One for the Road; The Bourdain of Booze.

That title may be pretentious but I’m a sucker for alliteration like most drunk poets (I’m looking at you Seamus Heaney). After a not-so-dry January, I’ve decided to take a look back at my long and wonderful love affair with alcohol.

My first drink was probably a drop of J&B on the gums as a teething baby. Although not Irish but Italian, no one puts grappa on a kid’s gums because that would be insane. Whiskey is the correct drink for a baby, this is a well known and documented fact. My real career in drinking began like most in college at UCSB (U Can Study Buzzed was thrown around often), where I was an avid reader of Hemingway because I loved the idea of making a living by writing drunk, boxing, and travelling the world. My drink of choice was a Rusty Nail, the drink my father called his favorite, a man who to this day claims he has never been intoxicated, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen him drunk. That said a Rusty Nail for me is 2 parts Scotch Whiskey to 1 part Drambuie and not to be messed with unless properly trained. I remember going to the legendary ancient jazz dive Arthur’s Tavern in NYC when I was 22 and asked the salty waitress for one. She paused giving me a hard look over and said plainly “you’re too young for a Rusty Nail, I’ll bring you a rum and coke” and proceeded to do so. Pure NYC.

a young, and perhaps sober Roberto, heading for Italy at 17.

From humble beginnings beautiful booze has brought me as many fond memories as it has clouded. I remember 50 cent giant cold Touborg beers on the veranda of a 16c. villa turned youth hostel just outside of Florence, falling in love with an Australian girl named Eva Toussaint. My parents, both airline employees, and Eva, just being an Australian, made a career of being a professional backpacker at very early ages, and like two international jet setters that didnt have two dimes to rub together between them, we would meet up in far-off places around the world in a blink of an eye for a shot and kanpai. Eventually I would move to Brisbane to be with her, fall in love deeper, be introduced to the true Dark and Stormy while watching the State of Origin on the tele, and ask her to marry me, all because of a cold Tuborg beer in Florence.

Unfortunately I was just turning 22. Man, writing that makes me laugh.

The proposal didn’t work out, I had to go back to the states and finish my degree and become a human. I left, heartbroken, unsure if I did the right thing, and confused about the future. Obviously I made a beeline for my local; Tom Bergan’s, the only real Irish bar in all of Los Angeles.

Tom Bergin’s was hallowed ground. It’s where I would go after a grueling day of work and school. My friends would pour in and we’d drink Guinness and Jameson all night, and when “Sweet Caroline” would come on the juke we would all pound the bar “Da Da Da, good times never seemed so good SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD” like a drunk soccer chant (is there any other?). After 2 A.M. they would do a “lock in” with the regulars, and I would smoke cigs while my best friends Dave Hanson would talk about the plays he was writing (and later become a fantastic playwright) and Chris Sullivan would talk about the parts he would want to play (and become a famous actor) and I would talk about the places I wanted to go. We sat under the South-West corner of the U-shaped bar, beneath three green shamrocks cut out of a Mickey’s case of beer that had each of our names on it; a badge you were awarded if you were a true regular, and not easy to earn.

It was in Tom Bergin’s that my life would change forever over a drink.

I was there, crestfallen from recently breaking up with the first true love when I heard over the already rowdy bar the distinct intonation of an Australian. It’s an accent that is immediately recognized anywhere in the world, like the sound of a leaf blower or a glass breaking in a restaurant. In my semi-sauced state I saddled up to this nearly 7 foot lanky Aussie and made fast friends, as I knew I would with anyone from the great Oz, presumably to tell him of my woes and tales of love lost. Predictably our conversation turned to drinking at which point I made a startling discovery.

“You never had an Irish Car Bomb?”

There are few accolades I take true relish in. One is having a film in the permanent collection at the MoMA. Two is meeting Anthony Bourdain. Three is teaching an Australian something about drinking.

Jimmy the barkeep was always listening and without having to ask two half filled pints of Guinness and a shot of ice cold Baileys slid before us. We dropped our shots in the pints and opened our gullets to let the elixir slide down our throats. I can’t say it’s a drink I enjoy often, but I’m always amazed how much it taste like cake to me. Justin, the Australian, must have enjoyed it too because he never forgot this interaction, which would end up making my dreams come true.

