On World Bartender Day, we speak to nine of India's happening bartenders and mixologists about their favourite poisons.

If chefs are artists creating masterpieces on a plate then bartenders and mixologists are nothing less than magicians concocting elixirs that enthral and excite.

So on World Bartender Day, LF reached out to nine of India’s top bartenders who will happily have a quick chat with you and mix you your favourite drink.

DELHI

Yangdup Lama
Sidecar
A legendary mixologist and an entrepreneur, everyone who loves a good cocktail knows Yangdup Lama. He started his career with Hyatt Regency, New Delhi and now 22 years later he has a bar service and beverage consultancy company along with two commercial bars. Sidecar, an artisanal cocktail bar, is his latest venture and is making waves in the country for its incredible drinks. 


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender

The last five years has been great for the global bartending scene and India is not far behind on that front. I have seen budding Indian bartenders who are experimenting and exploring the cocktail world from every angle. The level of enthusiasm is tremendous and most importantly the Indian bartender today is well respected both by the industry (employers) and the consumer and that paves the way for a wonderful future for bartending in India.
The diversity of our country should help to raise the bar and the cocktail culture despite of constraints in the alcohol space. The new generation of Indian consumer is very experimental and it is just right for the bartending scene in India to show the world what we can offer to the global cocktail trend.

Favourite Cocktail
I love making a Manhattan and its variations—I love cocktails that are served straight in a coupe or a cocktail glass. The Manhattan style of cocktail could apply to any spirit, it’s simple, clean and most importantly it does not require too many ingredients. The classic Manhattan is a simple whiskey (Rye or Bourbon) mixed with aromatic bitters and sweet vermouth. The taste of the three ingredients put together and stirred with ice has all the nuances of a well-made full bodied cocktail.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
Bourbon for sure.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Cinnamon is my favourite spice. I also love ginger.

One cocktail you will recommend at Sidecar
Tongba from the list of Sidecar Signatures. As long as there is steady supply of hot water, fermented seeds can be stretched into several rounds of warming, yeasty beer. Tongba is a drink of the ethnic group from the mountainous region. It is prepared for the ceremonious celebrations and religious offerings. At Sidecar it is made with aged rum, fermented millet juice, fresh lime, dried cranberry puree and a good squeeze of fresh orange wedge. It is a tribute to my grandmother who was probably the finest brewer of the Tongba of her times.

Also Read: Your Guide to All Things Whiskey

Kanchan Fartiyal
The Hong Kong Club, Andaz Delhi
The sole lady on this list, Kanchan Fartiyal is the star at The Hong Kong Club, the concept bar at Andaz Delhi. She has grown within the Hyatt brand to be a team leader and a bartender extraordinaire. 


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
The Indian bartending scene was predominantly a male domain, however it is very encouraging to see more women pursue their passion take this as a chosen profession. From a bar culture point of view, people want to engage and enjoy the story of the cocktail being prepared right in front of their eyes, hence the community bar tables and bar counter seating are gaining popularity. Also the art of mixology showcasing locally sourced seasonal ingredients is here to stay as it allows bartenders to bring their personality to life through fresh and local ingredients with compelling stories.
Simplicity is the key towards the goal of being a great mixologist. Indian bartenders possess a keen sense of flavours and textures owing to the rich cultural legacy that allows them to adapt and evolve as per market dynamics. They seem to have a natural instinct when it comes to blending distinct flavours from local spices to exotic herbs, infusing local spirits with artisanal spices and more. They can grow across the globe owing to their heightened sense of tastes and multicultural experiences.

Favourite Cocktail
It will be the humble Mojito—this was the first cocktail I learnt during my college. It’s my favourite because of the simplicity of the ingredients and how it has sustained generations and still continues to be a favourite for many across the world.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
Whiskey would be the chosen one as it’s not a clichéd neutral spirit and crafting a cocktail with whiskey is a challenge that always excites me. I love the bold flavours and the personality that whiskey lends to any cocktail.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Passion fruit is one of my go-to ingredients for cocktails. Its compliments an array of spirits and the end result is always refreshing and delicious.

