Service Bar Chat with Christiano Souza

Bar Manager Christiano Souza is the man behind the drink menu at the Back Bay’s seafood mecca, Saltie Girl. He was bitten by the hospitality bug at a young age — cooking alongside his grandfather and watching family members who worked in the restaurant industry. These days he puts his talents to good use whipping up tiki drinks and exploring the wide world of gin. See how he keeps up with Boston’s burgeoning bar scene and where he thinks folks should be looking for the city’s next big thing.

Where do you work now? What’s your position? Where else have you worked in the last five years?

Saltie Girl. Bar Manager. Envoy and The Beehive

How did you get involved in restaurants?

As a child my Grandfather and I would cook together. This was pretty special. Everyone I speak to in the industry has some sort of connection like this. The rest of my family also worked in the industry as servers. I would come sit at the Bar and watch them work and I just fell in love at a very young age with hospitality.

What draws you to this line of work?

I get a lot of satisfaction from the look on a guest’s face when they are enjoying everything about their experience. I also really like the pace of hospitality. There’s just something about the energy, or buzz in the room on a busy night.

What’s your favorite drink to make (or wine or beer to pour)?

Anything that is “tiki style,” is definitely my favorite. I enjoy balancing out complex flavors that culminate into one unique flavor profile.

Least favorite?

Bloody Marys any time after Sunday and Saturday brunch…

How do you feel about the “mixology” movement – does that term appeal to you, not appeal to you?

I’m cool with the term, I just feel it can be a little intimidating to some. It should be less about titles and more about the work.

What do you think it means to be involved in the bartender culture, if you agree that there is one?

The bar culture in Boston is truly growing and I’m extremely proud to be part of it. It’s great to patronize other establishments and support what everyone else is doing and I do feel like we all share a common bond.

On your days off, what kind of places do you frequent?

I try to frequent new openings as much as I can to see what new ideas they may be bringing to the scene… it’s an actual hobby of mine.

A lot of industry folk are happier with a Miller High Life and a Fernet than composed cocktails or craft beer. You?

I’m cool with Fernet and a Miller High Life, but I usually go with a Blanco on the rocks…

What do you always keep stocked at home?

The basics: Amaro, Tequila, Whiskey, Gin.

Are there different things you like to drink or to make for special occasions?

I am a sucker for Pina Coladas… or anything with Coco Lopez!

Are you excited about one spirit in particular?

My favorite spirit is Gin. I find it to be the most complex of all the spirits being extremely herbaceous and floral. There are so many different types of Gin to work with and if executed properly you can make a truly amazing cocktail.

Is there something really overrated or underrated, in your opinion?

Really “overrated” to me would be something that plays off a mainstream pop-centric idea that everyone is doing, or using cheap products to create drinks. I think creativity, ingredients and sourcing is important.

I feel the most “underrated” thing to me is all the bartenders that are dedicated to the craft in the small out-of-the-way spots around our city that don’t get the attention they deserve. These might be places that aren’t always on people’s radar, or on the “best of” lists…but there are a lot of bartenders that are truly being creative and working really hard to bring great things to guests that simply don’t get enough credit and attention. I know they’re not doing it for that reason to begin with, but I just hope that when we look for the next “great” bartender ….we actually go looking for them.

What’s something you wish the average guest knew about your job—not service-wise, but related to the craft of bartending?

I guess I would just like the average guest to know that it takes a lot of work both physical and mental to do this job. We’re artists, we’re laborers, we’re hosts, we’re therapists…and a lot more. There are a lot of transients in the business, but to those passionate bartenders that truly care about their craft and take pride in putting something special in front of you…maybe just give a nod or throw them a  “thank you.” It goes a long way.

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