A few years later I get an email from my long lost drinking buddy Justin saying that he runs a travel magazine in Australia, and remembers me telling him (somehow) that I was a writer and traveller. He was wondering if I would be interested in writing a local piece about NYC (where I was living at the time) for the mag. Boy was I.

I had never written an actual travel piece before but it came pretty naturally, especially about NYC a town I knew better than most others. Justin thought I was a natural and immediately started offering me other assignments. First hitting up random destinations like Memphis and Miami, then much more exotic ones like Peru and the Canadian Arctic. I have discovered rooftop Jellyfish Bars in Manila, elite speakeasies under the Little Nell in Aspen, and had muktuk shooters at the Northernmost Stripclub in the world. I have been writing with Get Lost Magazine for over a decade and have experienced some of the worlds most sublime adventures because of it, exploring the frozen North-West passage while sipping cold Corona’s in the hot tub on the deck a Russian Research (spy) ship. Drinking chicha (spit beer) along the Inca Trail while staying at the world’s most luxurious hike in lodges in the world, or a fermented ayahuasca drink in the Peruvian rainforest while studying Macaw parrots at the Tambopata Research Center. I’ve learned the secrets of distilling the northernmost whiskey in the world in Iceland (hint: it’s made with sheep dung). I’ve sailed to the illusive Marquesas islands in French Polynesia on a half cargo-half-luxury-liner named the Aranui and got tattooed by a chief in the bay where Melville wrote “Typee” while sipping warm champagne. I’ve eaten in the 3rd greatest restaurant in the world, Central, an elevation dining experience, and the oldest restaurant in the world, Botin, serving suckling pig for 500 years. I’ve done all of this because of a drink in a bar with a friend and never forget that.

Booze has intoxicated me more then just physically in my life and I would have it no other way. So here is a moment to look back at some of the finer moments I happened to document were a good drink has made magic happen.

3A.M. Shanghai Bar Tattoos

You know any video with me screaming “LET’S GET TATTOOS!” as I drinking snake infused baijui at 3 A.M. in a very dimly lit back alley Shanghai bar has to top a list somewhere.

Belgium is the Beer Capital of the World

Most every country makes a form of beer, from Makgeolli in Korea to Kvass in Russia, but in Belgium people’s viens run with barley and they bleed Lambics.

5 Oldest Bars in NYC

Good history only makes drinking better. NYC is rife with watering holes that precede the countries formation, and which is the oldest is seriously debated. One day in June I decided to get to the bottom of the debate and visit each one to hear first hand who could claim the crown.

Making 2000 year old Roman Vermouth.

Ancient history also only makes drinking better. During the pandemic with some time on my hands, my friend and I attempted to faithfully reproduce a 2000 year old recipe for vermouth found in one of the oldest cookbook in recorded history. All I can say is we didn’t go blind.

Booze is Better on a Boat.

Amsterdam might be best known for its smokable delights, but for me it was it’s rose colored ambrosia that stole my heart. Boat culture is something that many travellers overlook when exploring Amsterdam, which is a shame, because there is nothing more fun than cruising the canals with chilled rosé making new friends.

New Orleans

It’s hard not to think of drinking when you hear New Orleans, and for good reason because the streets run with rum down there. Fortunately I was with a Bywater local that showed me all the back alley spots locals wet their whistles at, letting me go full Bourdain in one of my favorite love letters to an amazing drink-centric city.

Spain Loves Monday Nights

Barcelona and Madrid both hold special places in my heart. Barcelona’s dolce far niente (or I guess dulce hace nada?) attitude rivals Madrid’s deep tradition of good living (they do have one of the best, and oldest, restaurants in the world). They also love a good party, and choose Monday as their day to let loose. Between Madrid’s “Fucking Monday” and Barcelona’s “Nasty Monday” it’s hard to choose where to be hung over on Tuesday (Hint: it’s Barcelona;)

Berlin is more than Brews

You know by now I’m a big fan of beer, but what I really like is finding the unusual, and if you can have a drink when you find it, all the better. So while travelling in Berlin we decided to scope out the more hidden gems, like a bar that serves drinks in a ketchup bottle, a bar that hasn’t been closed a day in over 40 years, and a parking-lot-bar-art-gallery that boasts the best view of the city.

