Next time you’re in Lisbon, you should go see Bruno and enjoy his new (Cuban) tricks...
From Joao Eusebio to Humberto Saraiva, there are great Portuguese bartenders around. And if we also take into account the diaspora, with, for example, Alirio Padeiro or Gonçalo De Sousa Monteiro, Portugal really has some world-class drinksmiths. Both categories were competing at the 2014 Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix. For the diaspora, we had Sandy De Almeiada, from Canada. For Portugal, Bruno Gomes. He left quite an impression and took home the very first People’s Choice Award.
Yes, People’s Choice Award. The 2014 edition was all about working with Cuban cantineros, so it was only fair that the mostly Cuban audience (as well as the Havana Club guests from all over the world) would get the chance to vote for their favourite drinks. To that effect, at the final, small tasters of each drink were distributed to everyone in attendance. Of course, pre-batched and in plastics glasses, the taste is not going to be the same as up there on the stage. But still, you could have a pretty good idea.
Surprisingly enough, Bruno thought people didn’t like his cocktail. “I feel better now”, he told us later. An understatement, surely. The inspiration came easily enough, on his first day in Havana, when he visited the Callejon de Hamel, where Santeria and Afro-Cuban culture reign supreme. “I saw people selling basil on the streets, they told me that it gives you more energy, attracts new vibrations”. The seed was planted. Blending basil, cucumber, citrus and, of course, Havana Club rum, how could Bruno have any doubts? What’s not to like about such a great mix?
Bruno has been working behind bars for the better part of the last 15 years. Right now, he plies his trade at the Arena Lounge, in the Lisbon Casino, where they have 100 recipes on the menu that clients can choose from. “We have music, live concerts… It’s really a good place to enjoy a cocktail in Lisbon”. In spite of the aforementioned great bartenders, Lisbon has been lagging behind other European capitals in term of cocktail scene. With people like Bruno and other bars such as Cinco Lounge, the city is now catching up. It even has a brand new Bar Show!
This evolution is due to the hard work of all involved. The very same hard work, says Bruno, finally paid and sent him to Cuba. “It’s very important to compete, because it’s the best way to learn about the drinks, the spirits and to make friends.” Back in Portugal, nothing’s going to change, though: “I’m going to keep on doing what I do and learn even more”. Cantineros, next time you’re in Lisbon, you should go see Bruno and enjoy his new (Cuban) tricks.
50 ml Havana 3yo
30 ml fresh lime juice
40 ml gomme syrup
10 egg White
10 basil leaves
1 slice cucumber
Shake. Strain into a Collins glass. Top with soda water