Meet Your Mixologist: Nicholas Vitulli

By Lanee Lee

“I’ve come to realize that many people have no idea what a well-crafted cocktail is, but are not averse to being educated.”

Hotel bars have a goldmine of big league bartenders, and Los Angeles is no different. Meet one of these covert cocktail kings: bar manager Nicholas Vitulli of the Montage Beverly Hills.  He has parlayed his near two decades of cocktail experience to bring the art of mixology forefront in the hotel’s Parq Bar and Ten Pound.

An experience at one of his bar stools goes something like this: he spouts off cocktail and bar history like a winning Jeopardy contestant while hand-cracking ice or furiously churning his shaker. Then, Vitulli manifests your new favorite drink with spirits/ingredients you previously detested. We caught up with him at Parq Bar:

How did you get your start behind the bar?
Nicholas Vitulli: I’ve been working in bars and restaurants for 17 years and have been behind the bar since I was old enough to be, so roughly 10 years. It’s in my blood.

You call yourself the ‘Boozier.’ How did that come about?
It’s like a sommelier of booze…and it sounds like bustier which I find to be hilarious.

And what are your thoughts about the current moniker ‘mixologist’?
I believe if you call yourself a bartender than you should be able to mixologize all day long while engaging with people in an amicable manner at a reasonably quick pace. If you can’t, then I’d recommend changing career paths. It’s no longer a novelty to be able to make a Sazerac; it’s a necessity, and if you can’t, your business will fail.

What was the most bizarre drink request you’ve gotten?
I get bizarre drink requests all the time. While I want all of my guests to leave happy, I often recommend other options that they might like to open their eyes to new experiences. I’ve come to realize that many people have no idea what a well-crafted cocktail is, but are not averse to being educated.

Where are your favorite places in Los Angeles to get a well-crafted cocktail? Harvard and Stone, La Descarga, Pour Vous, Black Market, Piano Bar, Neat, Tom Bergen’s, Short Order, Playa, Rivera, Seven Grand or The Eveleigh. A lot of people are doing great things around town.

What spirit/ingredient are you experimenting with right now?
I’ve been experimenting with a lot of my own syrups and bitters. I’ve also discovered the most amazing tequila that exists on the face of the planet: De Leon. Hands down the purest, cleanest booze I’ve ever encountered.

If you were stranded on an island and had only one spirit to drink, what would it be?
Fernet Branca.

What’s new on the horizon for the Parq Bar cocktail menu?
I’m trying to keep it as classically inspired as possible. There are enough classics that have been around since the birth of the cocktail in 1856 to keep us busy for a long, long time.

And if you could have one mediocre superpower, what would it be?
The ability to stir a Manhattan to perfection in 30 seconds.

Catch Nicholas in action most nights at Parq Bar or Ten Pound.

Montage Beverly Hills, 225 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210