Felice Capasso, a connoisseur of cocktails, a sorcerer and sommelier of spirits, and a wizard of whisky, if you could ferment, distil and bottle his knowledge and passion for the drinks industry you could sell it as a magic potion.
Born in the South of Italy, in the ferociously vibrant city of Naples, Felice is a WSET Level 3 Spirits Educator, a title given only to a small group of experts around the globe.
His adventure into the world of spirits started at a local coffee bar in Napoli and would take him on a journey across the globe and onto Oslo in Norway where he created Sesto Senso, a centre for excellence and education in spirits.
It was Felice’s curiosity for flavours and aromas at an early age that awakened an interest in the industry. His unrivalled knowledge of the science, history and craftsmanship of spirits has been derived through years of dedication, determination and hard-earned experiences.
For several years Felice ran bar operations for high-end cocktail bars, including prestigious hotels, while simultaneously acting as a Global Brand Ambassador, Director of Education, and Brand Consultant for acclaimed spirits brands.
During this time he would devour all knowledge on the industry, drinking it in, whilst working all hours of the day as well as educating himself by studying at major schools such as The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), The Aroma Academy, Institute of Brewing and Distilling (I.B.D.), and The Whiskey Lounge. This drive was fuelled by a desire to share his love for – and to empower the world of distilled spirits.
From pouring cappuccinos and serving aperitivos to becoming one of the world’s foremost experts in spirits, it’s been anything but an easy road. “Completing all Spirits Levels of WSET, was an eye-opening experience,” explains Felice. “It showed me a different way to look at spirits. It gave me the vocabulary I was missing to describe and assess these liquids in a more precise way. I enjoyed my first courses as a student so much that I decided to become an educator, again, pushing myself into uncomfortable unknown territory. Being a WSET Spirits Educator gave me a chance to turn my passion into my profession, and that’s the biggest achievement one can have in my opinion.”
To this day, Felice continues to travel and educate himself, always looking to learn, improve and inspire. Throughout his social media channels, his energy and enthusiasm for his work are palpable, whether he’s discussing the science behind alcohol, looking at the most consumed spirits in Japan, or how to invest in Scotch Whisky, you will find somebody absolutely intoxicated with love for what he does.
As he sits at his home in Oslo, Felice reflects on the lessons he has learned along the way. “Things are not always what they appear to be, and that superficiality is the enemy of growth, there can be so much beauty on the other side if we choose to see it. I learned to pay attention to people, you can’t trust everyone, and I learned that there is still so much to be learned, and this excites me.”
There is still much ahead for Felice and his desire to achieve more is as evident as ever. It was a pleasure to catch up with him as we spoke about his career, the spirits industry, being a pioneer and why you can’t beat a good Martini.
The people I met along the way helped me dream, then I tried to make THOSE dreams come true
There were several highlights during my teenage years that led me to pursue a career in bartending. I can’t remember the exact age, but I must have been 13 or 14 and it was parallel to my hospitality and tourism school studies when I was also working at a local coffee bar in the suburbs of Napoli.
This place also served aperitivos on weekends, a very common thing to do for coffee bars during that time. These were also my first encounters with professional bartenders mixing beverages. I was fascinated! I remember thinking: how do they remember all these recipes?! – I wanted to know all these recipes too.
I’ve had an interesting journey. Bartending took me on a grand tour around the world, from Italy to Spain through Australia, The Emirates and the United Kingdom, and then I ended up in Norway in 2017.
I remember moving to London in 2013, I couldn’t speak English, but I was ready to learn. In one of my early jobs as a barback I was washing glasses in a restaurant/bar on Bermondsey Street, that’s when I met Maxime, he was an experienced Bartender. Every day Max told me stories about his past life in Australia, how free he was, the nature, and everything in between, after a while I started dreaming about going there for a life experience. Little did I know that I would find myself going there over 1 year later. The people I met along the way helped me dream, then I tried to make some of these dreams come true.
The spirits industry is often overlooked and underestimated
I learned from the very beginning that if I wanted to grow, as a professional as well as a human, I needed to get used to doing uncomfortable things, like putting my ego aside and listening to people who knew more than myself.
I understood that the only way to differentiate myself and present a better product in the form of service and a cocktail was to know more than other people, this is why I started studying.
I’ve never been a superficial person. I consider myself a thinker. The spirits industry is often overlooked and underestimated. Way too often people associate distilled spirits with getting drunk, but this industry is also much more: It represents science, history and craftsmanship. I saw a different face of it, and I wanted to show it to as many people as possible. It was anything but easy. A lot of disappointments along the way, but I guess the negative experiences just made me a little wiser in the choices I make today.
Being a pioneer is way more complicated than people think
Sesto Senso is a relatively new project, that I started in 2022 in Norway. I was the first to start an independent WSET Spirits School here. WSET Wine courses had been around for quite some time already.
The bar scene in Norway saw remarkable growth in little time. Many fantastic bars opened, and a lot of new distilleries started in the past 10-15 years, because of this, the average consumer became more interested in what they had in their glass. And I thought that parallel to this growth in interest, the market needed an educational platform to guide both professionals and consumers in the right direction.
Being a pioneer is way more complicated than people think because when you do something for the first time, you have to spend a huge amount of energy and resources in presenting, and explaining the concept.
At some point, I felt like my main job was to tell people why it was a good idea for them to educate themselves. It was funny and depressing at the same time. Eventually, word spread and people started understanding the importance of knowing more about these liquids. Now I have people flying from all over the country to take my courses, which is something I respect deeply. There will be more challenges in the future, and I will face them to the best of my abilities.
Aside from the courses, I recently finalised some projects that lasted many months, and now I’m looking forward to some new exciting challenges in 2024
A good Martini is the perfect drink for any occasion
Irish Whiskey has been growing over the past decade, I think that’s an interesting one. Also, the way big brands approach education is changing, but I think for the worst, unfortunately. Of course, there are always exceptions, but I see most companies have been focusing on the same script for 20 years, only narrating it differently.
I am a big believer in doing things out of the ordinary but with an end goal. For my social media content, I like to talk about things that I consider interesting and give value to the people watching. Trends I think have very little influence.
I love a cold, dry gin martini, whatever season it is. Possibly made by Alessandro from Dukes, who for me is the best Bartender in the world. A good Martini is the perfect drink for any occasion.
With all out thanks to the gentleman that is Felice Capasso.
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