Boston’s 5 Best Breweries

5 is a magic number for beers it seems, so when WOW airlines (remember WOW?) chose my friend and I to be travel ambassadors, the first exotic location they sent us was … Boston. I joke but Boston is one of my favorite towns, and if you even remotely like beer, you gonna love Boston, so we curated a brewery tour that took us to our favorite places and learn every variety the beer-centric Boston has to offer.

Jakarta’s Illusive Smokey Negroni

It’s usually pretty easy to find a drink anywhere I go in the world, save for one place: Jakarta. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, which means no demand for alcohol (which is largely illegal), so to find a bar, let along a booze temple that boasts a magical smoky Negroni, was a very unique find indeed and required on the spot documentation.

Edinburgh’s Scotch Malt Whiskey Society

In Leith, on the waterfront of Edinburgh, if you are fortunate enough to meet someone that is a member of “the secret vaults of the Scotch Malt Whiskey society”, you might be asked inside, and if you ever so gently ask to interview their caskmaster, he might be willing to talk casually over a delicious dram. Lotsa maybe’s went into this. (on a side note, I have to add in Flokí, the Northernmost whiskey distillery I visited in Iceland, who flavors their mash the old style, that being, with sheep dung. It’s … impressive)

Liquor in LA

Let’s get one thing straight. The greatest bar ever to grace Los Angeles is Tom Bergin’s. That said I would never make that information public on a YouTube video. I would offer three more elaborate pics to show off the flair and pageantry LA is known for. A stripmall speakeasy, a NYC dive in WeHo, and a rooftop looker should do the trick.

The Brewhaha

Lastly, a blast from the past, and one of my first videos I ever made. Back when craft beer culture began to explode I thought it would be a great idea to make a beer variety show called The Brewhaha. It had beer news, skits, some history, contents, and a reference to the Snooki on the Jersey Show (this was like over 10 years ago, give me a break). I produced, shot, and cut together a pilot episode, and learned a lot about beer in the process that I have a hard time remembering.

The Brewhaha – Sizzle


The Brewhaha – Pilot

This has been so much fun to write, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m lucky I made films of some of these experience, to keep the memories sharp and the colors vibrant in my mind. Alcohol has provided so many interesting experiences in my life, from professional ones like doing commercials for Belvedere, Absolut, and Guinness, to drinking parking lot “tuba” wine in Mindanao and driving from LA to Hyder, Alaska in a straight shot, only to get “hyderized” at a bar and drive back (I failed that midterm). It was never about getting drunk, it was always about learning and connecting with people and places through something that is rather universal. There are so many styles, techniques, and varieties of drink out there that stretch back to the beginning of human culture, and is such a part of the human existence.

So nice to look back at a life well drunk, and here’s to the next round. Here are some pics … each has a special story … all have a drink to go with them. Salute!

>> Roberto Serrini is a travel journalist and filmmaker for Get Lost Magazine. He has explored the world making hundreds of video you can watch on his YouTube Travelclast channel, and works professionally as a commercial director when not out getting lost.

Eating in the 3rd best restaurant. In the world.

As someone that eats food, it is very difficult to even wrap my head around the concept of being the best restaurant in the world. For some reason, the 3rd best is even more elusive to me, signalling that there was contenders that were close to being better, or worse, in a competition of millions.

That is until I ate at one of them. The third best of them. Then I understood.

Central located in Lima, Peru, from first appearances looks like any other fine dining experience. There are tones of gold and stone that give the cavernous room the feel you might be stumbling on some buried treasure. A large glass wall retains the kitchen that functions with the precision of a laboratory, diners frequently tearing their gaze from their plates to get a glimpse of the two rockstars behind the concept, Chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León.

They don’t gaze long. No amount of celebrity could distract you from the dishes you are bing served.

Central I find difficult to even call a restaurant. It is much more theater or perhaps a cultural studies class you take with your mouth. You see Central could be called an “elevation restaurant” a term I am coining once and for all, to describe the genre of food you’ll find there. Yes, it is Peruvian without question, but you will not find Lomo Saltado or any variety of choclo that you can recognize.

