The founder

11 avr. 2024

At 19, Mario worked in bars as a bartender, bouncer, and manager. The young man then took a two-year detour into the world of music. Even though his self-financed first album made it into the list of the 15 best French-language albums in the Voir newspaper in 2006, Mario decided not to make a second one; he needed to pay the rent. He then returned to his old high school to coach the football team.

During his years in music, in bars, or as a coach, Mario developed a passion for spirits. He has a large collection at home and his knowledge on the subject grows year by year. Mario even launched a blog about cocktails, called Les Histoires du Coq, where he tells all kinds of personal stories that he associates with a cocktail.

"I've always been fascinated by spirits," he recalls. "I remember, when I was a little kid, my uncle had a reception room and when I helped him with the bar, I was captivated by the number of liquor bottles. Even though I didn't drink them, I could tell you the ingredients of any cocktail, because I studied them. It was my grandmother who introduced me to the ritual of aperitivo and Italian bitters. I spent a summer alone with her in Italy and she introduced me to Italian bitters."

After five years on the football field, Mario returned to his first loves in 2013 by participating in the opening of a new cocktail bar on Fleury Street in the Ahuntsic neighborhood; Les Incorruptibles. A few months later, he became a brand ambassador for Absolut, and then for Havana Club. He was quickly approached by a Quebec distillery to become the ambassador for the new vodka Quartz, and then for the entire portfolio of Spiritueux Ungava.

"While I was working at Ungava, I developed expertise in amaros [bitter liqueurs]. I thought I would try to make the best amaro here," Mario recounts about the first steps of what would become Iberville. So, we macerated plants in alcohol and did all kinds of tests that turned out to be delicious, so we offered bottles to our friends and family at Christmas 2016."

The idea of creating his own spirits company begins to take shape in Mario's mind. A meeting with the young founder of the charcuterie company Pork Shop, Frédéric Daoust, would be decisive.

"I was invited to a radio show to talk about cocktails as part of my role at Ungava. I thought of serving a little aperitif with the cocktails I was going to prepare. Fred agreed to provide the charcuterie I needed and even came with me to the station. I mentioned my project to him. The next day he called me to say that if I was serious, he wanted to invest in the marketing of the first Quebec-inspired Italian bitters."

"They convinced me to do it," Mario asserts. "But at the time, we didn't have a business plan yet. One night, just to see, I started entering numbers in an Excel spreadsheet. I realized that it could work financially. So, instead of taking the vacation week I had planned at the end of May, I wrote the business plan. We managed to gather other investors and founded Iberville. Just like that."

It was quite a risk that Mario took, but he wanted to do it to honor his grandfather and celebrate the marriage of his two cultures with dignity.

Just two weeks after founding the company, he submitted the first two products to the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). "Four days later, the two products were accepted by the SAQ. It was July 6, 2017. We must hold the record for the fastest acceptance of products at the SAQ. They then gave us 14 days to give them the final samples, which we didn't have. So, for two weeks, we were at the distillery 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to finish our products!"

On November 20, 2017, the first two Quebec-inspired Italian bitter liqueurs, Amermelade and Amernoir, made their debut on the shelves of the SAQ.

"It was important for me to maintain this duality between Italy and Quebec; it's part of my personality. I wanted to share the Italian influence, but as locally influenced as possible. A beautiful challenge! Thus, sea buckthorn, chokecherry, and sweet gale entered into the elaboration of Amermelade, and beach pea in that of Amernoir."

"Before, there weren't really any choices of bitter spirits at the SAQ. Today, vermouths and bitters are highly appreciated. We now have to give Quebecers the best local products."

Bouteill d'amaretto
Bouteill d'amaretto