Roberto de Vivo, Bar Manager, The Lobby Bar, One Aldwych:
on mixing mojitos for Che Guevara and creating the perfect Old-Fashioned…
Where did you learn your craft?
I studied Hotel Management at college in Naples, so I’ve experienced many aspects of the industry including three years as a chef and two years in management. But my first real introduction into the world of cocktails was working at The Metropolitan hotel. Although I worked in banqueting management I took on shifts at the Met Bar under Ben Reid. This was when I really started to develop a passion for bartending and the world of cocktails. Then I got a job at The Sanderson, working at the Long Bar where I guess I really learnt the craft.
Tell us about the places you’ve worked
Well, in London there’s The Metropolitan, The Sanderson, One Aldwych – first as Room Services Manager from 2000-2002, then I went back to The Metropolitan from 2002-2005 and on to the Fish Market at the Great Eastern Hotel. I was asked to be Bar Manager of One Aldwych in 2007.
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
There are two people for very different reasons. Alessandro Palazzi at Duke’s Hotel is number one for his skill in classic bartending, then Nicholas Rettie, one time General Manager of both The Metropolitan and Great Eastern Hotels is also hugely inspiring for his philosophy.
To your mind, what does it take to be a good bartender?
Attitude. If someone has the right attitude, you can teach them the craft. If they haven’t; forget it. Here at One Aldwych, we all agree on the way to mix our drinks and stick to it, that way the customer gets a consistently good drink whoever serves them. It’s important that we’re all team players.
Shaken or stirred?
Definitely stirred when using pure spirits as you want the drinks to be pure. Once you shake, the flavours start to dilute.
What’s your favourite drink
The Old-Fashioned. The beauty is in the simplicity and how the mixing brings out the flavour of the spirits. I also love this drink because it takes a lot of time to mix which gives me plenty of time to engage with the customer – that’s what bartending is all about.
Again, the Old-Fashioned for all of the reasons mentioned above.
On your menu?
The Tamarillo Martini (Tamarillo muddled with sugar, Creme de Peche, vodka and cranberry)- it’s fabulous to look at as well as to drink. Also, it’s just a little bit different to anything else.
What’s your definition of a mixologist and a barman?
Both serve their own purpose and are very much dependant on the customer.
What’s your favourite ingredient?
Aged rum, in particular Pyrat rum. Rum has always been something of an underground spirit but now it’s starting to get the attention it deserves.
Where do you drink off duty?
I’m a big rock music fan, so the bars and music venues in Camden really appeal to me. I like The Good Mixer for its alternative crowd but in town, I enjoy the Donovan Bar at Brown’s and Duke’s.
What’s your essential piece of kit?
Definitely my shaker and bar spoon – I’d be lost without them.
Do you have any top tips for Cocktail Lovers to mix up at home?
Keep it simple. Seabreeze or Pimms and lemonade with strawberries are very easy and appeal to most people.
If you could mix a cocktail for anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Che Guevara. Here was a man who lived his life without compromise and stuck to what he believed in to the death. I’d mix him the perfect Mojito.
Can you share your definitive cocktail recipe with us?
The Old-Fashioned It’s all about patience and plenty of stirring. I like to mix this drink whilst talking with my customers at the bar.
Put Roberto’s mixing skills to the test at: The Lobby Bar, One Aldwych, WC2B 4RH. T: 020-7300 1000.