Interview With A Bar Manager – João Chitas

10th January 2024

Interview With A Bar Manager João Chitas

In this feature, we interview João Chitas, the Bar Manager at the new cocktail destination Octagon Bar at Sopwell House in St Albans – inspired by the drinking dens of the capital and serving an inventive menu of masterfully blended cocktails taking inspiration from Sopwell House’s rich history.

It’s Great To Meet You João Chitas, Could You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself?

“I am originally from Lisbon, Portugal and moved over to London in 2010. I was previously in the Portuguese Army. I am a hopeless romantic, which is actually part of the reason for me moving over here.”

What Inspired You To Become A Bartender? 

“My first experience of bartending came back in Lisbon where my dad ran a Kiosk Bar and would get me to help him out with serving customers. 

When I moved to London in 2010, my friend Freddy (also now part of the team at the Octagon Bar) encouraged me to apply for a back bar position in The Soho Hotel (part of the Firmdale Hotel group), where he was working as a bartender. I had just moved to London and needed a job so went for it. Over time I grew more involved and interested in the role, working my way up and eventually moving from back bar to bartender. 

Congratulations on the successful opening of Octagon Bar! This must be an exciting opportunity for you. What can guests expect to discover?

We aim to sell the best cocktails in Hertfordshire. All of our cocktails have been curated with flare and a bit of a difference from what you would usually find on menus. All of our signature cocktails have been inspired by the rich history of Sopwell House, so not only will you get an excellent drinking experience with unique, delicious cocktails, but you will also learn a little about the hotel and the surrounding area. On top of that, always expect a warm welcome and a smile. The Octagon team prides themselves on faultless service and being completely passionate about working here.”

For Anyone Looking To Craft Their Own Sparkling Wine Cocktails At Home, What Advice Would You Give Them?

“I think the key is to keep things simple and let the ingredients shine. I would always recommend using fresh ingredients as the base for your cocktail and ensure the flavour packs a punch. Also always use a high-quality wine, Prosecco or Champagne as this will really elevate your drink to the next level.”

Thank You For Taking The Time To Speak With Us At Glass Of Bubbly. To Finish The Interview, I Must Ask, What Is Your Go To Cocktail To Enjoy?

“That is easy for me to answer. Always an Old Fashioned. I fell in love with the drink when I first came to London in 2010 when my manager at the time took me to a New Year’s Eve party at a bar called Mint Leaf in Piccadilly (unfortunately I now think it is now closed). He bought me an Old Fashioned which had been made with Pappy van Winkle vintage Whiskey and it was honestly one of the most delicious things I have ever tried. Ever since that night, the Old Fashioned has been my favourite cocktail.”

Thank you, João, for sharing your words, knowledge and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to João Chitas & Octagon Bar. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.