Dario Orsili, our Head Bartender at 100 Princes Street, gives us an insight into the inspiration behind creating signature cocktails in The Wallace, whisky tasting in Ghillie’s Pantry, and his take on the emerging trends in the bartending industry. 

Firstly, we understand you recently entered the X Muse cocktail competition in Edinburgh, how was that?

It was incredible, the level of talent there was unmatched and I was thrilled to be in the running to win. I created three signature cocktails for the judges: 'Flower of Scotland', 'Sunset Martini' and a 'Grape Martini', which demonstrate my dedication and passion for my profession. I finished second behind Stevie Burton, the Head Bartender at Guards Bar, in Raffles. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, and would love to go back and win!

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the signature cocktails at 100 Princes Street? What themes or elements do you draw upon when creating new drinks? 

I believe it’s important to work with local products to keep tradition alive and to present an authentic and genuine experience for guests. Many years ago, I worked as a chef, which has helped me combine different flavours and find an intricate balance in my cocktails. Typically, I fuse a traditional flavour and then give it a modern twist to produce a delicately balanced and delicious cocktail. I’m currently working on the new signature cocktail list for 100 Princes Street, which will launch in August. This will feature the classics with a focus on a traditional Scottish experience for our guests, so they will have a treasured memory from the bar in this unique hotel. 

Dario making his signature 'Sunset Martini' for the X Muse cocktail competition

How do you balance maintaining high standards with innovating and keeping the menu fresh? Can you share any memorable moments or experiences with guests that stand out?

It’s incredibly important to stay on the pulse with the bartending scene globally. New techniques, new products and new trends are constantly emerging, and it’s important for us to be able to satisfy every guest’s request. As a result of this, our menus are constantly changing to make sure we present an original and exciting experience for our guests.

What types of whiskies are featured in Ghillie’s Pantry, and how do you curate the selection? Are there any special tastings or events that guests can participate in to enhance their understanding and appreciation of whisky?

Ghillie's Pantry is my favourite room in 100 Princes Street, often referred to as ‘my office’ by the team here. It houses an expansive collection of 125 different bottles of single malt whisky and we're aiming to have 200 by this Christmas. We have several different tasting options for both our guests who are beginners and connoisseurs, and we are currently working on a number of different projects, from dining and whisky pairings to creating our own signature whisky brand, so keep an eye out for further news. 

The finished product of Dario's 'Sunset Martini' cocktail

Do you prioritise local and seasonal ingredients, and if so, how does this influence your menu? Can you walk us through the process of creating a new cocktail from concept to final presentation?

Working with local and seasonal products is incredibly important to me. When I develop a cocktail list, I always try and give a wide variety of choices, which include different spirits and flavours to please everyone’s tastebuds. When making a cocktail, I spend time analysing the flavour profile of the spirit, then take time to pair it with seasonal ingredients. I thoroughly enjoy this process, and the best result is guests informing me that they enjoyed a cocktail I spent a long time developing. There's truly no greater reward. 

Dario's 'Grape Martini', one of the three cocktails submitted for the X Muse competition 

What trends do you see emerging in the cocktail world, and how are you incorporating them into the menu at 100 Princes Street? Are there any specific techniques or ingredients that you are excited about?

Trends come and go so quickly these days, with younger generations preferring to have something slightly sweeter and the strong cocktails of the ‘80s have been neglected as of late. Although I am a fan of the stronger flavour profile, I think in future there will be a movement towards providing an alcohol-free cocktail list, which is an interesting challenge for the bartending industry.