One cocktail you will recommend at The Hong Kong Club
I would recommend the Cardinal inspired by the Chinese Zodiac Rat – it is also my Chinese Zodiac. It’s special because the personality of the clever rat is well embodied in the gin-based cocktail, which is not only an all season favourite but also has aplenty botanicals.


Also Read: All About Cocktail Bitters and How to Use Them in Cocktails


Varun Sharma
Comorin

Varun Sharma is an award winning bartender with over 12 years of experience in the beverage industry, with highlights including Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, Soda Bottle Openerwala and Roseate House Hotel, Delhi. He currently is the beverage manager at newly opened Comorin in Delhi where his focus is on craft cocktails, house made liquors and infusions, as well as a distinctive range of coffee, tea, and soft beverages.


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
Indian drinking culture is at an evolution stage and so is the bartending community. Now, more and more bartenders are presenting innovating fusion cocktails using various ingredients. They are now going against the traditions of the trade and thinking of more innovative ways to prepare cocktails.
Bartenders have already made their mark on the global map with the arrival of upcoming international spirit brands. In top Indian bars, you can now get to taste what we call the age old forgotten classics, made with the finest ingredients and finest spirits. India is now in the top 10 list of innovative cocktails and the day is not far when the world will know India as a country of great bartenders and mixologists.

Favourite Cocktail
Gin and Tonic! Gin is one spirit that can be moulded into many styles and flavours. It is a beautiful spirit to create interesting cocktails.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
My all-time favourite is Gin. As a bartender, I really enjoy working with the spirit.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Indian Sarsaparilla. It is an aromatic root commonly known as ananthmoola.

One cocktail you will recommend at Comorin
Sous vide Gin and Tonic is one of the hot selling cocktails on the menu. Sous vide is a cooking technique of infusing the liquid with different flavours. It is a simple yet delicious cocktail with immense flavours.


Also Read: Gin-Based Cocktails to Sip Your Weekend Away


Prabhakar Tiwari
Whisky Samba

Bar manager at one of Delhi’s most popular watering holes, Prabhakar Tiwari started his career with Pride Plaza Chennai as an assistant bartender. He then moved to The Park’s Aqua as a bartender. Prior to joining Whisky Samba in 2016 Tiwari was the bar supervisor at I-Kandy, Le Meridien Gurgaon.


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender

The industry is at an evolutionary stage where the Indian bartending community is going to great lengths to match the trends of the world. In the last five years, Indian bartenders have been on the world stage at various cocktail competitions such as World Class by Diageo. The exposure has been to such an extent that the Indian bartenders are able to cater to the taste profiles of international guests with their hard work and various cocktails made and sourced from homegrown local ingredients.
India is ready to cause an explosion with its influence on the global cocktail culture. According to industry experts, India is one of the fastest growing luxury markets with an upcoming cocktail culture. Bartenders in India are creating drinks local flavours, ingredients and spices and I have no doubt that will lead to a huge Indian influence globally in the next few years.

Favourite Cocktail
My favourite cocktail is an all-time classic, Old Fashioned. I like it because of the use of aromatic bitters in it, which do not make the drink bitter but actually binds the flavour of the drink.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
Whisky, of course.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Homemade syrups and orange.

One cocktail you will recommend at Whisky Samba
Whisky  Samba Sour is our version of the classic whisky sour. The ingredients that we use, especially Amaretto, makes it special.

Also Read: Must-Try Cocktails for a Fun & Relaxed Weekend 


MUMBAI


Santosh Kukreti
Thirsty City 127
Santosh Kukreti hails from humble beginnings in the state of Uttarakhand. He has worked in some of Mumbai’s coveted restaurants before moving to Macau to further hone his skills as a bartender. Today he is the bar manager at Thirsty City 127, leading a formidable team that has been mixing some of Mumbai’s extraordinary cocktails.



Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
Earlier, bartenders in India used to copy cocktail and follow prevalent at international bars but now it’s the other way. International bars and bartenders are taking inspiration from India.
There is a lot more exposure for us; Indian bartenders are travelling to different countries doing guest shifts representing our country and our bars. I, myself, am traveling to Hong Kong to do a guest shift in March at a bar called Whisky & Words.

Favourite Cocktail
My favourite cocktail is a Sazerac, which is also known as the king of all cocktails, simply because it's a very simple cocktail but with intense flavours. It uses cognac, whisky, Peychaud Bitters and absinthe.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
I love using Gin and Tequila in my cocktails.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Tea or any berry

One cocktail you will recommend at Thirsty City 127
It’s a tough question, but if I had to pick one cocktail will say Beet Tapache. It is a drink made from Tequila fermented beet, salt and honey. The fermentation process makes it different from other cocktails in the country.

Also Read: A Mixologist's Ultimate How-To Guide to All Things Cognac


Jeremy Buck
Miss T

With over 16 years of experience gathered from across US, Jeremy Buck has had the honour of being voted as the one of the top 25 bartenders in New York. He has worked at the prestigious Rotisserie Georgette, Demi Monde, Nitecap, Flatiron Lounge, etc. Buck is the beverage director at Miss T, with an aim to revolutionising the modern day cocktail while staying true to the classics as well as challenging guests with complex flavour profiles.


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
I have only been in India for the past year, but have seen a lot of evolution in that short span. Bartenders here are quickly learning modern and classic techniques used at the best cocktail bars in the world. Flavour and balance are drastically improving. Just the excitement for the craft has been great to see but there is still a long way to go. Currently, there are only a handful of great bars. This will slowly spread and the more people are exposed to better drinks it will eventually be ubiquitous and expected.

Favourite Cocktail
Last Word. It is a classic Detroit Athletic Club drink and it is simply perfect. An equal parts cocktail with gin, lime, green chartreuse, and maraschino creates the perfect balance with tart, refreshing, and herbaceous notes.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
I like to use everything. The fun of creating new drinks is to highlight and the flavours of different spirits. But if I had to choose, I would lean towards whiskey.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
We have a couple shrubs on our non-alcoholic menu. This classic New England ingredient gives the freshness of fruit with a balance of tart from the vinegar.

One cocktail you will recommend at Miss T
Barrel Aged Society St is a Manhattan with a variation. It is inspired from my time in Charleston, USA. The cocktail has a bourbon base, some cognac for a French influence, Antiqua vermouth and a house-made creme de pêche (South Carolina is the largest producer of peaches in the world). It is all aged together in new oak barrels adding a nice smooth balance and subtlety.


Also Read: Peachy! Here’s How to Buy and Store So You Eat the Juiciest Fruit


Varun Sudhakar
Typhoon Shelter

Varun Sudhakar spent more than five years behind the bar at Aer, Mumbai’s favourite rooftop bar at Four Season’s Mumbai. After winning Diageo World Class Best Bartender two years in a row, the world was Varun Sudhakar’s oyster. Today he is the head of innovation and operation at Gourmet Investments—the company operates the The Project Series as well as Typhoon Shelter. Sudhakar can often be found at the latter getting his groove on behind the bar and is worth the watch!


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
Last five years have been the best for bartending in India. More and more bartenders have been exposed to international events and competitions, which has helped changed the quality of bars. Bars in India can now compete with any other international bars in the Middle East, Europe, and South East Asia.
Today, bartending in India is moving towards a more curative and exclusive path with craft cocktails, cordials, bitters, vermouth and a lot more, extensively created on an outlet level. If regulated distillation is allowed on bars (only brewing is happening in specific regions of India). Bars in India can go a notch higher and the possibilities of curating specific spirits for cocktails with a lot of ingredients (herbs, fruits, vegetables) can increase.

Favourite Cocktail
Negroni—it's simple to make, hard to get the balance correct and can be consumed for any occasion.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
Rum in its different variations would be my personal spirit of choice. 

