At the Hilton Riyadh Hotel and Residences’ Lotus Asian Restaurant, a Chinese-Japanese fusion
venue and undisputed local foodie favorite, Bar Captain Sanjay Ranjit has made a name for
himself as a master mocktail mixologist.
Ranjit, age 41, has tended bar for over 12 years. From his early beginnings as a waiter at the
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, Nepal and a Team Leader role at Abu Dhabi National Hotel (ADNH)
to his relocation to Saudi Arabia and being named winner of the Hilton Riyadh Hotel and
Residences internal F&B Master competition in 2019, his reputation as both barista and
bartender is well-deserved. His skill, inventiveness, enthusiasm, and natural charm have helped
further cement the Lotus as a Hilton Riyadh highlight. In fact, the restaurant owes about 40
percent of its beverage sales to his singular mocktail creations.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder he’s made Caterer Middle East’s coveted Bartenders Power
List, a milestone for both him and the restaurant in one of the Kingdom’s most competitive F&B
industries. What’s even more impressive is that Ranjit, who started out in accounting, first
picked up the tricks of his trade through an initial interest in his native Nepal’s traditional
herbology practices, which he has since built upon and adapted to great success.
“It’s amazing, the things you can learn on your own,” Ranjit says, smiling as he whips up one of
his signature drinks, Life is Sweet 0%, with a casual confidence he’s cultivated across many
busy days and nights tending bar.
“First I made drinks for myself, then for friends and family. I still remember the moment I thought
to myself: Why not? Why not go all in and truly make this a way of life? A few years and several
bartending programs later, I found myself serving hundreds of customers a day!”
The drink, with its earthy hibiscus brew, fresh pomegranate juice, and hint of rose water and
lime, can naturally be enjoyed both on its own or as part of a three-course fine dining
experience. A careful study of their ever-changing menu, Ranjit says, has helped him anchor his
creative process and hone in on mixes that have the best chance of resonating with diners.
The Bar Captain’s natural curiosity and creativity come on full display when serving first-time
customers. While Ranjit and his team have already put together a stellar drink menu to suit even
the most discerning pallets, he never shies away from an opportunity to put together a custom
concoction on the spot.
Light-hearted conversation leads to more pointed inquiries into likes and dislikes, favorite
flavors, and potential dish pairings. It’s a careful back and forth that Ranjit has mastered over
the years, and the results never fail to impress.
This attention to minute detail is part of what keeps so many diners coming back for more, a
winning formula that has made this Bar Captain one of the MENA’s rising mixology stars. Ranjit
says that showing up is half the battle won, that it’s a bartender’s consistent presence behind
the counter that turns people into regulars. That, and the constant pursuit of ever-better drinks
that he would just as readily serve to diners as he would to friends, family, and himself.