The Educated Barfly
For Leandro DiMonriva, co-creator, producer, and host of the YouTube series The Educated Barfly, a negroni video changed everything.
DiMonriva and his business partner Marius Haugan were six months into the run of their cocktail tutorial series, and things were not going well.
“We were getting maybe 100, 150 views,” recalls DiMonriva. “We were spending hundreds of dollars on bottles and syrups and equipment, and we really weren’t getting a lot out of it, so we started to talk about whether we wanted to keep it going.” As a last-ditch effort to save the channel, they had upped their output, posting five videos a week to get YouTube’s algorithms to take notice. Then came the negroni video. “It was a video I didn’t want to release,” DiMonriva says. “I didn’t like the way it came off. I sounded arrogant. It looked horrible. But we were stuck, and we needed one more video to finish the week.”
The video exploded. A hundred or so views soared to the tens of thousands. The algorithm had finally paid attention. And DiMonriva learned an important lesson: “You have to be very persistent. A vast majority fail because they quit. We almost made that mistake.”
Today, The Educated Barfly has more than 350,000 subscribers. Since its launch in 2017, the series has been a training ground for a new generation of home and professional bartenders. Unlike other cocktail tutorials, The Educated Barfly focuses on technique, accuracy and history. If you know the French 75 cocktail emerged around 1915 at Harry’s American Bar in Paris and was named after the French 75-mm field gun, there’s a good chance you learned it from DiMonriva. Followers appreciate his approach that prioritizes quality over personality.
As one fan wrote, “Had to give you a shout-out for a quality video that did not waste any time getting right down to business. Thank you for restricting all monologue to the subject at hand, and not talking about yourself.”
In many ways, DiMonriva’s career path is a familiar one. In 2000 at age 23, he moved from Boston, Mass., to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He worked as a freelance production assistant and, later, moonlighted behind the bar at night to keep his days free for auditions.
In a plot twist, his part-time job would become his full-time career—and passion.
DiMonriva eventually landed a job as a barback at the L.A. landmark, Cole’s, a historic institution that’s been operating for more than a century. A speakeasy-style lounge in the back of Cole’s called The Varnish was “ground zero for every professional bartender in L.A.,” he says. “I describe it like “Cheers” but with better drinks. I was fortunate that I landed in a place that took cocktails very seriously and took history very seriously. I just happen to be a history buff, so I really hooked into the way that cocktails and history spoke to each other.” He mastered the art of cocktails-making and hospitality under the tutelage of some of the top bartenders of the last 30 years. “Everybody was incredibly passionate. And when you have a passionate group of people that makes for a magical experience.”
His experience at Cole’s was the inspiration behind an idea for a TV series on bartenders. When he couldn’t sell the concept, he and Haugan decided to produce it themselves. “You don’t have to wait for a bunch of gatekeepers to tell you you could do something,” DiMonriva says. “You just go and do it.”
Five years into The Educated Barfly, the team is still rolling out “nerdy cocktail talk” tutorials, spinning trends on their heads and building a vast archive of recipes and resources. “We don’t care about viral videos,” DiMonriva says. “We care about creating a body of original work that will speak for itself over a long period of time.”
WHY BARFLY MIXOLOGY GEAR
“It goes without saying that if you don’t have the right tools for the job you won’t get a very result. I’m incredibly particular about my bar tools. I tend to gravitate to specific things, like having a properly weighted shaking tin set. Shaking is a violent activity. Having an internal weight is important. It gives your shaking more heft. Barfly came out with the Superfly shaker. The internal weight is really helpful. It doesn’t pop off, and it’s really elegant looking. Tools are also about the way your job looks because 90% of the job is hospitality. When you’re creating a cocktail, you’re putting on a little bit of a show so everything should be elegant and beautiful. Barfly has done a very good job of curating tools that have that elegant look.”