DRE MASSO – Dishes to Canaan on His Love Affair of Bali: Volume 5
Not only are you known as London’s legendary mixologist but also the most humble with the staff of PTT family, would you say that your childhood in the kitchen and behind the bar counters is the biggest influence?
Definitely a large part, you’re environment influences the way you are. My mom is definitely a super star, has a very mellow character, spiritual in many ways and probably the most patient person I know. I was always happy to work hard from a young age, and then I’ve worked with lots of other great people and they have helped to shape the style in my approach – I’ve picked up a little bit from lots of people along the way.
You recently or in a couple of years have written and published your own cocktail book, tell us – will there be another volume in the works? And if you were to do it again, what would you change?
The first book I wrote was in 2005 and it was a book called Margarita Rocks; it was with my business partner at the time which was commissioned by an American company called Williams-Sonoma who had these massive kitchen stores in the states – they do this very clever thing where they’ll put a book in the pastry section and as you’re touring the shop you’ll look at the book and you end up buying equipment and same with the drinks. I was proud and honored to be asked to do that, and it was a good looking book and I suggested that we tour and do a launching but the publishing house behind it were very lazy in terms of doing anything after the book had been published, so that frustrated me – It had me thinking about doing my own thing. At the same time, people were saying, “Hey Dre, can you give me a little recipe that I can do at home?”
I published Classic Cocktails At Home by myself – did the photography and the design with a friend, ended up printing this one here in Bali with a guy that’s probably about eighty years old. He hand printed everything which probably shows that it’s not the finest quality of prints, and it was very much DIY as I put it together with a controlled budget. So I don’t think it’s over with this one, this is kind of a mark one. I had a print run of a few thousand here in Bali, sold about half of that amount through the Potato Head venues; it’s not a huge number but it’s OK and for me personally inside I can say that I did it all myself, but if somebody came and said “Hey, we’re going to publish this properly, proper hard cover and slightly change the format.” It’ll also give me the opportunity to update some of the recipes, so I would, and that’s what the change would be.
As for a third book, there’s definitely a couple of options, one of them is to focus on everything that we do within the Potato Head group or a Potato Head cocktail book because we now have seven years of cocktails, so we have a style and category that we can call our own. There are wonderful aspects of what were doing in this part of the world that I think are incredibly exotic and tropical, there are a lot of things that the western world don’t know about – the wonderful thing coming here is discovering so many different and brilliant ingredients!
One song that never fails to motivate or boost your mood.
There’s so many… but these three tracks have always been there to get me by and were played at my wedding:
Here comes the sun – Nina Simone
What a difference a day makes – Dinah Washington
At last –Etta James
It’s been said that you’ve recently been taking on crafting as well, tell us more about this side of Dre Masso.
I think that’s a part of being in Bali, it’s an attraction for creative people and it’s almost like a magnet to do things. I haven’t done carpentry, but from the moment I got here I was always attracted to the whole natural dye thing, so I made a few t-shirts but just for fun. What’s great if you want it to be, it can be relatively accessible – with the example of making the t-shirts you can find great organic material, there’s someone near by that can shape and make it for you and you can get it dyed in this wonderful way with indigo. I’ve done a couple of things like that but I wouldn’t consider that as a major part of my life… (Laughs)
How do you stay inspired?
I’m fortunate that I’ve travelled a lot. There was a time pre Potato Head, for about seven years I was traveling pretty much every month while working with different brands around the world. They would ask me to train and educate bartenders in different cities within forty countries and that for me was definitely the number one most inspirational – to see how different cultures are doing things and I was being taken to some of the best spots in those cities as well as seeing some very talented people.
You’ve been gifted with excellent talent and taste; we believe your mother has always been the super-woman behind all your achievements. We’d love to know more about your relationship with her.
I don’t know where to start really! She left school when she was twelve years old and started working, she was one of seven siblings which I think is quite common in Columbia, she’s someone that’s always worked incredibly hard and always supported her family, even now from London. My mom was twenty-six years old when she was pregnant with me and the relationship she had with my father wasn’t that serious, that’s when she moved to London to work as an au pair for about fifteen years.
The family was very supportive of us and was very generous, my mom looked after a boy that was five years older than me and a the girl that was a year older than me, who was pretty remarkable – this girl would always introduce me to her friends and say her ‘brother’, she’s a blue-eyed blonde. We lived with them for many years but my mom would do extra work in the restaurants that had bars on the weekends and a lot of the times it seemed like it was OK back then for her to take me with her; there was either a backroom where I’d slept or I’d sit in the corner, it was the people that worked there that I hung out with that became an extended family.
I met my father once when I was twenty-six years old and I always knew that he had two other children since and after me, but they didn’t know… So last year, I contacted my brother and sister and met for the first time in the states, my mom came too. It was slightly surreal, but everyone has accepted it.
Now blessed with a beautiful family of your own, your wife and daughter must be two other proud girls in your life. Is there a special cocktail you and your wife like to share?
(Laughing) I think it’s probably about time I created something for my wife! There are a few drinks that we both like and we’ve got quite similar tastes in general. We both love a Negroni cocktail, it’s quite bitter and aromatic – a great way to start a night. There’s also a drink called Tommy’s Margarita, it’s a variation of a Margarita and it comes from a bar in San Francisco called Tommy’s, where I spend some time working. Also, his son did the ceremony at our wedding and that was the drink he created for us.
One thing you love most about your daughter? How contrasting is her childhood to yours?
Her name is Bona Lula Masso, if you investigate the word ‘Bona’ it relates to the word, good, in Latin. It was a name we really liked the sound of and it definitely fits her. She is the funniest person I know, I find her incredibly funny! She just brings me utter joy in everyway, I love hanging out with her. I love the team that we have, my wife and my daughter – every aspect that we do, it’s always much better when it’s the three of us.
In terms of the differences, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t spoiled but Bona’s living in a very colorful place and I don’t want to put the UK down in anyway but I think she’s surrounded by the essence and wild life of Indonesia, the volume is turned up here. No regrets to what I had, but my mom was on her own and there are the two of us and we don’t find it easy…it’s good but it’s hard work!
What do you think about Balinese women?
The Balinese ladies that we work with here are great in many aspects, they’re brilliant workers who are very friendly and kind – great for this business, very hospitable. It’s a pleasure to work with them, and a delight to be looked after by those ladies within the service industry.
Describe your perfect day…
I have a four year old kid and it’s either I wake her up or she wakes me up, so I spend a bit of time with her in the mornings. Then I would do yoga, in whatever sense it is, whether it’s just spending an hour to switch off and stretch and breath – it really sets the day off really well.
I’m normally at work about 9am. It’s great to come to the beach club every morning, seeing the place being all prepared and organized for the day, it’s a magical time. I’ll do a little tour of the bars and that’s just literally touching every bar that we have, if that makes sense… Then, I can kind of start my day – I’m looking after all the bars in all the venues in all of Potato Head so it covers all of Bali, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Bali in 5 words for you.
You can find Dre’s famous Cocktail Book in our store below Katamama Hotel or online at canaanbali.com/shop
We wish you well in your next journey, Dre, Shelley and Bona!
JEAN HOWE OF THREADS OF LIFE
We met Jean Howe not too long ago at her gallery Threads of Life, in Ubud Bali. Her commitment and passion to preserving Indonesian textiles are aspiring and humbling. Working with over 1500 weavers in Indonesia, Thread of Life is about connecting people. They are always on the run to revitalize the traditions and in result, TOL products are rooted with sustainability. Their natural method of textile production with complete cultural integrity.