Matthew Biancaniello, 46, lives in a world of white fir-infused tequila, pine sap-infused St-Germain, fuzzy Cuban oregano, Green Chartreuse, dehydrated banana flowers and baby strollers. The for-hire bartender/mad scientist has made a name for himself with his culinary cocktails at bar programs all over Los Angeles (Plan Check, the Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar, etc.). Clients have paid Biancaniello upwards of $20,000 to bartend for a weekend — and a client once hired him to make cocktails for her, alone, for 11 hours. He just finished a pop-up collaboration with Roberto Cortez in Seattle, where he served diners drinks made with wild juniper-infused mezcal, kiwi flowers and wild toyon berry-infused pisco. He’s also working on a book. And with his girlfriend, Quincy Coleman, he’s raising 1-year-old twins.
We shadowed Biancaniello for a day of shopping, foraging, babysitting, infusing and bartending at a private, swanky loft party in downtown L.A. Here’s a glimpse at a day in the life of one of the most coveted bartenders in L.A.
4:30 to 8 a.m. Makes a cup of French roast coffee, reads a couple of chapters of “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife,” wakes his twins, Kai and Coleman, who eat oatmeal with milk, Tahitian vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon for breakfast.
8:26 a.m. At the Santa Monica farmers market, wearing a brightly colored beaded necklace (something he wears all the time), khakis, a black sweater and a fedora (also something he frequently wears). With assistant Luke Fisher, who’s worked for Biancaniello for 2½ years, puts the twins in a stroller and grabs Gaviota strawberries, passion fruit, stinging nettles, cilantro flowers, borage flowers, rhubarb and pomelos.
9:50 a.m. In Malibu to forage for ingredients, pulls off the road in the hills (exactly where he’s keeping secret) to forage for water mint and points out toyon berries and wood sorrel on the way. He cuts his herbs with a knife he “borrowed” from noted forager Pascal Baudar.
10:22 a.m. Pulls off the road again in the Solstice canyon to find mustard flowers, arugula flowers and purple sage. Notes some green walnut trees.
11:26 to 11:45 a.m. At the Cook’s Garden on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard, gets a bag of fuzzy Cuban oregano. (He has a small plot at the garden where he grows herbs and produce for his cocktails.) Stops at BevMo for some Farmer’s Organic gin.
12:02 to 4:37 p.m. At his Playa Vista home, which doubles as his office, puts the twins in their playpen and gets to work. Makes lavender water, infuses gin with mustard greens in a glass jar, then tucks it into a cabinet full of glass jars with strips of duct tape labels that tell him what his infusions are and how long they’ve been soaking. Picks flowers for his garnishes, dehydrates slices of blood orange, uses some rhubarb to infuse a bottle of St-Germain.
“It’s about emptying myself right now, just everything inside of me to learn all the new stuff,” said Biancaniello. “And getting more personal with my drinks.”
Sits at a table on his patio, next to a closet and freezer full of Surinam cherries, wild juniper mezcal and pickled cherry tomatoes. Scoops the fruit out of an entire box of at least 100 passion fruits.
5:20 to 7:25 p.m. After a stop at a grocery store to buy limes and egg whites, arrives at a downtown loft where he’ll be bartending at a private event for the evening. On the menu: a strawberry and balsamic gin cocktail with a vanilla St-Germain foam; the Roquette, an arugula and watercress gimlet with mustard flowers, arugula flowers and cilantro flowers; Japanese whiskey from hops with lavender water, water mint, Meyer lemon and Cuban oregano; bergamot-infused gin with muddled curry leaves and blood orange juice; white fir tequila with passion fruit and borage flowers.
8:30 p.m. “So what do you like in terms of flavors?” he asks one woman. “Do you like pine flavor at all?” he asks another. Tells one partygoer she’ll have to spit out her gum before she takes a sip of her drink. When he shakes his cocktails, he takes a sumo wrestler’s stance, puts on a serious face and vigorously throws the shaker over his shoulder. He does this for the next three hours.
“It’s the greatest feeling when people try my drinks and like them,” says Biancaniello after a partygoer tells him his Roquette tastes like the garden of Eden. “I want to be confident with my drinks without making you feel bad if you want a Moscow Mule.”
11:37 p.m. Packs up and drives home, having already signed up for a yoga class in the morning.