It’s quite a heady mix!

Vedant Mehra, the winner of one of the world’s largest cocktail competitions, tells Jisha Krishnan about the many joys & challenges of mastering the art of making delightful cocktails

Vedant Mehra

Getting the opportunity to represent my country of 1.3 billion people on a global platform means the world to me. It’s overwhelming,” admits Vedant Mehra, the winner of the 10th BACARDÍ Legacy Cocktail Competition, one of the world’s largest cocktail contests.

For the young business management graduate from Bengaluru, bartending was a happy accident. A couple of years ago, when he got behind the bar with a few friends to serve guests at a party, he knew that he had found his calling. As the bar manager at Bootlegger, Vedant has represented Bengaluru in numerous national competitions. His latest win takes him to Amsterdam in May to compete against 41 contestants from across the globe. Known for his ‘wow’ cocktails, Vedant’s winning drink, Limitless, is a uniquely delicious mix of Bacardi Carta Oro, Martini Rosso, Angostura bitters and banana peel syrup.

Here are a few edited excerpts from an interaction with the man who always follows his heart:

Are you all set for the global finale?

Limitless cocktail
Limitless cocktail

There are two aspects in consideration for the global finale. First, each bartender has to promote his/her legacy cocktail and build a brand around it. I am currently focusing on this criterion and promoting my Bacardi Cocktail, Limitless, in bars all over the country. Second is the final performance, where the bartender will have to make his cocktail from scratch on a grand stage. This is the part that comes naturally to me. Preparations will involve some practice of bartending technique and, of course, the speech.

Is cocktail-making an art?

It is definitely an art, one that requires a lot of practice and experience. Often, as bartenders, we have to cater to a range of different tastes and preferences, along with the alcohol of choice. This requires us to be quick on our feet and put in a lot of creative thought and execution.

What are the skills needed to become a mixologist?

The two terms mixologist and bartender are a little different from each other. I think we’re all bartenders first, mixologists later. The top five skills would include communication, speed, composure, creativity and good memory.

How important is it to be a ‘people person’?

For a bartender, I think, it is probably the most important personality trait. When you are in the service and hospitality industry, it is indispensable to connect with people and ensure that they are having a good time.

How do you zero in on the ingredients?

I like to choose ingredients with a distinctive taste. Regional ingredients are always my first choice. India is abundant in natural flavours, and Karnataka more so. Lime, sugar and ginger are my all-time favourites. Also, given the rate at which our environment is changing, I believe sustainable ingredients are the best way forward.

Simple or complex — which tastes work better?

In India, the cocktail culture is relatively new and still gaining popularity. People are discovering their preferred taste. So, as much as we would like to get into complex flavours and cocktails, I think we should focus more on simple taste, with a high rate of consistency.

Which is your all-time favourite cocktail?

My all-time favourite cocktail would be the mojito. Not only is it timeless, but it can also be had during any time of the day. It’s a cool, versatile cocktail which works best with rum, along with the crispness of a freshly-squeezed lime and mint, on ice.

What is the hottest trend in mixology?

Currently, global trends are low alcohol by volume cocktails. Which basically mean cocktails with a lesser amount of alcohol than usual. Non-alcoholic or zero-proof cocktails are also a trend gaining popularity.

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