Stir, shake and innovate is city bartenders’ mantra

On World Cocktail Day, mixologists tell Metrolife what it takes to excel in the business

Vedant Mehra

In a city that has the most number of breweries, you’d think beer rules and cocktails don’t have a place. That’s not so. A cocktail culture thrives alongside the city’s pub culture.

Roystine
Roystine

What does it take to be a good bartender with a flair for cocktails?

Roystine, head bartender of The Reservoire in Koramangala, has been part of the industry for about five years. “When I first started out, people weren’t too excited about trying cocktails as they assumed all of them were sweet. We saw that as an opportunity and showcased bitter, sweet and sour in-house syrups,” he says. 

When cocktails are made with fresh ingredients, guests are open to trying them out. “The younger crowd likes to experiment. We even ask some guests to make their own cocktails, with shakers and everything,” Roystine adds.

Victor Salter
Victor Salter

 Vodka-based cocktails are common, but Victor Salter, general manager and mixologist, Three Dots And A Dash, says rum is popular too. 

“Bacardi Gold rum-mixed drinks are what people mostly order here. Customers want something fun and different. While beer is popular, it tends to fill you up faster. Cocktails don’t do that,” he says.

In order to continue experimenting, mixologists sign up for global competitions. Vedant Mehra, mixologist with Bootlegger, won the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition this year, with an innovation called ‘Limitless’.

The cocktail is based on the idea of sustainability, and he made his drink with an ingredient usually discarded — the banana peel.

“It’s a part of the banana that is never used so I thought I’d work with it. I tried cooking, frying and adding sugar syrup to it. But what finally worked was when I made a syrup from the white part of the peel. It doesn’t give a sweet flavour, and that was just what I was looking for,” he says. ‘Limitless’ contains rum, banana peel syrup, Martini Rosso and bitter. He used the rest of the peel to make crisp chips.

Rohan Matmary
Rohan Matmary

In the seven years, Rohan Matmary of Byg Brewski Brewing Co and GYLT has been in the industry, he has taken part in several competitions. 

His latest creation is called ‘The Crown’ and it has been doing the rounds across the country. The drink contains whiskey, edible gold, elderflower and thyme. “Tall whiskey drinks are also a trend and they are refreshing. Just in the past month, we have sold about 2,000 of these cocktails at our bar,” he says.

So how difficult is it to keep innovating and creating new cocktails? “Honestly, in the city, people are more than happy to try new drinks, but they don’t want to spend a lot on it. So as mixologists, we are always looking to create something that is budget-friendly and enjoyable,” explains Rohan.

Life of a bartender

In Hollywood movies, bartenders speak to lonely drinkers, and offer advice and solace. How does it work in Bengaluru?

Do bartenders automatically become therapists?

Unfortunately, no. But the trend of customers always asking for a table is slowly changing, with some enjoying just sitting by the bar.

What is the life of a bartender like?

It’s fun but long hours. You mostly come in around 2 pm and are around till about 2 am. But unlike a chef or others working in the restaurant, a bartender can strike up a conversation.

What is the money like?

It varies from place to place. You have your direct pay, service charges and tips. With all that, you can live a pretty decent life.

How do you deal with drunk customers?

It is one of the most important things bartenders should know. You might enjoy the large crowd as you get to make more drinks. But you should know when the crowd is going out of control. You have to be alert, especially during the weekends, and brunches and private parties.

Bartending isn’t that hard a job….

True, but it’s not for everyone either. You need to have an understanding of the drinks, what works with what, and be innovative. Learning a few counter tricks is also necessary. So yes, it’s not that hard but is it for you?

(Questions answered by bartenders Vedant of Bootlegger and Victor Salter of Three Dots And A Dash)

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