A Glimpse of Bartending in India

A Glimpse of Bartending in India

Bartending in India has witnessed quite a revolutionary ardour in recent times. A profession which has endured through time, transforming itself to scale up from where it was, to where it stands at present. The journey of Bartending in India was more of an adventure than a challenge. You can term it adventurous, as it was totally driven by passionate individuals having an unconditional love for Bartending.

How can one become a bartender? What does a bartender do? How easy or difficult is it to be a bartender? Can I be a part-time bartender? With all these questions, there seems a sudden enthusiasm generating towards bartending. But is it all that simple?

As a profession, bartending took its time in grabbing attention. In fact, it took decades to accomplish it as a serious profession in India. Like every new thing, the Initial phase was the most challenging era. Making it extremely challenging for bartending and bartenders to draw the right attention it deserved.

Being a bartender.

Being a professional DJ, It felt a little bit sore letting go of the DJ tag. A profession which could make you feel like the king of the world. For all the time spent on the console with the crowd going crazy to your tunes. Giving you a sense of hysteria. An effort which took a decade in the making is never easy to let go.

At Beyond Elrancho-Dubai (2004)

It was a tough decision but made easy with my sibling already head deep in bartending. A well-renowned bartender in India. But even with all this, it still was not an easy switch to make. Bartending was not at all anywhere close to what it is at present.

The start was the hardest part of the journey. Like every other layperson, I too was a bit sceptical in taking the plunge. The sense of transformation for DJ to be a Bartender felt like a drastic makeover, which consumed a few years to digest. It took a while in realising the intensity involved in being a bartender. But once I did,  it was a different ball game altogether.

Bartending in India

A country with a rich history behind it. Much of what I would be the right person to narrate. But when it comes to bartending in India, I was fortunate enough to be associated with some of the best in the bartending business since 1999. Bartending, which has crawled up the long route to finally find it’s rightful place where it stands at present. Credit here is to be given to individuals for shaping bartending to what it is at present.

Shatbhi Basu

Being closely associated with Rohan Carvalho turned out a big assist in perceiving the bartending industry. Many individuals have rendered an important contributing towards accomplishing bartending in the bar industry. Shatbhi Basu, Yangdup Lama, Sandy Verma, the senior most in the industry. Rohan Carvalho, Shawn D’Souza, Binny Dhadwal, Ankit Negandhi, Clayton Gracias, Ami Shroff, the ones I can think, of the many to add.

A country filled with talent. If pointed out correctly, has a huge contribution towards the global IT sector. But then when it comes to bartending in India, let alone making a career it came with a stigma attached. Something the society in large was responsible for.

Yangdup Lama

With there being no specific qualification required to be a bartender. The entire modus of operation was about pouring a small ( 30ml) and large(60ml) and some very basic cocktail. Mojito and Bloody Mary being the dominant ones. Bartending, never been considered a skill thing, and neither were the bartenders.

But the three most senior bartenders of India (Shatbhi Basu, Yangdup Lama, Sandy Verma) had a whole different view. Fighting the odds and keeping the flame burning. Which helped in opening up a whole new dimension for the bartending industry.

Sandy Verma

Flashback two decades ago 1997. Computers were taking over the globe and India wasn’t willing to be left behind. New professions were being introduced in India. Besides doctors and engineers, software professional was on the rise. And everyone wanted a piece of the cake. Software professional was the next big thing.

But with all this changes happening around. Bartending in India, which was always there but never seem to exist as a serious profession was craving for some attention. But the stigma attached to it was too humongous to overcome. Things weren’t looking very much exciting on the bartender’s front, still limiting itself to pouring straight drinks and very few basic cocktails.

Sandy Verma with the first batch of India’s Flair Bartenders (2003).

In was in early 2000 where Flair Bartending started making an in-rows in India. This resulted in bartending getting its much-deserved attention. With Flair Bartending finally finding its way in India, bartending now took a different stature.

Flair turned out to be a major game changer for bartending. With the introduction of Flair, there arose a newborn interest in bartending. And unexpectedly Flair Bartending opened a ray of hope for the bartending profession in India.

Flair brought the missing glitter to bartending, which it so desperately had been waiting for. This succeeding in drawing the much-required attention. Yet, not good enough to be considered as a full-time profession. But it provided bartenders and bartending with the required efficiency needed to set the ball rolling.

Rohan Carvalho, Brenden Rodrigues, Clayton Gracias (2008)

The new look Bartender was now on a roll. Flipping bottles was now the new allure in bartending and it had a contagious effect with the bartenders. With almost every bartender eager to try their hands in Flair. But Flair was not something easy to do. It demanded long hours of practice.

