What did you do before starting Distilleria Mezzanotte?
Alex: I worked almost ten years in a restaurant as barman and a couple of years as e-commerce manager.
Giacomo: I worked in high fashion as art director, photographer, graphic designer and social media manager.
What made you decide to start a distillery, and what's the inspiration behind your gin?
Alex: As kid I was with my grandparents a lot because my parents had a restaurant to run. At the time my grandfather had a little vineyard in the countryside and used to make some Grappa for the family in his basement with a little pot still. I was always fascinated by this ritual and growing up I kept this passion for distilling at home.
Giacomo: I had an Instagram profile reviewing gins all over the Europe and shared all of them with Alex to help me write the reviews. We tried more than 250 different labels in 2 years but we couldn't find an Italian brand that matched completely our tastes, so I said 'why don't we make our own gin?'. Alex already knew how to distill, so after a lot of research and study on how to open a micro-distillery in Italy and how the market is going, we decided to start the adventure.
What is the meaning and story behind your brand name?
"Mezzanotte" means midnight in Italian. We think of "midnight" not as a time but as the instant that separates one day from another, like a threshold dividing two places. We transfigured this concept on our labels as doors or portals with a keyhole in the middle. In lots of Nordic folklore thresholds divide our world from the magical one, just as the mouth of the bottle divides our world from the "Mezzanotte".
Can you tell us more about your distillery and your still?
Distilleria Mezzanotte officially opened in January 2022 after a year and a half scouting for the right place and also filling out paperwork. Besides our gin Mezzanotte we work on behalf of third parties, using our know-how for other businesses and also for gin lovers who wanted to create a personal gin brand. Today we have successfully produced over 40 different gins for 20 partners.
Our 230L still is German and made by Müller, one of the most renowned still manufacturers. Its name is "Percival" after the mighty knight of the Round Table that was able to find the Grail due to the pureness of his heart. Any reference to the head, heart and tail of the distillation is purely intentional! It has a column with three rectification plates and a botanical basket placed on the side of the column. Its pot, column and botanical basket are made of pure certified copper and the power supply is completely electric. We chose electricity because it is the greenest option and our energy supplier can provide 100% energy from renewable sources.
Can you tell us more about your distillation process and botanicals?
Our still allows us to combine the classic distillation and steam extraction, thanks to the botanical basket placed after the column. In Mezzanotte we use it to extract the essential oils from sweet orange peels and combawa (or kaffir) lime leaves. Steam extraction is a very effective way to extract flavours from these delicate leaves, zests and flowers that could be easily spoiled with a traditional distillation inside the pot.
We also have a second knight (still) named Galahad which helps Percival with his work. It is a rotary evaporator from the Swiss company 'Buchi' and we use this to vacuum distill at low temperature with some of the botanicals that are even more delicate, such as the seaweed for our gin Atlantide.
What can visitors experience if they visit the distillery for a tour/tasting?
Our distillery is open for guided tours by reservation and we offer a complete tour of the distillery showing the many parts of the process, from distillation to bottling. After a Q&A about whatever people may want to know, we offer a guided tasting of Mezzanotte and Atlantide. For those who liked our gin (most of the people!) there's the possibility to purchase bottles in store.
What is your ambition for your distillery and brand in the years to come?
Well we'd like to be known across all Europe, UK and the USA. Our goal is to experiment with new spirits and do some crazy things as curiosity is at the base of our work. The market is very crowded and we want to stand out with spirits you cannot find elsewhere. We started experimenting with typical Italian products like cheese made in our area, Mortadella Bolognese, and even pizza... the possibilities to make new tastes are endless and there are so many customers waiting to be amused.
How did it feel to be named 'New Distillery of the Year 2023' and win 'Best in Europe 2023' for your Gin Mezzanotte in The Gin Guide Awards, and how has this success helped you?
After Mezzanotte was named 'Best in Europe 2023' and both Mezzanotte and Atlantide were Winners in the Contemporary Gin category we were thrilled and rather speechless. Just after a year we could not believe to have such a recognition from The Gin Guide.
When we were then named 'New Distillery of the Year 2023' we were over the moon and we received countless compliments from suppliers, distributors and customers. This really helped us as more distributors started to be interested in our products and this opened a lot of doors for us as well as new collaborations.
What are your favourite ways to drink your gins?
We love gin Atlantide with Tonic Water (of course) to fight the heat of the Italian summer, usually without garnish and mixed with a Tonic Water that is not too bitter or too sweet and keeping the 3/4 ratio.
Lately Giacomo keeps asking our Barman for a Bloody Mary with gin Atlantide. He has a strange addiction to tomato juice! But the truth is that both of us love a Negroni during the winter and definitely suggest you try preparing one with gin Mezzanotte. The lime leaves come out even more when mixed with bitter and vermouth. Unlike the garnish in G&T, here an orange peel is mandatory.
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What's next for you and Distilleria Mezzanotte - any exciting plans?
Next year will be dedicated to looking out for good distributors and expanding our presence all over Italy. For those who live in UK, keep your eyes open... big news is coming in 2024! And this winter we'll come out with two new products but it's all top secret for now. We can only say that they're not gin!
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