Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2019
- First Four Seasons Position: Current
- Lisbon Hotel and Tourism School; Drinks Nation & Co., Alfragide, Portugal; Farol Design Hotel, Cascais, Portugal; Epic Sana Hotel, Lisbon; Myriad by Sana Hotels, Lisbon; Hotel Tivoli, Lisbon
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Hotel School at Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo de Lisboa
- Portuguese, English, Spanish, French
“You can order a mojito or a martini just about anywhere," says Sandro Pimenta, riffing on the main ingredient of the food & beverage scene he oversees as Bar Manager of the Ritz Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, “but when people come here, I make sure they know we have very best seasonal products and spirits of Portugal.”
The very best, indeed. Beyond a full lineup of international spirits and uber-exclusives such as Louis XIII Cognac by Rémy Martin, Pimenta stocks a wide range of local products within the historic bar that has been dazzling palates and enlivening days and evenings in Lisbon since 1959. “Bananas, oranges, limes, berries, and traditional spirits like Porto, Madeira, and Licor Beirao,” he says. “I could go on and on.”
All of the above and so much more are employed for signature cocktails such as the flamboyant 18 3383, inspired by jacaranda trees and named after Pantone’s designation of ultra violet as colour of the year; the Ginjinha cocktail created with ginja berries and lots of ice; and the ever-changing array of original and imaginative “Tales of Lisbon” cocktails, introduced monthly as a celebration of the ingredients, seasons, and heritage and culture of the Portuguese capital.
“We have a Ritz Mojito, too, but it’s all our own!” he admits with a laugh. “It pairs really well with the bacalhau à Brás (cod) from our menu. There’s nothing like sipping one of those out on the terrace overlooking Eduardo VII Park.”
Creating artistry by the glass takes a lot of talent. Pimenta is keen on training, without which, he says, “it’s impossible for us to make things right.” He trains his “exuberant” team of 12 on all aspects of operations, from the history of spirits to delivering excellent service at the table and across the bar.
The Ritz Bar is open all day every day, with coffee and breakfast served with style in the morning, followed by lunch and dinner before closing at 1am. Pimenta believes strongly in treating every member of his hard-working team with respect and tapping their natural talents to create a memorable bar experience focused on customer service. “Our role is to engage, inform, and impress our customers with a uniquely Portuguese experience and take them to the high point of hospitality here in Lisbon.”
Whatever the Ritz Bar is serving, it’ll be enthusiastically received on the other side. As tourism to Lisbon has skyrocketed of late, the local culinary and cocktail scenes have “taken off” as well. “There is a lot of creativity in kitchens and bars within the city these days, and word is spreading fast.” The annual Lisbon Bar Show, held in May, draws, “all of the world’s best bartenders,” he says. “It has become one of the biggest in Europe.”
Pimenta loves being in the thick of it all. He arrived at the Ritz Bar with close to two decades of bartending experience earned at hotel properties within Portugal, as well as various turns as a trainer, consultant, and brand ambassador for local brands.
He started off college with an interest in the arts, but it didn’t last. Blame Hollywood: “I’m probably not the first Bar Manager to say this, but everything changed when I saw Tom Cruise working it in the movie Cocktail. I just had to be a part of that scene.” At a friend’s suggestion, Pimenta enrolled in hospitality school and immediately excelled. Then, in his second year, he won a cocktail competition sponsored by Grand Marnier and Venu Havana Club Rum. He inspired himself on the island of Cuba and warm ingredients such as cinnamon. “There was no turning back after that.”
Pimenta’s parents – his father is a locksmith, his mother is in retail – were less than thrilled. “My parents wanted me to be a doctor, and I’m halfway there. I tell them, ‘I’m a psychologist. My office just happens to be behind a bar.’”
Meantime, when he’s not behind a bar, Pimenta loves to explore other destinations. “Whenever I have time, I travel – as much as I can.” It’s a great way to experience other cultures’ takes on the industry he loves so well, he says. “I always hit a lot of bars.”