The L.A. chef and bartender’s Italian roots inspire some of his best-known cocktails, like his Last Tango in Modena, and food pairings, from crudo to tiramisù.
Ultra-seasonal, wildly inventive chef Matthew Biancaniello from Eat Your Drink is half Italian and half Greek and draws from both backgrounds—and so many more—when building cocktails and bites. He earned early acclaim at the bygone Library Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel before hosting roving pop-ups across L.A. The devastating 2018 Woolsey Fire closed his 12-seat Mon-Li tasting bar in Malibu right after it launched. The sudden loss briefly left him in a “psychological coma,” he says, but prepared him for another colossal challenge: COVID-19.
Bartender Interview: Matthew Biancaniello
If you’re into cocktails, you’ve probably heard of Matthew Biancaniello. After his game-changing start in 2008 at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar in Hollywood, he’s earned a strong following for infusing food into alcohol and vice versa. His many roles since include being an author, a television host, and, of course, a sought after cocktail consultant.
I first met Matthew Biancaniello at his cocktail pop-up at Ysabel in Hollywood in 2018. Some mutual friends suggested his name as someone that might make some great cocktails with Nankai. That would turn out to be as incredible an understatement as the cocktails that Matthew would later craft for us…
The 2018 shuttering of Mon-Li brought lessons that range far beyond its exquisite sipping menu
A 12-seat bar nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Malibu Hills in Southern California, Mon-Li should be racking up Michelin stars, James Beard Awards and national press attention.
Bartender-chef Matthew Biancaniello is well known locally for his complex, culinary-style cocktails (many of which are collected in his 2016 book, Eat Your Drink), and the place, whose 18-course tasting menu featured ingredients grown in an on-site garden, was to be his magnum opus. The opening menu included a cocktail consisting of sea moss-infused mezcal, white balsamic vinegar, a wild herb called huacatay and sparkling sauvignon blanc, garnished with iridescent peacock feathers.
But it was only Mon-Li’s fifth Thursday night in business when the Woolsey Fire ignited in those hills, on November 8, 2018. “The night the fires came, I was saying this is the best we’ve ever been,” Biancaniello says. “We had divers pulling lobsters out of the water right in front of the bar that day that we served!” …
Mixology (Cocktails) with Matthew Biancaniello
Foraging, infusing, shaking, stirring: this one’s got it all. How do you make weird, fancy drinks at home? How much booze should you buy for a party? What drinks do bartenders hate to make? How can you avoid a hangover? What are the best mocktails? Famed bar chef and mixologist Matthew Biancaniello tours Alie through Malibu fire aftermath and talks about his boggling backstory, why he doesn’t go out much, the secret formula to making good drinks and why you shouldn’t be afraid to be weird.
Cocktail Chef Matthew Biancaniello Crafts Hyper-Local Liquid Tasting Menu At Mon-Li In Malibu
For the past 17 years, renowned bartender Matthew Biancaniello would go “shopping” in Malibu’s Solstice Canyon. He traversed creeks on his own, and more recently with his twin sons. A couple years ago, they turned down a creek toward the beach and found a treasure trove of nasturtiums. He’d return frequently to source nasturtiums and nasturtium pods for salads, garnishing cocktails, infusing gins, and muddling. He also started picking colorful cactus fruit. “The whole time I didn’t realize this was my future bar,” Biancaniello says from Mon-Li, his hotly anticipated cocktail-fueled destination on the grounds of Calamigos Beach Club.
The five-acre beach club has been used for guests of Calamigos Guest Ranch, a 300-acre property that the Gerson family has owned since 1937 and is a 15-minute drive deeper into the Santa Monica Mountains. The northwest corner of the beach club’s hacienda style building features a 12-seat bar strung with drying wild herbs that double as Biancaniello’s mise en place. The patio houses 4 x 10 wood beds that Geri and Steven Miller from The Cook’s Garden by HGEL installed, along with hillside gardens.
Biancaniello is a “cocktail chef” who earned acclaim for his market-driven drinks at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar, wrote a book called “Eat My Drink,” and hosted a cocktail travel show called Good Spirits that aired on A&E. …
Mixologists Learn They Can Count on 123 Organic Tequila’s David Ravandi
by Philip Dobard
In a world filled with fascinating people, 123 Spirits founder, CEO, and Master Distiller David Ravandi stands out. In telling the capti- vating story of his life and that of the brands he’s developed and nurtured, including the highly regarded—and now competing—Casa Noble Tequila, the polyglot and serial entre- preneur likes to let the fruits of his labor speak for themselves.
Employed by countless spirits brands, the term “premium” only just begins to describe the tequilas, and now mezcal, 123 Spirits has rolled out since its inception. In launching the company, Ravandi says he set out to create a “tequila for wine drinkers”: an agave spirit that channels the environmental characteristics behind its cultivation, harvest, and production processes into the still, the bottle, and, finally, the glass.…
LA’s Most Extravagant Cocktail Experience Kicks Off Tonight
Barman Matthew Biancaniello has found his new home. It’s called Mon Li, and it opens tonight in Malibu.
