny told Bars and Clubs that his beer business, which has been running for 10 years, was booming and that he really wanted to get some of these spirits for his own bars.

“We have our own venues, and we wanted to get away from the commercial spirits. With our bars we always want to be independent, but it’s always been really hard to find independent spirits on a regular basis. You think you’ve found one but then one of the multinationals comes in and buys them.

“So we spent a lot of time trying to find and support independent artisans and Berto was one recommended to us by a winemaker friend from Margaret River. He lived in Italy as well for a while and went to train with the guys at Berto and learned how to make vermouth and bitters with them and told us to try them.”

Johnny said that he went to visit the Berto team in Italy, tried their bitters and immediately fell in love with it, and it was the same for the vermouths they make.

“You look at the way they make vermouth and compare it to something like Martini it’s the same as comparing commercial brewing with independent craft brewing. They are using these really traditional styles of making vermouth; making these huge teabags and steeping them and aging them and using fantastic ingredients that you don’t really seeing being used as much anymore.

“We’ve seen more and more that people are now really conscious of what they do drink, and while a lot of bars are picking up craft gins, which is great they are not concentrating on the artisan side for bitters or vermouths, which can really complement and enhance everything that they are doing.”

Something that started off as being for their own bars, so they could maintain that focus on artisan and independence is beginning to gain momentum as more bars and consumers understand what the difference is in using these different Italian spirits.

“We’ve seen particularly retailers pick up the vermouths and bitters and I noticed the orders picking up, so the demand is there as people become more conscious that there are better versions out there of these classic commercial spirits.”

And Latta admits that one of the challenges for bars is people’s understanding outside brand names.

“The challenge, particularly for bars, has been using the word ‘bitters’. People know Campari, but do they really know it’s a bitter, so on our menus we use ‘Campari-style’ to help with the education.”

Another exciting part of the Berto portfolio that Experienceit are now bringing to Australia is a range of premium small batch premium cocktails, which were created in partnership with Jerry Thomas.

“They’ve put together a beautifully packaged range of four classic cocktails and the bottles, labels and the liquid are all just stunning. There’s a Martinez, Negroni, Americano and a Vermouth cocktail. And there are a lot of bars using pre-mix cocktail, but they are using commercial brands and I just thought this is a great chance for bars to really have a premium pre-mixed cocktail using the artisan independent spirits and making sure they give their customers a really premium pre-mix option.

“I’ve done some sums and the GP is coming out really strong even without cutting the drink. There are a lot of bars that don’t have a mixologist so this gives them a great premium option with good margin and it looks beautiful.”

The range is available now for both retail and bars and pricing has been set to help bars maintain their GP, for more details contact the Experienceit Beverages team.

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