Santana Bar consolidates itself as a destination for good drinks in SP and recipes invented on the spot

Santana Bar consolidates itself as a destination for good drinks in SP and recipes invented on the spot

Sitting on a leather sofa, with a pencil and sheets of paper in hand, he draws. High glasses, low glasses, ice cubes. “These are drinks that customers order and I create them on the spot”, says bartender Gabriel Santana. People say what they like to drink and he takes a recipe out of his hat, right there on the counter. “But the person has to give a name, otherwise it’s hard to remember later.”

At 34 years old, he is in charge of the bar that bears his name and which has become a reference for those looking for high-quality cocktails in São Paulo, Santana Bar. Opened in November 2020, at a time when measures to combat the coronavirus imposed restrictions, the place has only flourished since then.

“We started with a team of three people — today we are nine, plus the administrative staff”, he says. In addition, they already have a neighboring property. “I don’t know what to do with it yet, but something will turn around.”

The bar is located in a white-fronted townhouse in Pinheiros, a neighborhood on the west side of the capital known for its gastronomic attractions. This is Santana’s first own business, who returned to Brazil after a stay in Switzerland as head of the bar at Benzina, a friendly-priced drinks house that operated in Vila Madalena until the beginning of 2020.

For those who want to drink outside, there is a deck and an outdoor space. Inside the house, the ambience is punctuated by low light and a combination of brick, wood and leather. The public is spread out between a small room and a mini bar, where only two people can fit, in addition to the main bar, where it is possible to watch the bartenders’ ballet and exchange an idea about the alchemy of each cocktail.

Even because the subject is not lacking there. The menu features more than one hundred recipes, divided between classics, authorials and what they call untouchables, creations that are so successful that they end up on the menu. “We’re down to six now, but the list only grows.”

The menu is renewed at least once a year — the last one was in August, with nine cocktails presented along with designs made by Santana. Among them is the Pistacchio, which has vodka with vanilla, pistachio, lemon and egg white (R$ 44). The so-called Drink of Millions combines rum, corn, Tahiti lime and Frangelico (R$51). Savana has cachaça, tamarind, white vermouth and clarified banana (R$ 37).

Corn, bananas, tamarind and pistachios aren’t ingredients the public is used to seeing as the stars of elaborate cocktails, but Santana makes the products work. “We like to play with unusual things.”

Trained in gastronomy and with experience with molecular cuisine, the bartender uses the most diverse techniques in the preparation of drinks, in processes that can take days. Practically everything is done there.

This is the case with the milk punch used at Limessy, one of the untouchables. Milk punch is a milk clarification process made with lemon that takes six days to prepare. The recipe also has fresh plum syrup, lemon and gin. The flavor is balanced between the sweetness of the plum and the sourness of the lemon and it doesn’t resemble milk at all, not even in terms of appearance. It costs BRL 42.

Another untouchable that goes through a similar process is Moringa, for R$39. Served in a coupette glass, like a margarita, the drink has all the parts of a guava.

The rind is transformed into cordial, a citrus syrup, while its pulp originates a liqueur clarified in agar, a kind of vegetable gelatine. The waste is the basis of the tuile, a type of cookie, which decorates the recipe. The drink contains vodka, which, precisely because it has a neutral flavor, makes it evident that the transparent drink is made from guava.

“Of the ten best-selling drinks, eight are authorial”, says Santana. Of the classics, only Negroni and Fitzgerald complete the list.

Products such as beers and soft drinks even appear, but are relegated to the last page of the menu. As well as the small food section, which offers items such as olives (R$15), cheese board (R$35) and pickles (R$17). Santana says he even has plans to launch a hot kitchen, but the public doesn’t seem to mind the lack. What people want there is to drink.

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