The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2017

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98  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2017 It's no easy feat being the Beverage Director of a hotel with a restaurant or two, but how about nine? Fontainebleau's Beverage Director Syed Ali describes the resort as "the closest you'll get to Las Vegas without ever going there." There are nine dining and beverage venues ranging from casual to high-end dining, including Hakkasan, two restaurants from celebrity restaurateur Michael Mina and an 18,000-square-foot nightclub. "Once you're in here, there's no reason to leave," Ali says, smiling. Juggling the wine and cocktail list for nine separate venues might seem daunting, but with 24 years of food and beverage experience under his belt, Ali manages to pull it off with aplomb. Ali started bartending on the island of St. Thomas in the early '90s, a far cry from the white tablecloth res- taurants he now oversees. "Back then, I was just a beer guy. I had no interest in wine. But my senior manager was really into wine, and through him, I developed an interest and started learning about the wine world. Now I'm a wine guy!" Ali recalls. After getting a degree in Hospitality and Management from Florida International University, he worked at the W and other prestigious hotels before landing at Fontainebleau two years ago. An additional difficulty to curating multiple wine lists is the eclectic cuisine featured at each restaurant. "Each wine list is tailored to each restaurant and bar," Ali explains. "I have a team of seven sommeliers who oversee the restaurant wine lists." For Hakkasan, that means white Burgundy, dry Riesling and Champagne to pair with the modern Asian cuisine, and rosé and crisp white wines for the casual restaurants. The signature restaurants have more esoteric wine lists, while the lobby Bleau Bar features crowd pleasers. Ali follows the same ethos for his cocktail lists, meeting with five head bartenders once a week to plan out the seasonal cocktail lists. "It's a democratic process where everyone can be involved. Because of its volume, Bleau Bar cocktails tend to be simpler, with fresh ingredients that are easier to execute, while the restaurants can feature craft cocktails where we make our shrubs, bitters and purées." The cocktails change seasonally, so in winter, menus will feature ciders, vinegars and gingers. "We still like to keep them light and refreshing though," Ali adds. "It is Miami after all!" Tardiness. When guests are unwilling to try a new varietal or region. People who ask bartenders to create a drink based on specific ingredients and then send it back. Guest who see a set wine dinner menu as a suggestion and want to substitute every course. People who treat service industry people as non- professionals. Lazy Sunday, good wine and something on the grill. Golf. All things Rhône and Rhône varietals. The Negroni and drinks that are in the same family tree. A well-curated bar and a bar staff that knows how to make a drink. THE "5" LIST SYED ALI'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES SYED ALI'S TOP FIVE FAVES SYED ALI BEVERAGE DIRECTOR, FONTAINEBLEAU, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA by Jesse Hom-Dawson PHOTO COURTESY OF FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . .

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