GBR Bar London: Q&A with Bar Manager, Mary

Top image photo credit James Cole

DUKES Bar, in London’s prestigious Mayfair, has over the years built quite a reputation for itself and the legendary bar is internationally renowned for its famous martinis and other personalised cocktails. It’s intimate surroundings and timeless vibe make it the perfect place to enjoy a drink or two with friends.

TLE recently had the pleasure of staying at the Dukes hotel and of course it would have been rude not to check out the bar and cocktails! Whilst we were we started chatting to Mary, the lovely Italian first and only female bar-tender at the establishment whose story really impressed us……read on and we think you’ll agree it’s both interesting and inspiring.

Read our review of DUKES Hotel London.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Since childhood I’ve always been attracted by the Bartenders way of smiling and courteous manners, their power to spread happiness through their cocktail creations. This encouraged me to work as soon as I could at 15 years old whilst studying at the Hospitality school in Tuscany from where I’m from.

Tuscany was and still is a leader region for Bartender formation in Italy so I was fortunate enough to have received the guidance from the best Cocktail Masters during the early stages of my career, working in different bar styles, restaurant cocktail bars and hotel cocktail bars.

I’ve travelled all over Italy to choose the right mentors; for me it didn’t matter what the job position was or the salary as long as I was trained by the Bar Managers of my choice.

At 23 years, old I was entrusted with the opening of the “Pool Bar” at the Hotel del Golfo on the Elba Island where Bernardo Ferro (an exponent of AIBES and now of ABI professional) personally chose me for this challenging role, as well as making me the first female Bartender to work at the “La Terrazza” which was a male Bartender only cocktail bar.

The same happened at “Villa La Massa” LHW five-star hotel in Florence when I was 25. At that time Silvano Evangelista was the bar manager and he was a dominant figure for AIBES at the time and now an ABI Professional.

In between those years, I was always researching the industry and have kept up to date by following the best Bartending courses that Italy had to offer with AIBES and PlanetOne bartending school, plus a winter experience in Berlin taught me a lot.

At 26 years old, the curiosity to push myself occurred again and it took me on a London adventure where I’ve become the first and only woman to work as Bartender at the DUKES Bar – the temple of the Martini Cocktail!

Now DUKES LONDON has entrusted me to lead the newly refurbished Bar and restaurant of the hotel, the GBR London.

What brought you to London and more specifically GBR?

Aside from working as a bartender at Dukes bar over the past six years I’ve studied to get a diploma in Events Management, I’ve been working as a brand ambassador for a gin company and organised private events, so after all that I was ready for a new challenge and again DUKES LONDON was there to support me, so now I’m the Manager of the beautiful GBR.

Tell us more about your time at GBR so far?

Working at GBR is like having the keys to a stylish new sports car. We are in St James’s area one of the most classic spots in London, so that means that the guests are expecting an exclusive and elegant experience. We are there to ensure that the best of British food is served with care and the drinks are created with just as much care and devotion!

There are two bars within the hotel Dukes Bar and GBR, how do they differ and what do you love most about each?

The DUKES Bar is an icon of St James’s, it is very classic and old school – very much a private members club style.

The Bar at GBR is a modern-classic, vibrant where creativity is very much welcomed. You can drink at the bar or enjoy more comfort at the table seating or on the sofas. We are just defining the new activity for the next year including cocktail masterclasses and much more.

You are the first female Bartender at GBR. What does that mean to you?

I’m the first and only female Bartender who has ever worked at DUKES Bar, I’ve been there for the past six years, whilst also studying event management and working as a brand ambassador for a gin company. These past years have been really significant for me. I’ve been influenced by some of the top leaders in this industry which has shaped the person that I am today and to name just two of these people; Mrs. Debrah Dhugga, managing director of DUKES Collection and Mrs Samantha Rieu, Hotel manager at Dukes London.

You have been working on a new cocktail menu for GBR, tell us about the process, the creativity and how you decide upon the underpinning theme and then the drinks to reflect this?

Creating a cocktail list is like creating a new painting, the spirits are the colours and the mind is the brush. There is a great deal of thinking about which kind of picture your cocktail list will reflect and as in any picture, the Cocktail Menu must reflect part of the soul of the creator, so there is a mist of shyness and a bit of protectiveness before the final publishing.

Each cocktail has been carefully selected to target the specific taste of all our guests, however we are also more than happy to create bespoke drinks upon request.

Can you share any teasers as to what guests can expect from the new menu?

Mmmmm, let me think of what I can say ….. it will reflect the taste of the palate of St James people; classic, stylish with a modern touch.

What’s your favourite drink and why?

I would say a Negroni or Manhattan for an evening out, a Martini while I’m cooking dinner at home for my friends.

Finally, what is your insiders tip for a visitor wanting to experience a touch of luxury in London?

When you decide to go out choose the place that you want to be, based on what you’d like to experience. Then allow yourself to switch off, relax and be focus on having an enjoyable experience!!

Address: GBR 37-38 St James’s Pl, St. James’s, London SW1A 1NS

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