Elevation restaurant means that the dishes you are being served will represent the food you will find at any given elevation in Peru. You start at 50m below sea level, and depending on how large your expense account is, you climb up to the top of Huascarán, 6,700 meters above. What most don’t realize about Perú is that it has the most dramatic geographic features found anywhere on the planet. To put it in perspective, there are 32 definable climate types that exist in the entire world, from tundra to desert. Perú has 28 of them. Far more than any other country.

With that diversity comes amazing biology, lots of which you can put in your mouth, which is what Central takes advantage of. Not just fish and meat and veg, no, we’re talking lichen, grubs and gells you would not find on any menus anywhere else. The dishes themselves on which the meals are served are unique, echoing the theme of the restaurant being made of material found at that elevation. At one point I found myself eating off the Altiplano plains, conveniently frozen in a block of round ice to make a perfectly clear, and clean plate.

Was the food good? It was exceptional, but not like my mother’s meatballs or a burger from the Brindle Room. There is no way to even compare tastes when the flavor is coming overwhelmingly from the concept, the idea of what is food. At Central you are eating a country in it’s entirely, from bottom to top.

>> Roberto Serrini is a travel journalist and filmmaker for Get Lost Magazine. You can see his work at www.robertoserrini.com

How I got my food show into the Taste Awards.

How did I get my janky little food show to be nominated for two Taste Awards? Short answer: no idea.

The day before lockdown in NYC my best friend and I decided to make a blow-out dinner. We didn’t need a pandemic to spark the idea of cooking a huge meal with friends, we do it often and with great relish, but this had the vibes of a last supper kinda jam, so we wanted to do something even more special.

Peter my buddy had been collecting this amazing cookbook series called “In Bocca” his entire life. They were extremely rare, printed in the 70’s on cardboard, and had these wild illustrations and very unique recipes from the 20 regions of Italy. He had recently found the last book to complete his 20 year quest of completing the series, so we thought we’d cook a meal from them.

As we live in Brooklyn, so grocery shopping is more than just hitting up the local grocery. We have specialty markets, like Pino’s and Caputo’s, or little mom and pop stores that sell impossibly good, authentic product that you only know of by paying years of ridiculously high rent to live in NYC. So we hit up these places to make the best version of these dishes we could imagine, sparing no expense.

Camera in tow as always, I documented the day, going from shop to shop, casually interviewing the purveyors, the butchers, the mongers and chatting about all of our favorite topic, food. This is the real pleasure of living in NYC for me, the people, the shared experience, and talking with folks who are masters of their trade, no matter if it’s in rotten milk or dead flesh, these are people that are dedicated to what they do, usually following a lineage of similar family members that if you let them will show you the magic that they know so well.

Fortunately New Yorkers aren’t really camera shy.

Back at home we dove deep into the books and got to cooking. Peter and I are definitely not chefs, but we do know how to cook, and we definitely know what’s good. So the process is always fun and interesting, there is constat laughing and cursing, and always a dramatic undertone of possibly ruining an entire meal. I will say this; I find “reality TV” really boring, but, there is one show I live and die for, and that is the Great British Baking Show. The reason is that the people on there are, like us, not bakers, but their passion, their love, and reason d’etre is baking. That’s where the authentic drama comes in, because succeeding at something you love can bring great elation, but failure truly devastated, and you feel it through the screen. Watching well seasoned chefs cook is like watching porn stars fuck; boring, Because everyone knows exactly what’s going to happen.

Food taste bests with drama, ask any Italian mother.

So there we were, a rainy, tempestuous day down in deep Red Hook, salty air cooling down the steamy kitchen. We had somehow completed 4 dishes and documented the process for better or worse. Friends started to trickle in through the door, a select handful who we know would be honest and good company, this, the last of gatherings for who knows how long, to sit at our table and share a meal.

Was it a success? Of course. Not because we nailed each dish but because food did what food is supposed to do when it is at its best; bring people together and satiate not just appetite but communion. I know it sounds hokey but Bourdain told me something once I’ll never forget, “just eat the fucking cake”.

