Behind counter: More women breaching gender 'bar'

Women bar tenders

She "mixes" her vodka and cranberry juice at the counter with "flair" - a flourish of her hand that sends the bottle of vodka high up into the air. The bottle cuts a smooth arc above her head to make a safe landing on the back of her palm. And then she tosses a few pegs into the glass.
"I have been bartending for the last one and a half years. I have attended a bartending school, Bar Square, in Chennai, and I love the job. It pays well," the teenaged Class 12 student of Nepali origin told IANS in the capital.
Sani has qualified as a finalist for the Bacardi Martini Grand Prix 2009 bartending competition. Three women made it to the final rounds of the contest last week after competing with men in the general category.

Welcome to the world of women bartenders - a small but growing tribe in Indian pubs and five-star hotels across metros - who are proving their mettle in juggling, tossing and mixing drinks in a man's world and pushing new gender frontiers.
But restrictions on women in the trade persist as every state in India has "specific bar hours" and views about women manning bars.
Dipanita Mohanty, 22, who works at the coffee shop in Marriott Hotel in Hyderabad, is a talented "mixologist".

"I became a mixologist by chance, but I do not regret it for a moment. I used to work at the coffee shop and started experimenting with beverages when guests demanded something to drink. It had to be something new," Dipanita told IANS.
A hotel management graduate from Nagpur, Dipanita feels bartending is a lucrative profession for women.

"There is no discrimination, especially in high-end hotels. More women should take up bartending as a profession because they draw attention to themselves and soon become the darlings of the bar. Business booms," she said.
"Initially my parents were full of misgivings, but now mom tastes the drinks that I mix," she says.
Yangdup Lama, a professional Delhi-based bartender, who owns "Cocktails & Dreams", a bartending school at Safdarjung Enclave, feels bartending is not just mixing and serving drinks.
"It is about character. As a woman, a bartender brings a lot of life to a bar. So, 50 percent of the job is done when a woman is behind the counter. All she needs is to get the other 50 percent right - the skill of mixing drinks and blending a bit of flaring or acrobatics with it," he explains.
Lama has two girls in his class of 15 students this academic season, which has just begun.
Bartending can be of two types - flair and mixology, says the instructor.
"Flair is the practice of entertaining guests (while mixing drinks) with bar tools like cocktail shakers and liquor bottles like a juggler. Flair is common in high-decibel cocktail bars. Mixology, on the other hand, is the fine art of mixing drinks with creativity," he says.
"Girls are good at both because they are thoughtful by nature. But female bartenders must have these essential traits - a mature mind, a sense of restraint - when to stop and how close to get to a client, good communication skill, smart body language and an idea about the product, which is sensitive," Lama says.

Twenty-six-year-old Grace Thapa, a senior bartender at the Ecstasy Lounge and Restaurant in Bhubaneswar, feels the job is glamorous. "I meet a lot of good people and more girls should take up the challenge," Grace says.

She is self-taught. "I learnt fire juggling of bottles from my trainer at the hotel," says Grace, who performs a five-minute fire show for her clients every day. "Bartending is not a profession to be frowned upon. Women are safe," she says.

Mumbai-based Shatbhi Basu, celebrity bartender and trainer, feels "more women should be encouraged to work behind the bar counters because they are innovative by nature".
Arvind Krishnan, all-India marketing controller of Bacardi, says: "The trends are changing and more women are coming to work in bars from towns like Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar. They find the environment safer because of the changing client profile. Women and youngsters make up a large percentage of bar-hoppers, making it easy for girls to operate behind the counter."

The capital in 2007 overturned a 1914 British law that prohibited women from tending bars.

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