In the last five years bartending has evolved to a different level not just here in India, but globally By Yangdup Lama Mixologist or Bartender? Well, I would say the two terms need a better understanding of which one means what. Bartender is the real term for a person who mans the bar counter and […]
In the last five years bartending has evolved to a different level not just here in India, but globally By Yangdup Lama
Mixologist or Bartender? Well, I would say the two terms need a better understanding of which one means what. Bartender is the real term for a person who mans the bar counter and is responsible for dispensing alcohol, mixing cocktails, making friends, striking a good conversation, etc. In the real sense bartending is a good blend of every element from knowledge to good skills, presence of mind and execution. Mixologist on the other hand can be applicable to anyone who knows the art of mixing, from alcohol to paints.
In the last five years bartending has evolved to a different level not just here in India but globally. The consumer demand is ever increasing and every bar or restaurant that looks to succeed today in the competitive environment is desperately seeking for the finest man behind the bar.
Offering a good pay package for the right resource in no more a constraint for most establishments. Interestingly there aren’t many skilled bartenders presently (except few bars in Delhi and Mumbai) to cater to the increasing demand, but in a few years probably the numbers will multiply and we will see some amazing people behind the bar. This is one career option that allows you to explore every aspect of life, from taste to travel, culture and behaviour, from intelligence to psychology. The perks are good today and the amount of respect that the good bartender gets is no less to a glorified chef, and it is only getting better by the day.
Trends in mixing
The trends in mixology has reached new heights globally. From the 19th century classics to the new age craft cocktails, bartenders have started to make their own unique blends of home made bitters and mixes and use them intelligently in their cocktails. Presentation and drama in a cocktail is a new thing that has been making some of the top bars emerge as trendsetters in the cocktail world. Not just cocktails but even the way a bartender dresses up while working and fixing drinks behind the bar has had a role to play in the complete cocktail experience today. Style is the way forward for the cocktail drama.
Bartenders across the globe have adapted to a certain style in the way they stir a martini in a mixing glass, to the way they finally pour the finished product with so much precision. For example, when I learnt the art of cocktail making some 18 years ago I never knew what a dry shake was and never did one while fixing a whiskey sour. The first time I came across this theory was during my visit to the Absinthe Bar in San Francisco in 2006. Dry shaking a sour cocktail with egg white as an ingredient helps to emulsify the egg white with the lime juice and sugar syrup before shaking the mix with ice. The usage of ice today (something that was taken for granted all these years) goes on to show how much thought has gone into the making of a cocktail. I have visited bars that serve all their rocks drinks with a single large sphere or square ice (it certainly helps to slower the melting process of ice). Smoked cocktails, foam toppings to ageing cocktails before serving them are few new trends that keep emerging from every corner these days. Science along with creativity and speed has taken the art to a never-ending innovation of ideas and process.
Bartending schools in India
Mumbai: Stir Academy of Bartending, Mahim Cocktails & Dreams, Bartending School, Khar
Delhi: Institute of Bar Operations and Management, Aya Nagar Cocktails & Dreams, Bartending School, Vasant Kunj Mixologik Bartending School, Malviya Nagar
Bengaluru: Tulleeho Bartending Academy, Koramangla Bar Square, Bartending Academy, Markham Road
Then there are the gadgets used by bartenders, from stirrers of different lengths to muddlers and peelers, smoking guns and shakers of various shapes and sizes have been hitting most top end bars today. In my bar we use a combination of 10 different stirrers along with eight different cocktail shakers and three mixing glasses. One of the important ingredients in cocktail trends these days is going the organic way. Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in a huge bowl placed on top of the front bar are a common feature in most good cocktail bars. This combined with local flavours from the farmers’ market are working as the core of most flavours in signature cocktails. Bartenders in consultation with chefs are working various combinations to suit the palate of the discerning customer. I recently came across a cocktail menu that read ‘Cocktail Moods’. It had a list of cocktail that were based on moods and how you felt at that point in time. One cocktail from the menu had Jim Beam (bourbon whiskey) with red berry puree, and mint with a hint of Tabasco (this is purely experimental and also goes on to explore the versatility of Jim Beam). Surely another emerging factor in good bars across the globe is the menu offering and description. What the menu depicts in terms of its offering speaks a lot about what is coming your way.
The right combination of knowledge, imagination, organised approach and speed with maturity and technique helps shape a person to being a professional behind the bar. The game is changing at a good pace and it is no more ‘Bloody Mary’ in a shot fat glass. The new word for the cocktail experience is ‘Theatre’. You walk into a bar, and then you see the mad men at work, stirring, shaking, and swinging flawlessly through the many ingredients with style and panache, only to mix you the most divine combination that makes your journey to the cocktail world a complete one.
(The author is a mixologist and the owner of Cocktails & Dreams and Thirsty Three Hospitality)