Located on the ground floor of the Hilton, Lake Como is Taffeta, an elegant lounge and bar. The back wall is dominated by a selection of spirits and a long bar. Behind it you’ll find Ludmilla Samohin, Head Mixologist who is taking the Italian drinks world by storm, rustling up some of the most innovating drinks menus.
The mixology scene in Italy is still dominated by men but Ludmilla, previously a graphic designer and painter is shaking up the bar and cocktail menu at the Hilton with her creative spin on traditional cocktails. To celebrate International Women’s Day I caught up with Ludmilla over a Negroni to find out the trends and influences shaping her drinks menu.
Ludmilla refreshes the bar menu annually and says she gets her inspiration from the everyday things. Previously she’s used textures and music to create her cocktail list but this year, it’s perfume and scents. Her new menu will use fragrance as an infusion, and she promises me it’s going to include some show stopping cocktails.
Creativity and having that wow factor is what makes her menu standout. She is constantly looking at ways to improve it and always striving to try something new, listening to guest feedback and being brave when it comes to designing a drink. Currently she is working on a Tequila and celery combo which she assures me will be mind blowing and delicious. Ludmilla tells me, “Tequila Mescal is the spirit of the moment” and she is serving it straight as well as mixing it in cocktails like Espresso Martini and Bloody Mary.
Her signature cocktail changes every six months and she takes inspiration from different mixing scenes. According to Ludmilla, “London bars are always setting the bar high” but it’s Shanghai and Singapore that are on her radar at the moment, she says the bars here are full of excellent bar tenders and mixers.
The drinks trends for 2023 are minimal and simple, Ludmilla explains, “people want less fussy drinks, so elaborate garnishing is out of the window”. Her menu will be focussed on using less ingredients but sourcing the best quality, local produce she can get. Another trend she sees emerging is prebatch mixing the ingredients and leaving them for two or three days to alter the taste. At the Hilton, gifting will be a big addition to the menu too. This year she has partnered with breast cancer charity, Imperfect, to create an alcohol free cocktail that combines ginger, green apple, hibiscus and green tea. It’s served in a unique glass that uses Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing glass and ceramics with gold. She mixes one up while we chat, it tastes delicious and the pretty gold marbled glass is a nice reminder that imperfections can still be fabulous.
As you might expect the most popular drinks at Taffeta are the Italian classics, Aperol Spritz and Negroni. The Smoked Negroni using gin infused with rosemary is a firm favourite with guests. Ludmilla explains, “Customers love a bit of theatre and I always want to make it an experience for them. It’s more than just mixing a drink”. Watching her is an experience, you can see the passion she has for her job and she’s not wrong, the Negroni delivers on the wow factor.
Nightly rates at Hilton Lake Como begin at €180 per night based on double occupancy with breakfast included.