Food can be elevated to this illusive level, too revered to speak plainly about (this is the beauty that is Chef’s Table). I think you can do that because of how powerful food can be, the feelings it can give you, the way it can control you, and the memories you can make around it. In reality, food is something that connects all of us, one of the very few things that make us human: we all eat. Doesn’t matter the country, the language, the color, the shape, the anything we all stuff our faces. These are wild times, a year has been turned upside down, we’ve all been looking inward in our confines and examining life a little closer. Food, this meal, and the idea of breaking bread, mean a lot more to me now, and while it can seem all very important, just eating the fucking cake is probably the most important thing to remember, because that’s what makes it real.

While the experience was amazing, honestly it was just another Tuesday night for us doing what we love to waste our time doing; cooking, eating and bullshiting with friends. What was really surprising was the love this project got online after I cut it up and made alittle website for it. Celebrity chefs and epicurean royalty were stopping by virtually to be interviewed and share their story with food and these books. I even got to talk to the illustrator of the series, Rodo, now in his 80’s in Rome, and still as passionate about these books as his paintings would suggest. We even partnered with the World Food Bank, and Food Bank of New York and did a live event with Atlas Obscura to raise money for those suffering from the pandemic. It seemed that these books connected not just me and Peter with what we love but a lot of people.

At one point I got a random phone call from a woman named Allesandra in Sicily. She was the daughter of Antonio Raspa, the very man that created and published the books originally. She was in tears, and couldn’t believe anyone even remembered these books. She told me amazing things about them that I would never otherwise know, like which recipes where from her mother, and that the handwriting printed in the book was from her aunt. To me, this was the real gift of the books, and what I think Bourdain would agree with is the real gift of food.

So how did this little film that one person shot one random night get nominated for two Taste Awards? I really don’t know, but I sure hope it was because they saw true love on screen. Now I’m just freaking out about even possibly winning. Just being invited to the party that has honored some of my greatest idols is like a dream.

If you wanna experience this little trip come on by www.italyinbocca.com and see the whole film, and buon appetito!

Omnom Chocolate: Reykjavik’s hidden secret. Shhh.

Reykjavik, despite being frozen most of the year, is a city that is constantly blooming. One area in full bloom is the reclaimed Docks just north of the Old West Side. Old rusted warehouses are now giant canvases housing pop up bespoke shops & savory nibble spots that definitely emit Brooklyn vibes.

This area is just lousy with Pinterest perfect shops selling couture cod liver oil, bespoke boutiques with enough black to satisfy an upper east sider, quiet coffee clutches where you can finally find an outlet, sick street art that will challenge your perspective, and a bunch of bad-ass breweries where bros get their barley on.

While this treasure trove of hipster delights will surely intoxicate you, there is one place that will have you blackout drunk. May I introduce you to Omnom, Iceland’s only chocolate factory.

So, Omnom was founded by childhood friends Kjartan Gíslason and Óskar Þórðarson in 2013.  Omnom sources their beans from three farms just straddling the equator, chosen not only for the unique quality of their fruit, but also for being all fair trade, organic, and independently owned. Bertil Akesson’s Madagascar beans are fruit forward with a punch of bright acidity. Simran and Brian’s beans from KoKoa Kamili, Tanzania are smooth and fragrant and Ingemann’s in Nicaraguaare earthy and robust, and all of them are fair trade, independently owned, and environmentally conscious. When you consider 2 million children are used as labor to supply the world’s chocolate demand, finding ethically sourced cocoa beans is a really really big deal.

And while their cocoa is definitely special, the real magic to Omnom’s chocolate comes from their Icelandic milk.  This protected breed of cattle brought from norway over a thousand years ago have a unique grazing habit and diet that give their milk a beautiful rich quality that simply is unlike any other cow juice on the planet. This is Viking milk after all.

Omnoms attention to detail doesn’t end in their unique recipe, but continues even in their artful packaging. Designed within an inch of its life they are hand wrapped with care, and sheathed in beautifully illustrated envelopes, some with hidden easter eggs.

All organic, all giving back to the communities, all sourced by local farmers,  these bars of true Icelandic joy are handmade, heart forward and happy, making them not just tastes good but feel good chocolate. and quite certainly the best thing to come out of a gas station.

Get your sweet on here and visit Omnom Chocolate: http://www.omnomchocolate.com

I hope you enjoyed this documentary. Just so everyone knows I wasn’t paid in any way to make this; it comes purely from the respect I have for what this company does and the joy their product brings (like all our films;). It was written, shot and edited by me, Roberto Serrini, with some supplemental footage that I linked to down below (thank you!) to help tell the story of cocoa and it’s delicate trade process. Please be conscious of your consumer choices, it does make a difference. Click here If you would like to know more of how child labor/slavery affects the cocoa trade and how to help.

