Bartending: Cheerful new era vocation

With the leisure and entertainment industry booming, the bartending profession has moved to centre stage
With the Indian economy leapfrogging, leisure, and entertainment industry in India is booming. New hotels, bars, restaurants, discotheques, and night clubs are mushrooming across the country even as private soirees of the multiplying rich and famous are becoming more flamboyant and imaginative by the day. This leisure and entertainment boom has spawned a new career of the 21st century: professional bartending.

Shaken, stirred, or tossed? The bartenders profession has moved to centre stage with the bar counter occupying pride of place in most adult leisure and entertainment centres. With the liberalisation of the economy there is a rising demand in the leisure, travel, and entertainment industries for professional bartenders adept at manoeuvering shakers and stirrers and endowed with unprecedented knowledge of Mojitos, Caprinhas, Daiquiris, Margaritas, which need to be juggled, muddled, or splashed.

In short, bartending has evolved into a stimulating and viable career with good bartenders having emerged as minor celebrities in their own right. Duties of a bartender range from keeping the bar clean and attractive to mixing drinks and maintaining the inventory. Alcohol-based beverages are expensive and every drop in the inventory has to be accounted for. Moreover, bartenders need to be knowledgeable, and know the art of mixing drinks and cocktails for customers after assessing their moods and preferences.

The essential qualities required of a professional bartender are honesty (as he has to handle a lot of cash), sociability, patience, a good sense of humour, personal sobriety, and the ability to learn continuously to keep abreast of developments in this field. In particular, product knowledge is imperative — unless they know their liquor and concoctions, they cant be successful bartenders. Equally important is awareness of popular cocktail trends and learning to handle assorted glassware while serving customers.

Hitherto bartenders were obliged to learn by doing on the job — often at the cost of customers. Later, though hotel management and catering institutes taught the basics of bartending, the practical aspects of the vocation were totally neglected. But this void has been filled with Shatbi Basu, the first woman bartender, having established Indias first bartending academy, the Stir Academy of Bartending in Mumbai, seven years ago. The Hospitality Training Institute, Mumbai, offers amateur bartending training sessions every fortnight. Another welcome addition is the IIBT — Indian Institute of Bartending, Chennai, which offers short and long-term courses.

TOP-DOLLAR PAY PACKAGES. With the moral opprobrium associated with social drinking having dissipated, particularly in urban India, hotels and restaurants are constantly on the lookout for bartenders who are not only proficient behind the bar but who are also ‘performance or ‘flair oriented. Apart from mixing drinks, this new tribe is proficient in acrobatics like dancing and juggling glasses and bottles in the air. Moreover, there is an increasing demand for bartenders on leisure cruise liners which pay top-dollar pay package of Rs.35,000 per month. Private party animals paying between Rs.5,000–20,000 per night is commonplace in the metros.

A barman who can strike a rapport and offer a great cocktail menu is a rare individual. His job is to liven up the atmosphere, and help customers and guests to appreciate their drinks. Once upon a time, bartenders were frowned upon. But social attitudes and peoples outlook have changed radically. These days customers not only engage in personal interaction with us, but also give our skills due recognition,” says Eric Lobo, beverage and bar consultant to some of the top night clubs, bars and restaurants in Mumbai.

A self-taught bartending professional, Lobo has perfected his skills into a fine art over two decades. He started his career in 1983 in The Village, the open-air restaurant of Hotel Central Park and later moved to Hotel President where he worked for 13 years. In 1999, he signed up with restaurateur Rahul Akerkars popular, Indigo restaurant in south Mumbai to establish Indias first ‘restobar.

In 2002, Lobo signed up with vintner and restaurateur Vikram Chougule, promoter-chairman of Chateau Indage as corporate beverages head of Indage Hotels. Lobo is now planning to open a bartending school at the World Trade Centre, Mumbai, which will offer intensive courses in bartending.

Not surprisingly Lobo believes this is a vocation with a great future. Theres no recession in this industry. With import duties plunging, more variety is available with multinational liquor corporates going all out to promote their brands. Bartending is becoming one of the highest paid professions. Theres a terrific future in this career,” he predicts.

Cheers!

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