BARTENDER SPOTLIGHT: VITOR HUGO LOURENCO
Overlooking the port of Southampton, Vitor Hugo Lourenco’s playground sits 6 stories high on the top of the Harbour Hotel. HarBar on 6th provides a unique view of the city in sophisticated surroundings, as well as an expertly crafted cocktail menu, created by Vitor himself with beautifully cut ice, elegant glassware and expertly crafted flavours. After nearly ten years in the UK hospitality industry, he’s now working as head of bars for the group after leaving London for the sunny south coast. Originally from Porto, Portugal, Vitor first dive into the drinks scene came in the form of a bar supervisor role with the iconic Rosewood London.
With a passion for sustainable brands and the creation of drinks that please both the eye and palette, Vitor’s desire for perfection is infectious and we sat down with him to discuss how he brings his ideas to the table.
What lead you to become a bartender?
“During my first year of my hotel management degree, I did an F&B internship in a hotel in the south of Portugal for 2 months. On one of my first days, when was finishing my food runner shift in the restaurant, I noticed the hotel bar was extremely busy so asked if I could help the team there. At the end of that night, I knew that I’ve found my passion and never left the bar again. It was all the endless creativity combined with a genuine passion and phenomenal energy that I felt there which captured me.”
How do you approach the process of creating a new cocktail?
“The creative process when we design a new cocktail is without a doubt one of the moments that I enjoy the most. When we put together all of the team’s ideas and work around them to build a winning menu, it’s a challenge that gives me tremendous satisfaction. The inspiration behind it, picking the best local seasonal ingredients, the glassware, garnish, being meticulous and looking for the perfect balance of flavours provides the most vibrant and genuine experience for our guests.”
So where does this inspiration come from?
“Inspiration comes from all over different places. I use my 5 senses to the limit every single day. It’s our biggest gift.”
Do you have a favourite technique or style when creating cocktails?
“Definitely stir. With this technique, you decrease the amount of dilution, allowing for less ice water to mix in with ingredients and perfectly balance all the spirits. Also, takes a tremendous amount of finesse.”
When ordering a cocktail yourself what are you looking for?
“Something simple, but vibrant and aromatic. Also, something authentic with local products and inspiration behind it.”
So when designing your drinks, how do you select your ingredients and spirits?
“Selecting seasonal ingredients is key. This way, we guarantee the best of each product. Flavour, texture, colour.
It is always important to have a selection of diverse spirits, from different countries and cultures. Allows us to travel around the world from our palate. It’s a fantastic and unique experience for our guests. In one moment your palate is in the Isle of Wight, surrounded by the ocean, with the most vibrant Mermaid Gin Martini and a few minutes later, you’re in California, in the middle of the forest, with Douglas fir everywhere and the most amazing St. George Terroir White Lady.
Also, something absolutely crucial is always to support local businesses and nurture relations to authentic traditions. It’s fantastic to witness true passion and commitment in our industry.”
You’ve mentioned before that sustainability is important to you.
“Sustainability is the future, today! It’s essential to be responsible for our planet and its resources. In our industry, we can make a difference with simple steps. From a bar, and their common daily ‘wastage’. Squeezed lemons can be used for a cordial. Strawberry leaf for syrup. From old persimmon, a shrub.
Spirits are no different. The new Mermaid Bottle is the best example I can give. From the bottle lettering to the cork, made with 100% natural materials and plastic-free. Outstanding!”
Thank you Vitor, we appreciate the compliment! What do you see happening with flavour trends over the next year?
“For starters, we’ll see the low and non-alcoholic beverage market grow even more. 2021 has been a pleasant surprise as we could notice a wider range in this market with non-alcoholic spirits, aperitifs, or even bitters. Love it! Also, I believe that bottled cocktails will be a big thing in 2021 and 2022. Finally, and now more than ever, I believe that less is more, and we’re going back to the minimalist and back to basics culture. It will be a year of high beverage standards, simplistic garnishes, and pristine ice quality.”
And what advice would you give to the home mixologist looking to improve their skills?
“Enjoy as much as you can. Being a bartender is like a chef. It allows us to create, to be bold, to express ourselves. It is the best journey ever. Also, be respectful, always. Learn and teach. Inspire and be inspired by the ones that surround you. Your team is your family.”
You can find Vitor and his team stirring up magic at The HarBar on 6th, Harbour Hotel, Southampton. Many thanks to Vitor for sparing some time to speak to us, and we’ll be stopping by ourselves for a Mermaid Martini sometime soon