Pints are for pansies, leave your tonic water in the hotel minibar. Meet mixologist Dee Cee.
Set ’em up Dave.
My nick name is Dee Cee, I’ve been called that since I was six years old
No, more along the lines of AC/DC! Yeah, so my name is David Cade, 35, Slovenian, born in Italy, English is my first language, mainly because I came from a hippie traveling family.
On our way to becoming a mixologist: schooling backdrop – normal? We suspect not.
I was mostly home schooled. I never went to public schools.
You were a bad boy, playing hooky, I like this. So what kind of curriculum did you have on the road?
All the basics: grammar, English, maths, did a correspondence course in freelance journalism from Surrey, UK, at 19. Then I went out on my own to discover the world, not to be taught what to believe, what to think. My first job was at a McDonald’s for eight months, and then I became an English teacher.
I was approached to be an English teacher in the Berlitz International School. I was interviewed, got the job.
That sounds kind of respectable …
Yeah, yeah, I grew a goatee, got some glasses, true. I did that for two years, had to join the military, which was mandatory in those days. After that I started my own school, teaching, that was called A&B: financially it was the best time, two years of that and then I had a mini midlife crisis – do I really want this briefcase life? I knew I really didn’t want it but I had no idea what I wanted to be, and I ended up in the United States with a friend of mine lending me his motorcycle and I did a tour of the States … just me, the helmet and the road, no music, nobody to talk to.
Sounds like the Jack Kerouac, On the Road.
Quite. I asked myself some serious questions: what did I really love … and the answer was music, good drinks, good food, beautiful surroundings, architecture … so I came up with the word “playground”. I decided I wanted to open a restaurant-bar-club, although I knew nothing about it. Sometimes the road and the journey is more important than actually getting there. I went back to Slovenia, closed down my company and got myself a job as a bartender. I wanted to be a boss who knew everything about the business, and that’s been my driving force for the past 12 years. Mixology came in, but mostly cocktails with different liquors, bottled juices, some Sprite, like that.
Did you have any schooling in mixology or was it on-the-job training?
On-the-job. Slovenia, then Ibiza, then a vacation in Brazil where I discovered their juice culture – there are juice bars and stands everywhere. If I asked for an orange juice, they would ask me if I wanted lemongrass or wheatgrass inside; options I’d never had before. I realised cocktails should not only be dedicated to alcohol; they can really be about fruits mixed with different herbs. I started imagining about going in this direction; playing with Nature’s flavours rather than alcohol.
I went back to Ibiza and my whole concept of bartending changed. I was playing with fresh fruit, fresh ingredients and vegetables in my drinks … the response was very positive. After a time I wanted to go further and I started studying herbs and their properties and was just blown away. Everything that Nature provides has tons of different properties. Nature offers all the medicine in the world, so much, so vital; beautiful properties in all these ingredients and then looking into spices, same thing.
So the alcohol became less important and now you’re a man on a mission, so to speak?
Yes, but of course most people want and expect the alcohol in their cocktails.
What are you doing here on Bali?
At the moment I’m consulting for some places that are opening: drink lists, training bartenders, that kind of thing.
On what level – alcohol, herbs?
My menu will always include some of these elements but I have to be concerned with making a living too. I do promote using only fresh fruits, preparing things on the spot and now my aim is to open my own place, where I can create the kind of drinks I love.
I had a project in China and came here for vacation and discovered the island … then I came back. I had a venue in Ubud lined up – an investor who was interested in me – but the project faded away. I did a few events at Word of Mouth, then a fixed position at La Plancha, and then to La Barca, so as you say, still a mixologist on a mission.
I hear you’ve also got a healthy fetish with ice?
We talk about fruit, we talk about herbs, vegetables, spices and in fact, all these things come from water. Ice is the soul of every drink, it created the cocktail culture that we have today. No ice, no cocktail culture, so the quality of ice that we receive here in Bali is rather poor to be working with and so I’ve started working with people who could produce crystal clear ice blocks. It’s a different process to regular ice and the result is incredible.
People have various tastes, do you cater to suggestions?
Sure, people like different things and I create specifically for their tastes.
Do you have a menu of your own?
It’s all about balance. You have to have the sour, the sweet, etc, but there’s a lot more. Actually I’ve been thinking of making a book about it, explaining the different herbs and their properties and basing the book on that. I have archives of material and experience but as yet no specific menu.
Do you have any Tom Cruise tricks?
No, because that’s called flair bartending. Actually mixologists and flair bartending don’t see eye to eye. For a mixologist there are three sensations that you’re trying to please: sight – what you see has to look appealing to you; second, smell – it has to be brought to your mouth, there’s a sense of the aromas, which change and develop as you bring the drink to your mouth. Then there’s taste: you have three flavours; the first impression, which can be sweet, spicy, sour, whatever. Then there’s the middle taste and finally the taste that lingers. You might add a bit of pepper or spice that comes through at the end.
Will you be staying in Bali?
For sure. I moved here with the intent to stay. I’ve traveled so frequently, kind of hardcore around the world, so now I’m looking for a base. This is it.
To your fans out there?
Whenever I’m complimented on my drinks I always tell people that it’s all about reminding us that Nature is a beautiful thing. We don’t recognize the flavours anymore because our flavours are so product based. So yeah, I’m trying to bring people a littel closer to Nature.
Special thanks to Nick at Villa Lattitude, Kristal Bali for the crystal clear ice and Bali Indah for the awesome spirits.