Nicole Kosta, events and beverage director at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, decides on the tastes to tempt a guest’s palate. Here, she recounts her working day

I am up early to get to the gym before work. I live across San Francisco Bay, in Sausalito, so I walk to the pier to catch the ferry to work. On the boat, I check and answer emails, and have breakfast on the go. 

At the hotel, I immediately check in with the lobby-level restaurant, Brasserie S&P, to make sure our breakfast service is smooth and steady and to greet guests. Then I attend the morning meeting with our department heads to discuss the day’s operations and VIPs. 

My days are always varied and today I review payroll, conduct interviews for new hires and check on in-room dining operations. I also meet with the chef and brainstorm a few upcoming promotional ideas. At the moment we are focusing on creating more interactive events such as our upcoming “New Years Eve Champagne And Caviar Fete” where we will be holding a 5-course dinner as part of the experience. We are also holding a “Ho-Ho-Home for the Holidays” Gingerbread House making event for kids during December where chef and his team work with kids to create and decorate festive gingerbread homes to take back with them. Also, we hold wine tasting events in our banquet space where groups can book these experiences. Wines are chosen from an area, such as California or Spain, and chef creates cuisine from that area to pair as part of the tasting. 

Lunch at the hotel is always busy, so I am either on the floor, helping my team expedite, or I am talking to guests and regulars. At 1pm, I am behind the bar, conjuring up new cocktail ideas for the next season. We have 40 gins and more than 600 bottles of wine from 16 countries. I start to get my next tonic idea as I look at all the produce and spirits in front of me. Inspired by the Holiday season our latest launch is a “Festive Gin & Tonic” comprising of house-made tonic made from clove, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, nutmeg, all spice, and pumpkin with Oxley Gin then persimmon and cinnamon stick garnish. 

At 2pm, I meet with the general manager to talk about upcoming strategies and new hires. In between writing emails, I drink my ‘green veggie nutri-drink mix’ for lunch. We also offer this to the guests and it is a health-kicking marriage of kale, spinach, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, which helps see me through my busy day. 

Next, I have an appointment with a new local boutique winery from the neighbouring wine region of Sonoma and taste a few of the wines at the bar. An important part of my role involves establishing relationships with trusted wine vendors throughout the region who understand our style. They search new boutique wineries out and bring them to me. I especially like limited production wines. I will also go visit the winery to personally learn more about the wines. It is important to find wine and add wines that are food friendly but also can be drunk well by itself. 

I return to Brasserie S&P for Happy Hour at 4.30pm, so that I can interact with guests, shake up a few cocktails behind the bar and sign up people for our exclusive privilege dining cards which offer many benefits: from receiving a complimentary dessert with your meal, a glass of our signature Gin & Tonic, or a glass of Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco’s private wine called Cuvée S&P, there is no reason not to join! 

While on the floor, I also have a mini one-to-one with the restaurant manager. Following on from that, I visit our kitchen on the second floor to check on the banqueting events that evening. By now it’s 6.30pm. I finish any emails, and update wines and new cocktails on IRIS (a beverage list on the iPad). This genius system means we have the instant ability to update our drinks lists. It is also a great way to educate our guests, allows us to interact with them and gives them the opportunity to view their drinks prior to ordering. 

Finally, at 7pm, I pop by an industry event to network, before heading off to join my boyfriend for dinner at a new hotspot in the city. My evening ends by taking a ferry back to Sausalito, with a G&T in hand!

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