Daniel Luís is only in his early 20s, but has won so many competitions and accolades for his original recipes that it caught the eye of the owners and Michelin-star winning chef Miguel Laffan of Can the Can, a waterfront restaurant whose menu and interiors are a quirky and bold celebration of Portugal’s canned fishing industry dating to 1853.
“Our bartender’s style flows naturally as he loves cooking and has had a great deal of experience from the other restaurants he has worked with through the years,” says graphic and interior designer Victor Vicente.
“He has a great instinct for how ocean ingredients can be used, and what fruits and vegetables work together when conceptualizing drinks that can be enjoyed alone or with some of our salty and savory dishes.”
“At Can the Can, the goal is to make signature cocktails using original Portuguese products, and not only liquors, brandies or wines, but also other products related with our country traditions, like muxama, found in our Águas Marinhas drink. Muxama is a delicacy typical of the south region of the Iberian Peninsula, consisting of filleted saltcured tuna. The entire process makes the tuna shrink, turns the red color of the fish into a dark reddish-brown, and it provides a firm consistency to the fish meat. It’s a savory experience a Bloody Mary fan would enjoy.”
Although Luís has been delighting guests for nearly five years at Can the Can, he has ambitions of launching his own cocktail bar in the future. He knows following the work of others who have come before him will help him achieve that goal.
“I follow the work of several stars in bartending, such as Pedro Paulo, bar manager at the One Aldwych in London, who was also considered the best bartender in the United Kingdom, as well as Wilson Pires, who after winning the bartender of the year in Portugal, has a huge following at Tales and Spirits Bar in Amsterdam. They represent the work and the dedication that will inspire other bartenders like myself to make Portugal’s cocktail scene as well-known as those in other cities.”
Though Luís acknowledges that it may be a challenge to find muxama in U.S. fancy food markets, he notes many of the Portuguese liquors in other recipes can be found more readily at better liquor stores, markets, and online sources worldwide. Another remarkable quality of Luís’, meanwhile, is his prodigious knowledge of Portuguese wine and determination to not only educate bar patrons, but show just how broad that world is beyond port.
“I try to inform guests about the regions and the grape variety of the wines we offer in our menu, he says. “Portugal has many grape varieties that do not grow anywhere else in the world, and it’s not unusual that even our local customers may not recognize some of the grape varietals on the bottles’ labels. We have special wine editions like Herdade do Selão wines, white, red and rosé with varieties like Syrah, Aragonez and Sauvignon Blanc. We also try to teach the Portugal quality standards so guests can make better choices when buying bottles in Portugal or overseas.”
Where to SIP — Elyse Glickman