People

Anchorage's Master of Whiskey

Ylli main photo
Ylli's motivation for bartending lies in “The smile a customer gives you for making their day a tad bit better.” (Photo: Rob Stapleton Jr.)

In 1995, Macedonian immigrants Urime and Ulber Ferati opened up the Fiori D’Italia in Anchorage, Alaska. The restaurant’s website describes it as “hidden,” and for good reason: with its humble brown facade, the Fiori D’Italia is all too easy to pass by if you don’t know what to look for. Once you step through its doors, however, you’ll understand why the establishment is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Anchorage. While the Italian cuisine it serves certainly contributes to this reputation, it’s the passion and skill of bartender (and son of the owners) Ylli Ferati that set the Fiori D’Italia apart.

Ylli pouring a drink (Photo: Rob Stapleton Jr.)

Before becoming the celebrated bartender he is today, Ylli started out doing odd jobs around the family restaurant: bussing tables, washing dishes, serving, and occasionally helping out in the kitchen. All that changed, however, on the day a customer asked him to make a cocktail when he was helping his parents behind the bar. Seeing the look on the customer’s face after taking the first sip sparked something inside of Ylli, and he instantly knew that bartending was his calling. Soon after, he took the reins from his parents, and has been running the Fiori D’ Italia’s bar ever since.

Ylli and his parents (Photo: Rob Stapleton Jr.)

During his time behind the bar, Ylli has gradually stocked it with over 500 spirits, 300 whiskeys, and 350 bottles of wine; not only is it one of Anchorage’s best cocktail bars, but also one of the best in all of Alaska. One look at the menu and it’s easy to see why; with drinks like a Negroni that contains 10,000 year old Alaskan glacial ice, or a Balsamic Cosmo made from balsamic aged at his family home in Europe, the Fiori D’Italia promises a cocktail experience you won’t find anywhere else. Cocktails from his parents’ time at the bar feature prominently on the menu as well: his mother’s Alaskan Wild Rose mojito, made using hand-foraged Alaskan wild roses, has been a customer favorite for nearly fourteen years.

Ylli’s bartending skills serves aren’t the only things that have earned him recognition: his outstanding whiskey and scotch collection–the largest in Alaska–and his “The Manhattan Project” program have led to locals nicknaming him “Master of Whiskey.” Born from a customer dubbing his Manhattans “...some of the best I have had in my life,” The Manhattan Project has taken Ylli across the country on a journey to expand his knowledge of whiskey. Notably, he attends Matesh Patel’s Universal Whiskey Experience in Las Vegas annually, and has taken multiple Master Classes to hone his skills. In addition, he holds whiskey tastings at the Fiori D’ Italia each month, inviting ambassadors from around the globe to Alaska to educate his customers on the whiskeys and scotches of the world. Through these tastings, Ylli is able to share his passion with the local community in a way outside of the cocktails he serves them.

Ylli and collection (Photo: Rob Stapleton Jr.)

Whether you’re looking for the best cocktails in Alaska or you’re a connoisseur of whiskey, Anchorage’s Fiori D’Italia is the place to be. If you ever find yourself in the area, be sure and set aside some time to visit Ylli in the “little piece of Europe in the heart of Spenard.” I know that’s where I’ll be!

If you want to check out more of Ylli’s amazing events and cocktails, you can find him on his Instagram, @ylliferatiak, or at the Fiori D’Italia’s Facebook page.

Carissa Pearce Carissa Pearce is a Tales Attache, bartender and content creator living and working in Anchorage, Alaska. Check out her work at http://www.thefermentedalaskan.com/

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