Mon Li is Biancaniello’s first big solo act, after years of crafting savory, produce-forward cocktails for some of the city’s biggest bars. It’s also unlike any other drinking option anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area, fashioned as a standalone omakase sipping experience for just twelve drinkers at a time. The attention to detail, the real estate, and the ingredients don’t come easy — that is to say, tickets aren’t cheap — but the twelve-course evening is sure to be the talk of the bar industry moving forward.
So what to expect? Think sea moss-infused mezcal, hard-boiled quail eggs as a garnish, and mushroom-infused bitters. Each finished drink feels like the confident work of a madman cocktail lover, and that’s exactly the point. The opening menu is below, but expect drinks, ingredients, and ambiance to change often at the indoor-outdoor space along the ocean.
Seats are by ticketed reservation only. …
You can order a 12-course drink tasting menu at this new bar in Malibu
On Thursday, Matthew Biancaniello opens Mon-Li at Malibu’s Calamigos Beach Club, the seaside hangout that belongs to the nearby 250-acre Calamigos Guest Ranch. Named for the mother of one of his partners, this 12-person bar operates in its own enclosed space on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Following numerous “cocktail omakase” pop-ups held at different restaurant venues across the city through the years, Mon-Li will be the former Library Bar at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel bartender’s first space he can call his own, with plans to remain indefinitely at the resort. This sense of tenure has the chef feeling liberated and excited.
“I have never had a home,” Biancaniello says. “To be working out of my trunk for the last five years, I sort of had it. But now I have a place where I can create and build and just see everything in front of me. Which will allow me to make the best work of my life.” …
Cocktail Maestro Matthew Biancaniello Debuts Drink-Oriented Omakase in Malibu
A’s popular cocktail chef Matthew Biancaniello is debuting his cozy twelve-seat hideaway this week. Mon-Li at The Calamigos Beach Clubopens Thursday, and showcases Biancaniello’s omakase menu, which is full of locally foraged ingredients.
The new restaurant is nestled in the Calamigos Beach Club in Malibu, and Biancaniello spent four months creating this rustic little find. The result is a functional bar with hanging dried herbs for food preparation or garnish, raised garden beds, and custom wooden shelves to house Biancaniello’s 60 glass jars with custom ingredients. It is downright tiny, but surprisingly uncrowded with 12 seats nestled into 200 square feet.
Mon-Li is a culmination of Biancaniello’s popular pop-up tastings over the last ten years. He actually uses the mountain landscape and is presently foraging ingredients from not only from the Calamigos grounds, but Topanga Canyon. Mon-Li’s omakase menu includes 12 liquid courses, and five food courses. Upon entry, diners receive a cocktail based on their preferences and available ingredients. Biancaniello’s vision is aided by chef Jonathan Arocha, who will collaborate on the menu’s seasonality.
“If you know me, this place is genetically made for me,” says Biancaniello. “I’ve been hiking in Solstice Canyon for 17 or 18 years, and thought this would be incredible if you could turn Malibu Seafood into a bar. There was something about overlooking the ocean.” …
Matthew Biancaniello’s to-do list, always long, is on this May afternoon even more unwieldy than usual. The famed LA bar chef, long cited as one of the most innovative and influential people working on the cocktail scene today, is only a handful of weeks away from opening his first restaurant, a 12-seat, omakase-style space within Malibu’s Calamigos Beach Club restaurant. Called Mon Li, the new restaurant will serve a “liquid tasting” menu, comprising 12 courses of both entrees and small alcoholic plates. When the restaurant opens in August it will be first of its kind on the LA dining scene, and the first time in Biancaniello’s acclaimed 10-year career he’ll be putting on display his skills not just with liquids, but with actual plated dishes.
As he preps for his opening night in the Calamigos kitchen, cutting spongey strips of Saint Lucian seamoss, just flown in from the island last night, for a gin infusion, and shards of cactus from the Calamigos property for a vodka one, Biancaniello’s excitement over the impending opening is palpable.“It’s feeling right because it’s my style,” he said. “It’s all self taught, its all what I want to do. I’m not thinking about right or wrong.” …
We’re on the five-acre site of Malibu’s Calamigos Beach Club. Biancaniello, an L.A. mixologist who’s attracted a fanatical following by making drinks that are as delicious as they are beautiful, is opening an omakase restaurant within the Beach Club this summer. So he’s taking advantage of what’s growing around him.
“One of the snacks I’m working on is an uni hand roll but with nasturtium pods instead of nori,” say Biancaniello, who plans to infuse passion fruit into salmon roe for that hand roll.