At home with Opulence, Domingo Sang and a bottle of
Hennessy Paradis Imperial

Portray catches up with the Setai Miami’s Bartender Extraordinaire, Domingo Sang. He talks stellar service, serious single malt, Presidential recognition, and profiling patrons with perfectly paired drinks for any occasion.

Serving posh crowds, on a mother of pearl bar-top bar at the Setai Hotel Lounge and Courtyard in Miami Beach. Domingo Sang  knows his drinks, and he knows his clientele.

He greets you with a warm, welcoming smile. If you have been there more than once, you remember him. You remember the drink you had, and you come back for more. More smiles, more service and a perfect sip. He seems to have everything a good bartender exudes. He stands out as one of Portray’s Picks of best bartenders in the US.

photo: The Setai Miami Beach

The Bar and courtyard at the Setai, Miami Beach

Photo by The Setai South Beach

The Setai Miami Beach Courtyard

If you could have only one drink for the rest of your life what would it be?
The Saigon Gimlet. It has Vodka, infused with lemongrass and chili pepper, so, you get a little bit of spicy bite, ginger and cognac liquor and citrus. Its citrusy, spicy and refreshing.

The Saigon Gimlet

What is a notable drink people order?
When clients order a Macallan’s 25 year old scotch. Obviously its a high end spirit, and I like to introduce the 30 year old, which they like even more. Its aged in fine oak barrel so its smoother. The 25 year old is aged in a sherry cast barrel. Macallan M is impressive- when people order those high end spirits I think, wow this person knows what he/or she wants to drink. Of course I show them the menu to make sure they see the price first! We are in the Setai, I always make sure they approve of the selection first. ( He is Politely referring to the price) Sometimes people do not realize what they are ordering, so I like to make sure they are selecting what they would like before I pour.

What is one tool you cant live without?-
I would say the Jigger, because although we can pour with a count, it will never be the exact measure. Its important to be consistent with our cocktails. Whoever makes it, it will taste the same. When you create a good cocktail, it has to be balanced, it cannot be too citrusy or too sweet. The jigger is good for that.

What annoys a good bartender?
When someone asks you to pour more. Occasionally, you get people that say, pour more, pour more.. I always tell them that our pour is pretty generous to begin with because our normal pour is a 2 ounce pour, and the standard pour is 1.5 ounces.

What do you think a good trait for a good bartender to have?
I would say, always remembering your guests as far as their name and their favorite cocktail or drink. After 12 years, I have got to know a lot of people here.

How do you remember everyone, do you have a trick?
Yes I do! I will share it with you. Usually, I write down on a pad, their names and their favorite drink. So occasionally I breeze through it, so I do not forget, so when I see them walk in, I know immediately who they are. I try to tell my colleagues to do it as well.

Who is your most memorable client encounter? 

Probably President Clinton. After his Presidency, he released a book and the release was here in the hotel and we had a bunch of people in the bar. He arrived on the floor and the first thing he did was reach over the bar and shake my hand. I will never forget that. I think that was really nice of him, with so many people around expecting him and the first thing he did was shake my hand.

If you could spend all day at the bar with anyone who it would be?
I would say it would be one of my regular guests. His name is Jean. He lives in-between Miami and New York and I would say him, because he will never run out of subjects. He will talk to you for hours and hours and you will never get bored. Sometimes I get busy, but I always want to go back and talk to him. He is Great.

In your opinion, what drink is perfect 10 for your customers?
For me, I would say the chilly passion martini. It is our signature cocktail and because everyone that tries it loves it. We have people from all over the world come back for that drink.They say “We had to to come back here to have the chili passion martini.”

What is the most interesting drink to make here?
Our Gold martini. It is our luxury cocktail-It is made with Louis XIII cognac, Riesling ice wine, and also a Grande Mariner (100 anniversary) with a Russian standard gold label vodka and gold flake. we have had on the menu 3 years now. It was created by our former mixologist Phiip Khandehrish, so I have to give him credit for that. Its a pricy cocktail at $100, but it is because of the ingredients. Louis the XIII is made of up of 1,200 individual eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne vineyards, ranging from at least 40 years to 100 years.

Photo Credit- The Setai Miami Beach

The Gold Martini

How many shakes in a well shaken drink?
Usually I shake for 30 seconds. Counting in my head.

What do you think it takes to be a great bartender?- First and foremost you have to be a very good listener. You have to pay attention to what people tell you, what their needs are or what they are really looking for so you can accommodate them as best as you can.

What do you think you do Above and Beyond for your clients?

If someone asks for something we don’t have, I check to make sure they will be here the next day, and I will get it for them next time they come in.

Has your career been intentional?

I would say so because I’ve always benign the hospitality business. I worked in my fathers restaurant in the Dominican Republic, where I was born and raised. My father owned a very big Chinese restaurant right on the ocean and I remember growing up as an 11 year old working in the restaurant and as a cashier, buying groceries, whatever was needed. I always liked to work in the hospitality industry.

Are you good at profiling your customers? When they come in, do you have an idea of what they will probably order and are you right most of the time?
Most time I am pretty much on point.

I am going to name a person in history and you are going to tell me what you think they would drink.

Charlie Chaplan- when he heard the era of Silent movies was over– I would say a sazerac,
which is Americas oldest cocktail, traditionally it was made with whisky or brandy with a pinch of bitters, sugar cube and also with absinth.

Gangus Khan– Cognac- Louis XIII

Mary Poppins– She would have a cosmopolitan

Wonder Woman- The chilly passion Martini

If Moby Dick were a bloke, what would you serve him? A blue Martini (laughs)

If you could name a drink after yourself, what would be in it, The El Domingo?
I would go with classic Manhattan made with a special type of whisky, in this case a Japanese whisky, because I like them a lot they are very smooth. I would give it a sort of fruitful twist, something fresh, or an herb flavor to finish.

A Perfect abdication drink for Prince Charles- What would that be?
As a mixed drink, I would say The Last Word.. Its a gin based cocktail with Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liquor and Fresh lime juice.

We think he should submit the El Domingo….

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