Bar Manager Nelson Antunes is on a mission. He’s preparing Corinthia Hotel Lisbon’s Tempus Bar for the peak summer season, and besides the vital tasks that all senior F&B managers have at this time of year, Nelson has set himself a unique target, a quest even, and a slightly mysterious one. He wants to bottle Lisbon’s early summer breeze. Nelson isn’t just a bar manager, he’s a mixologist. And for those not in the know, ‘mixology’ is the refined in-depth study of the chemistry and craft of mixing drinks.
Bottling the fragrance of the winds that float above the waters of the Rio Tejo (River Tagus) is Nelson’s latest project. It involves field work (quite literally), tracking down herbs, fruits and flora that grow on the river’s banks, and once found, he’ll bring them back to his mixologist’s laboratory, (usually the kitchen of his Lisbon apartment which he shares with his wife and two small daughters), and the alchemy will begin. There he will create the unique syrups that are used to infuse his world-famous concoctions.
“I choose a cocktail according to the season,” says Nelson enthusiastically. “I start with a classic recipe, but add a twist, a special ingredient, and that’s what gives what is a classic cocktail, a unique taste, and makes a special experience for the guest.”
“For me, making cocktails is about telling stories. The story of a cocktail is where it has come from, its history and heritage, but then the story goes on, it changes, revealing the special ingredients that makes the cocktail we’re making, different: the aroma, the flavours, and the plants, fruits and herbs that create those flavours, and where they came from.”
Nelson has been at Corinthia Hotel Lisbon for seven years now, and his passion for his work shines out. One of the hotel’s most popular managers, he began working in high-end hospitality in 2000. As his career progressed, working always in five-star properties, his natural creative slant and people-skills have become the perfect fit for a Corinthia manager who delivers an engaging and unique guest experience.
“Making cocktails is about telling stories. The story of a cocktail is where it has come from, its history and heritage, but then the story goes on, it changes…”
Passion is a word that’s often overused, but for this 38-year-old, it’s at the heart of what he does, and how he does it. “I love my job, and I love making our guests happy,” says Nelson. “I love to create and innovate, and I feel very fortunate that my work allows me to do this.”
Unsurprisingly Nelson has been received many accolades, not least he won the coveted Portuguese edition of the Schweppes Challenge in 2013, a competition that promotes bar professionals and their contribution towards the increased quality and variety of cocktail recipes. In 2016 he was made a brand ambassador for Schweppes, passing on his experience in order to mentor young talent.
“As an ambassador I’ve enjoyed sharing the joy and passion that are the vital ingredients for success in this business. Being a pioneer project of Schweppes Portugal, it’s also enabled me to work with new techniques and experiment. It’s been a dream come true.”
As for the future, Nelson’s even more excited about the developments that are underway at Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, one of which reflects his unique talents and offerings. Part of the hotel’s new look F&B infrastructure is a rebranded terrace, opening out from the Tempus Bar. The Soul Garden’ which opens on June 15, promises to add a unique new offering to Lisbon’s world famous bar and dining sector.
Part buzzing urban scene, part tranquil garden, the Soul Garden is giving “a new face to the hotel’s bar culture,” says Nelson. “I’m delighted that cocktails are playing a big part in this too, with styled lounge areas named after the classics: the Negroni, the Old-Fashioned, and the Sour lounges. So, I’m looking forward to introducing even more guests to what we provide – a very special taste of Lisbon.”
“The ‘Soul Garden’, which opens on June 15, promises to add a unique new offering to Lisbon’s world famous bar and dining sector. “