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Definitely pineapple, it is one of the most versatile ingredients and goes well with almost any spirit.

One cocktail you will recommend at Typhoon Shelter

Drunken Rose at Typhoon Shelter is inspired by the tea drinking culture in China. It has a special balance of flavours created using a dry rose tisane infusion combined with umeshu and sweet vermouth.  


Also Read: Cocktails with a Twist to Shake Things Up

 

Rohit Hegde
The Daily Bar and Kitchen

From Mangalore to Mumbai, young Rohit Hegde’s journey has been an eventful one. From being a cashier at a restaurant at the young age of 18-years-old to being the head bartender at one of Mumbai’s hippest bars, Hegde has taken every opportunity to grow and evolve. He says that The Daily Bar & Kitchen has given him the chance to explore and create and now he is heading operations for The Daily Mumbai as well as Pune.


Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
Alcohol consumption has drastically evolved over the years since consumers are showing interest in innovative, experimental options; making the jobs of Indian bartenders more than just opening beer caps. Bartenders are now pushing themselves to gain skills to craft appealing drinks to up their mixology game.
India is so culturally rich, and the cuisines are filled with unique flavours; it surely gives Indian bartenders’ the chance to concoct drinks from locally sourced ingredients. It won’t be long till Indian bartenders getting their respected restaurants placed in the world's top 50 cocktail bars list in the coming years.

Favourite Cocktail
My favourite cocktail is the Margarita because of the warmth of the tequila mixed with tangy and luscious citrus flavours with the crunchy salt rim just gets me going. It's so well balanced that I can feel all the flavours just calling out to me.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
For me it's always been gin because I love to play with the flavours that are already present in them. The botanicals are so well macerated that helps the other flavours create a balanced cocktail.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
Personally speaking, Elderflower makes for a perfect flavour for me. It has that interesting, herby flavour and has a slight sweet finish that ends on a musky note.

One cocktail you will recommend at The Daily Kitchen & Bar
I would recommend the ‘What the Wow’ cocktail. It's been the bestseller at The Daily and it was invented at the bar itself; it’s my personal favourite too.

Also Read: Health Meets Gourmand at The Daily Bar and Kitchen

 

Smrutesh Pitale
Bastian and One Street


Image courtesy: BLANK

Then and Now: Evolution of the Indian Bartender
Bartending in India has evolved along with the booming cocktail culture. Consumers in India are always looking for novel exclusive experiences, which has further helped push bartending in India. From a culture that relied heavily on classics to an experimental one where innovation with spirits is of prime importance. There’s also better access to source a wide range of ingredients, locally and otherwise, which has been of immense help to learn about and explore newer flavour profiles.
The sky is the limit for bartenders in India! Thanks to our rich and diverse culinary practices, there’s a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped into when it comes to creating innovative combinations or playing with existing flavour profiles and take flavours rooted in all things Indian to a global scale.

Favourite Cocktail
Berry Pistachio Martini as it uses natural and fresh ingredients to create a simple drink that is both refreshing and unique.

Spirit of Choice When Mixing a Drink
Gin or vodka as they are neutral bases allowing room for creativity with mixers, flavours, spices.

Your Go-To Flavour in a Cocktail
I enjoy incorporating herbs in cocktails. A little goes a long way and helps bring an added element to the whole cocktail experience. Its versatile too–one can choose to infuse herbs with spirits like gin or vodka, make syrups to flavour classic recipes or simply torch a sprig of sage to impart a delicious smokiness to the flavour and nose of the drink.

One cocktail you will recommend at Bastian/One Street
Island of Martinique at Bastian. It is a rum-based tiki cocktail. This drink is a play on the classic Martini and uses cachaca, Bacardi gold, honey, housemade falernum along with fresh citrus flavours.
The Musk at One Street focuses on using local, seasonal fruits, Chef Kelvin Cheung created a play on gazpacho using a blend of melon, almonds and olive oil. We shook things up, literally, by adding a musk melon infused tequila and grapes!


Featured Image: Shutterstock.com

 

 

 


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