Bartender Q&A: Valentino's Cucina Italiana's Iliya Dimitrov on $500 Cocktails and the Dangers of Showing Off

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A lot of people like to eat food just to fill their stomachs. And a lot people drink cocktails just to get drunk. And hey--we've all done both.

There really is little difference between making good cocktails and good food; both require a certain level of intuition and training. A bit too much of this, or a bit too little of that, and you're way off balance.

Valentino's Cucina Italiana's Iliya Dimitrov knows a thing or two about mixing well-balanced drinks. The lifelong mixologist--he actually started at the ripe old age of 16--creates many of his concoctions himself: bitters, simple syrups, limoncello.

We decided to sit down with the amicable mixologist to get his take on his most embarrassing moments behind the bar and his favorite local bartender--his wife.

See Also:

- Park Tavern Rolls Out New Spring Cocktail Menu Designed by Co-Owner Brian Albe and Mixologist Nick Nistico (Photos)

- Bartender Q&A: Malcolm's David Walker on Screaming Vikings and the Sweetest Pick-Up Line. Ever.

Clean Plate Charlie: Hometown/ High School?

Dimitrov:Born and raised in Gorna Oriahovitza, Bulgaria. Went to school in Sofia.

How long have you been in South Florida?

Thirteen years--since January 2000.

How long have you been in the industry?

Twenty years

I knew I wanted to be a bartender when _______.

We convinced the local government in our hometown, in Bulgaria, to give us the keys to the basement of a movie theater "to start a business." We decided to turn it into a nightclub and I took it upon myself to set up a bar. It lasted until my friend's mom approached my mom about her son coming home drunk. That was about two weeks.

Favorite drink to make?

Negroni: I really make a killer Negroni.

Least favorite drink to make?

Pina Colada

Strangest drink requested?

The $500 cocktail: a Louis XIII Stinger over ice. It's a combination of Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac and white creme de menthe.

What's your favorite spirit?

Any Eau de Vie

What's your favorite thing to drink after work?

Cold beer

What is your favorite place to drink after work?


What's the best pick-up line you've heard at the bar?

"Hey! Want to make out?" said by a regular... To my wife.

The worst?

There is no such thing. You're either getting a phone number or getting slapped. Either way, you get the contact.

If someone comes in and orders a ______, you instantly think ______ about them.

I try not to judge

Biggest pet-peeve while working?

Making a mess. One time I tried showing off with my flair bartending skills and I accidentally smacked myself in the head with a bottle, fell back into the bar, ending up soaked in all sorts of alcohol. That was a fun rest of the night.

Who is your favorite local bartender? Any why?

My wife. Why? She is my wife.

If I wasn't a bartender, I would be a ______.

A mad chef that screams at everyone! Not. No, actually, I think being a soccer coach is something I would like to do.

Favorite kind of bar customer?

The lonely drinker: good talks.

Least favorite kind of bar customer?

The loud, obnoxious drunk

If you could make a drink for anyone, who would it be? And which drink do you think would suit them?

That's easy: Charlie Sheen, of course. The drink would have something to do with a sniff of Cointreau on the end. I have no idea how I made the association between those two. No idea.

Favorite thing about bartending?

How about everything? Good time, good friends, good drinks. Did I miss anything?

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