Thanks!

Rs

-Roberto Serrini is a filmmaker with a true passion for travel and storytelling. His work can be seen at http://www.robertoserrini.com or http://www.getlostmagazine.com where he is a staff travel journalist. Roberto is the co-creator of TravelClast Channel on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/c/TravelClast with his travel partner Brad Stuart https://www.youtube.com/c/truetravelswithbrad

Credits:

Written, Directed, Shot, Edited, and Eaten by Roberto Serrini
http://www.robertoserrini.com

Special Thanks To:

Omnom Chocolate
Michael Ryan
Brad Stuart
Jackie Farris
The City of Reykjavik

Additional footage and research from:

Cacao Farming: Engr. Ernesto B. Pantua, Jr. Success Story
Does your class know what cacao is?
Fair trade in cocoa from the Ivory Coast
The history of chocolate – Deanna Pucciarelli

Stock footage and SFX:

http://www.Envato.com

Happy Travels!

JOIN THE CLAST!

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/travelclast

Instagram: @TravelClast

Twitter: @ClastTravel

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TravelClast

Blog: http://www.cineclast.com

#reykjavik #omnomchocolate #chocolate

Anthony Bourdain, a piece of cake, and a tattoo in Berlin. A modern fable.

I’ve been traveling seriously since I was 15, the son of two airline workers, way back when companion passes actually meant something. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to visit every continent and many cities, and on occasion, when the trip is beyond special, I tend to get some ink put in me locally, so I can see where I’ve been in the mirror. This was one of those times.

My best friend Brad Stuart and I had just won a contest with the (now) infamous WOW Air; they were sending us around the world for 2 months to make travel films for them, many of them you are watching now. We were literally living our dream, becoming our own personal Anthony Bourdain’s, who we tried to model our lives after. Then, all of the sudden, our guru of travel took his own life, right in the middle of our trip, and sent us in a strange, dark spiral.

Nothing seemed to make sense those days following his death. We simply couldn’t understand how someone we looked up to, who we thought lived the life perfected, was so tormented that he would end his own life. It really, truly destroyed us, and making daily videos about how great travel is seemed to take on a strange burden and sour tone.

Then, as if in a dream, I remembered the one time I met my idol at a mixer in NYC. It was in a restaurant downtown, I was invited through a chef friend of mine, and honestly didn’t even know Bourdain was going to be there. I was at a window with a beautiful piece of cake, plated perfectly, that seemed to glow in the street light through the window. I placed it on the bank, and took out my phone, and started to take pictures of it, trying to capture how very perfect it was, feeling the need to share it immediately on social media. I must have been doing it for a pretty long time, because I felt this wall of a human standing next to me just staring. It was Anthony Bourdain, holding a similar piece of half eaten cake, staring at me. Half smiling, half disgusted, in a way he could only pull off, he opened his mouth.

“Hey.” he said in a velvet tone, “just eat the cake.” and walked away. 

I laughed at myself. Just eat the cake. Here I was so absorbed in this pastry I didn’t even realize my idol was in the room a foot away from me. I was so absorbed by this ridiculous pastry that I forgot to be in the moment. Just eat the cake. It struck me like lighting and immediately reminded me to enjoy life, to not overthink it, to just, well, eat the damn cake.

I stopped being perplexed by Bourdain’s suicide and decided to take his advice and just eat the cake.

It was in Berlin that I reached out to Michelle Nicole who was doing a residency at a cool little ink parlor in the ReuterKiez called Toe Loop. I had seen her work on Insta and felt an immediate connection. I explained what I was after and she made time for me. There, in the back of the parlor, I laid down and let her throw ink into my right bicep, a pretty little slice of cake, that now always catches my eye when my arm swings down the street. A happy little reminder to not overthink the world, to not put too much importance in what you find sacred, and to always just enjoy the moment because at the end of the day it’s just cake. Just fucking eat it.

Thanks Anthony, thanks Michelle, thanks buddy Brad, and thanks for reading.