33-year-old from Lecce, Antonio Rosato has been the Head bartender of the Mandarin Bar & Bistrot in Milan since the end of 2017. After seven years in London, in April 2017 he decided to return to his homeland to enter the field of luxury hotels, in the same brand that now sees him as the protagonist. It is with this premise, and with the interview that we carried out on him, that let's inaugurate a new column, that dedicated to the professions of Head bartender and Bar manager in large luxury hotels. Satisfaction of the needs of the client and the company for which one works and personnel administration are the most important skills in this job, of great responsibility and professionalism.
Hi Antonio, what training do you have?
I am an IT accountant and, until my career stopped due to several injuries, I played football in the youth team of the town. At that moment I decided to abandon that path and cultivate the passion for mixing, born by seeing the working flair in nightclubs and matured by attending some courses to become a bartender in Puglia. So, in 2010 I went to London. After a year and a half as a runner and bar back, I ended up taking on the role of bartender, until 2017.
When and how did the call from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Milan come? How long have you been head bartender?
She arrived in April 2017. I was assistant bar manager at a French brasserie and cocktail bar in Sloan Square, where I had worked for two years. I had planned to go to Asia or Dubai but when the Mandarin's call came I didn't think twice. Previously I had already held the role of Head bartender but not in a large luxury hotel. I was in a membership club.
What does it mean to be Head Bartender of a large hotel?
When holding a position such as that of Head bartender at Mandarin Oriental Milan, it is necessary to respect certain standards. You have to be linear and perfect, anticipate customers' tastes, remember customers' surnames and preferences, to retain them and convince them to return (even more so in an important place like Milan, where competition is very high). Being the Head bartender of the Mandarin Bar & Bistrot has an even greater meaning for me. I believe it is the highest level a bartender can reach in his career, if he still wants to work in a bar and not in consultancy.
What kind of constraints do you have when working in a hotel chain like the Mandarin?
Compared to a classic cocktail bar, we have more complex procedures to respect and a clientele that is not only local and passionate, but international.
In terms of advantages, however?
Holding a position like mine gives you a lot of visibility. While on the one hand you receive many invitations to masterclasses and industry events, on the other hand you are part of a larger brigade than other venues and therefore it is very important to follow a well-defined work structure. Since the Mandarin name is of great importance, we who work for the Group feel a great sense of responsibility. The other undoubted advantage is that of being able to host and organize numerous high-level events for automotive brands, fashion brands and large companies, even for charitable purposes, such as the #TUTTIATAVOLA Sotto le Stelle dinner on 14 September, organized in collaboration with Identità Golose.
What is your typical working day?
My day starts at 3pm, with a briefing with my colleagues on what happened the previous evening and morning and what will happen during the day. After that, it's time to study new creations behind the counter and, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, to serve the aperitif, undoubtedly the most important moment for our Bar & Bistro. It then continues until late in the evening with the dinner and after dinner service.
If you had to give advice to someone who wants to take up your job, what would you say?
To be the Head bartender in a large luxury hotel requires a lot of study and stubbornness to get to the position and a lot of patience and attention in everyday life, once the goal has been achieved.
You have been working in the Milanese capital for three years now. How would you define the preferences of the Milanese?
Milan is a city that has seen an important evolution in the world of mixing in recent years and, with it, in the tastes of the square. The Milanese is not easy to please but, despite this premise, he remains fond of the bitter taste of traditional cocktails. At the cocktail bar, it is no coincidence that some of the most ordered drinks are the classic aperitifs with vermouth: negroni and Americano.
How is a cocktail menu constructed at Mandarin? Is there a particular process?
Each cocktail menu we create at Mandarin Bar & Bistrot cannot replace the previous one overnight. It must be approved by the Director, the Chef, the Hotel manager, the Bistro manager and, finally, the F&B manager. It must respect the seasonality of the products, reflect the concept of the venue and satisfy the tastes of our guests.
How are the bar and cocktail menu structured?
The Mandarin Bar Bistrot is divided into three different areas: the bistro bar, with 65 seats, the internal lounge, with 15, and the external courtyard, with sofas, tables and soft lights. Our menu is made up of 10 cocktails: the Signatures – Les Lumière and Cielo de Jalisco – the New Era, our creative drinks including the Flamingo Fizz, a reinterpretation of the spritz with rosé Vermouth, chamomile syrup and Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, and our two non-alcoholic cocktails.
How would you define your cocktails?
At the Mandarin Bar & Bistrot we offer high-quality mixing capable of satisfying an international taste. We are not an experimental venue, but the cocktail bar of a 5-star luxury hotel and, therefore, we must channel our creativity with a view to satisfying customer needs.
What do you eat with it?
The menu consists of traditional Italian cuisine dishes revisited by Executive Chef Antonio Guida. This menu is accompanied by a selection of more international options such as salads and club sandwiches available at all hours. The pastry shop bears the signature of Executive Pastry Chef Nicola Di Lena.
What are the most ordered cocktails on the drink list?
Our signatures. Les Lumière, is inspired by the brothers who invented the cinema projector, Lumière. It's a reinterpretation of the Last World with gin, yellow chartreuse, maraschino and orange bitters. There is also the Cielo de Jalisco, the drink that made me win the Patron Competition Tequila Italia and with which I participated in the world final in January 2019. I make it with tequila, pink grapefruit, lime, egg white, Tabasco, and perfume citrusy.