The guest also took a liking toward Flair. Flair played its role in cocktails as well. It made the cocktails look good, without being a part of the recipe. And with Flair, there was a sudden wave of excitement in bartending. With everyone now committed to throwing bottles up in the air and catching it. Things were now looking brighter. But not every bottle thrown in the air was Flair.

Bartending in india
Rohan Carvalho – India’s first Flair Bartending Champion (2003)

The era of 2003 witnessed some mind wobbling Flair bartenders. I can still recall a few of them. Rohan Carvalho( 1st Flair bartending champion of India), Shawn D’Souza. Ryan Acharya, Ankit Negandhi, Mehandi, Brendan Rodrigues, Nick(Nicolas), Clayton Gracias, Ami Shroff, Binny Dhadwal to name a few I personally know of the many that were responsible for setting Flair as a new trend in bartending.

Flair soon helped in catching the eyes of some major global alcohol brands. Which showed great interest in promoting Flair Bartending. Resulting in one after another Flair bartending competition taking place. The first All India National Flair Bartending competition was organised by Sandy Verma in 2003. This helped in providing the much-required platform for Flair bartenders. With the introduction of competition, the ranking games began.

Rohan Carvalho with Shawn D’souza at the Cannes Film Awards (2009)

This lead to a sweet rivalry between Rohan Carvalho and Shawn Dsouza. And most of the bartending fraternity grew a pleasant liking towards the newly found rivalry in bartending. I once heard “Sachin Tendulkar” mention in a television interview “ healthy rivalry is good for the game”.

And such being the rivalry between Rohan Carvalho and Shawn D’souza in Flair Bartending. Rohan went on to win 4 nation title and Shawn managed to beat him once, to win his maiden national bartending title. Both best of friends (which they still remain till date) and competition rivals. A rare find these days.

Bartending in india
Rohan Carvalho and Shawn Dsouza with their kids (2018).

Surprisingly, like everything else Flair bartending came with its shelf life or at least in India. The five years witnessed some awesome Flair bartending. The glitter was now slowly fading. But with it rose a new realm, “cocktails”. The show having to move on, making way for Mixologist. And they displayed some great skills in making the cocktails talk.

Shawn D’souza, Mehandi, Ami Shroff, Clayton Gracias( Bacardi Grand Prix Regional Winner) 2006

A part where most of the Flair bartender if not all of them missed. Cocktails like always will stay an integral part of the bar and bartending. With the mixologist taking over, evoked the new era of innovation in cocktails. The bar, now moved further ahead of a straight drink or mojito. The mixologists were now displaying some new found skill and some fantastic use of ingredients in churning some mind-blowing cocktails. Resulting in some stunning cocktails. The mixologist was now taking cocktails to a whole new level.

Mehandi, Binny And Nickolas ( 2005 )

The cocktails were making a great impact on the bar and on the guest. The effort of the bartender again didn’t go unnoticed here as well. With the guest now taking a liking for cocktails, a fresh trend taking was shaping up. The mixologist enjoying the challenge exhibiting their new found skills. Signature cocktails finding its way in every bar menu across the country.

The glitter from the Flair bartending which started it had now passed on the shine to the mixologist. The sparkle demanded attention, and the brands followed very soon. The Grand Prix now making way for the Legacy. The bar competition now moving from Flair bartending to mixology bartending, adding new heights in Mixology Bartending.

And with social media, came the new art of bartending. Glassware and presentation now playing an important part in cocktails. Cocktails now not only had to taste but also look good. Challenge accepted. And the result was at par with the best.

Foxtrot Gastropub Marathahalli. Bangalore

The passing years have witnessed Indian bartenders standing shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world. The land of spices had now managed to grab attention from across the globe. The country responsible for introducing pepper to the world was now doing the same with bartenders and cocktails.

With every new trend being introduced in bartending. India has managed to keep up to the standards. The world can no longer ignore the land of spice. Also as a bartending blog site www.barsqaure.in has managed to make it to top 57 bartenders blogging sites on the web.

Bartending in India has always been a challenging profession. Changing the mindset being one of the biggest challenge faced in India, which still lingers and has not been completely eradicated. As a profession, bartending is Something the society still in large feels hard to digest. Nonetheless, all this has not affected the morale of the upcoming bartenders, driven more my passion than anything else.

The baton still with the mixologist and the finish line is nowhere in sight. The baton will have to move on, but not anywhere in the near future. What is next, no one can predict. Maybe a merger of Flair and mixology? But cocktails has and will always be a core part when it comes to bartending. The era of the mixologist still reigns, with the standards getting better and better with every passing day.

ranson-carvalho-barsquare-Belverede-vodka-natural-relearn
Ranson Carvalho (2018)

Cheers!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “A Glimpse of Bartending in India

  1. William

    Good article and very insightful!

    1. admin

      Thank you, William.

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