Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Bartending is a very hard job, but also extremely gratifying: Federico Lombardi, head bartender, Paradiso

In India for a bar takeover, the head bartender of Paradiso, one of Barcelona's best bars, talks about his journey, his signature cocktails and more

Samidha Jain
Published: Oct 21, 2023 07:57:33 AM IST
Updated: Oct 20, 2023 08:20:11 PM IST

Bartending is a very hard job, but also extremely gratifying: Federico Lombardi, head bartender, ParadisoFederico Lombardi, head bartender, Paradiso. Image: Courtesy Paradiso

Paradiso, one of the world’s best bars from Barcelona, did a bar takeover at Mumbai’s Masque Restaurant in collaboration with Stranger & Sons Gin on Friday evening. The bar, ranked #1 on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2022, and #4 in the 2023 list, offers iconic cocktails known for their unlikely techniques and ingredients. In collaboration with Masque, Paradiso’s head bartender Federico Lombardi brought his signature serves with an Indian twist and local flavours, offering some unusual flavour profiles, cocktails inspired by otherworldly themes like magic and space, and more. 

In conversation with Forbes India, Lombardi speaks about his journey, his cocktails, his favourite drink, and more. Edited Excerpts:

Q. How did you venture into bartending?  
I have been in this industry for 10 years now. I was born in Italy, and I have studied at a hospitality school in Italy. While I was there, I also started working, which was required as a part of the course. My first experience was in a local bar in a little town in Italy. After that, I worked at a famous bar in Italy with one of my inspirations—a pioneer of mixology—Filippo Sisti. It was one of my dreams to work with him. Then, I moved to London when I was 20, and started working in a bar called Cahoots. After a few years there, I came back to Milan when Filippo started his own bar and asked me to become the head bartender. After that I moved to Barcelona and joined Paradiso in 2019.

Q. What is the idea behind bringing Paradiso to Mumbai and collaborating with Masque? What inspired this partnership?
In September, Paradiso did a takeover in New York that was a huge success. Post that we thought of doing something in India and collaborated with Masque as we believe that Masque’s style is very much like that of Paradiso with regards creativity and innovation. I think this could be the start of a new, continuing collaboration.

Also read: Kingfisher is India's favourite Indian beer; Bacardi, its favourite rum, and Jägermeister, its favourite liqueur

Q. What do you think makes Paradiso stand out?
For me, what makes Paradiso different is the vibes of the bar. I feel it gives a visitor a vast, immersive experience in terms of cocktail flavours, vibes, food etc. It’s a very warm environment, which people want to keep coming back to. 

Bartending is a very hard job, but also extremely gratifying: Federico Lombardi, head bartender, ParadisoParadiso Bar, Barcelona. Image: Courtesy Paradiso

Q. What exciting opportunities does a collaboration like this bring to the experience you're creating for guests?
As a bartender, traveling to different places can become a great opportunity to learn new ways, practices, and ingredients. For example, coming here made me learn a lot of the varieties of fruits that can be used in cocktails which I didn’t know about earlier. Travelling leads to a great exchange of ideas and knowledge. That is the beauty of a takeover. It takes you places to improve your craft.  

Also read: Sipping in Singapore: How the bar capital of Asia is enticing serious gourmands

Q. As the head bartender, what personal touches or influences do you bring to your cocktails that make them unique to you and Paradiso?
I like to play with fresh fruits and fresh products. I love to work as a chef. Whenever I am experimenting with a drink, I want to know the history behind the ingredients I am using, which leads me to decide what else I can mix with it, and enhance the flavour of the drink.  I love nature, so whenever I am free I like to go outside, discovering new plant flavours. That’s the personal touch I bring to my cocktails.  

Q. Which is your favourite cocktail?
One of my favourite cocktails is Americano. It’s truly Italian. I love its flavour which comes with a little bit of bitterness from Campari. It is not very boozy, and I like light drinks, so I think Americano is a perfect cocktail which you can just top up with a sparkling soda water, and you’re good. 

Also read: 'Indri Whisky has carved a place for itself as one of the best whiskies in not just India but the world': Surrinder Kumar, master blender, Piccadily Distilleries

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring bartenders or mixologists looking to elevate their craft and create memorable experiences for their guests?
Well, I will say that hospitality is a very hard job, but at the same time, it can give you a lot of gratitude. And, if you do it with passion and you are determined, you can really excel and reach great heights in the industry. My advice is to just stay focused.