Tramonto: Raising the Bar
Take a trip to London without ever leaving Copenhagen
The area of Carlsberg, named after the brewery that built it, no longer smells like yeast and hay. While it is an area on the rise and in close proximity to the Meatpacking district, most would agree that options for a night out on the town are still lacking. Unless you know where to look.
Tramonto is a Scandinavian/Italian-style rooftop terrace and restaurant located on the top floor of Hotel Ottilia in Carlsberg. The restaurant and its tremendous view over Copenhagen creates a sanctuary high up above the city bustle. But the real stunner of this hidden Copenhagen gem is the creative effort performed behind the bar by former London bartenders Davide Cosmai and Antonino Madonia.
Like many other hotel and restaurant bars, Tramonto wasn’t created for the sake of making cocktails. In fact, the only place to come as a bar visitor is a few stools by the counter and a lounge area next to it. Here, the restaurant is the main stage. But hang on; there’s about to be a show at the bar.
If Copenhagen cocktails are known for mind-blowing minimalism, Tramonto is mastering the art of jaw-dropping extravaganza. “People think it’s just a restaurant, so we wanted to give them something more, a story that represents the restaurant and also the places that inspires us,” says Antonino. With experience from Cahoots, The Gibson and Oriole, his approach to cocktails entail both the high end and high pace of the London cocktail scene.
London bartenders could well be the next cocktail wave bound to hit Denmark. With favourable living conditions for hospitality staff and the UK’s pending departure from the EU, Copenhagen is gaining attraction amongst high-level bartenders with experience from London, Australia and beyond. In the case of Davide and Antonino, the plan didn’t hatch overnight though.
“I used to live and work in Copenhagen until three years ago,” Davide explains. Back then, the cocktail scene was starting to bloom, but still quite limited. “There was intense competition for proper bar work in Copenhagen back then, so I left for London in order to gain more experience. When I saw that more bars started opening here, I decided to come back.”
With Tramonto, Davide realised that he had stumbled upon a diamond in the rough. “It’s such a nice place but the cocktail list was far from delivering the high standard of the kitchen. I knew I could do something here,” he says. Davide quickly got in touch with his old coworker and friend from London and in Autumn 2019, Antonino moved to Copenhagen.
This week, the two are finally ready to reveal the new menu entailing a good blend of high-quality spirits, well-thought ingredients and expert execution. Following the visual style of London bars like Nightjar, each cocktail at Tramonto is carefully crafted to accommodate a full concept. From ingredients and flavour to presentation and garnish, a story unfolds before your eyes. “The inspiration,” says Antonino, “comes from our life experiences, our travels and the metropolis’ that we’ve been to.” By The Sea, for example, is an attempt to bring the Øresund sea even closer to the guests as they hover eight floors above Copenhagen. The lobster chocolate is Antonino’s own creation, something that is not blatantly boasted but only revealed when we ask for more information.
Another cocktail, the Guajiro de Cuba was inspired by Davide’s trip to the Caribbean island. Literally translating into ‘farmers of Cuba’, the cocktail represents the religious spiritualism and cultural heritage of the island’s imported labour force. The ingredients mix to form a punchy and herbaceous tiki-style cocktail. The sweetness is balanced with liquorice and falernum notes. The Cholula sauce, a Mexican-style hot sauce, adds zing and spice. Whilst there is a lot going on, the tongue is never confused, slurping up every last drop. The black tiki-style mug replicates the elegua of the guajiros, a local deity often represented as a hat-wearing and candy-loving child. A dehydrated pineapple and semi-melted marshmallow form the elegua’s hat. Packing the visual joy of a children’s storybook, but complex and rich enough for the adult palate.
For the sceptics, visually astounding cocktails like these must have something to hide. And they do; the fact that with a clever mind and dedication to techniques, a little can come a long way. The shells for By The Sea, for example, are left-over stock from Flying Tiger Copenhagen, given for free as they were due to be dumped and recycled anyway. The chocolates are Antonino’s own creations and labour – same as everything else. Unlike the busy bustle of London, “here you have time to live,” says Antonino. Tramonto is open seven days a week, yet the Copenhagen work and life balance give Antonino extra time to come in before shift to prep, experiment, taste and be creative.
Go beyond the bar, and one can tell that nothing is left to chance. Whiskey is infused with seagrass, falernum with pine; tahini is clarified and CBD is sipped through a pipe. The techniques used are many, concoctions are their own and many things are pre-batched to ensure accuracy and balance. The cocktails at Tramonto are like Japanese Geishas: the beauty and perfection that meets the eye does not even begin to tell the story behind. But that’s where the bartenders come in.
Whilst presentations are extravagant and flavours on point, the cherry on top is the humble and genuine service one receives from coming to going; whether it’s as restaurant guests or as nosey reporters sniffing up cocktail trends for 2020. There is a genuine interest in creating fine art cocktails, but an even higher devotion to creating an experience. And that is the true pivot of any cocktail bar.
With Tramonto as the backdrop, Antonino and Davide have created a cocktail menu that takes the experimental connoisseur as well as the cautious cocktail-virgin on a journey through the senses without ever stopping down to bore. It’s just a matter of putting your tastebuds to the test.
Tramonto tells us there’s a fine line between art and cocktails. If you’re interested in crossing it, check out our report When Art Meet Cocktails.
Photos: Alexandru Barbu