A luxury spin and substantive investments in the alcohol business has converted bars into a lucrative business, changing the very nature of bartending.
India doesn’t just have a host of luxury standalone bars—a transformation from the time when a ‘fine drinking’ experience could be had only in five-star hotels—but also a nightlife convention.
It hosts a local edition of the acclaimed bartending competition, the ‘World Class Bartender of the Year’, organised by the World Class Club.
The winner gets to compete with the best in the world.
Lauren Mote, Diageo Global Cocktailian, Reserve Brand Ambassador, and one of the judges at the World Class Bartender competition terms the era we live in, as a Belle Époque (Golden Age) of cocktail culture.
“Never before we had access to as many spirits, categories and flavours in as many countries. We now have the ability to drink better, make better choices about ingredients and spirits, who we drink and dine with, where we do so, and when those moments are,” she said.
Over the last nine years World Class Club, in partnership with Diageo Reserve Collection, has supported and trained over 3,00,000 bartenders.
“From tracking trends to documenting industry insight, from creating new-age cocktail recipes to revival of the classics, their job clearly is to ensure that fine drinking, much like fine dining, enjoys its moment in the sun,” said the bartender, who won the World Class Canada in 2015.
“At the heart of the World Class Program are the Diageo Reserve brands that include several heritage brands steeped in craftsmanship and authenticity,” the bartender said.
This year, over 55 of the world’s finest bartenders will compete for the top spot at the competition in Berlin.
Among them is Gaurav Dhyani, formerly of the Whisky Bar in Gurugram and now with Perch Wine & Coffee Bar, chosen from 250 bartenders who contested in the Indian edition.
The bartenders have a theme to play with and this year, it was ‘Resourceful Bartending’.
“My focus was on an innovative blend and meticulous execution,” said Dhyani.
His award-winning ‘Reverence the Bygone’ was a blend of Singleton of Glen Ord, Pomegranate Saccharum, Elderflower liqueur, Drambuie and Jasmine Aerosol.
“I put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker except jasmine aerosol, added ice, shook hard and double strained into a chilled coupe glass. Then, I sprayed some jasmine aerosol on top of glass and served it with sour lavashak (pomegranate and plum leather) on side."
"In keeping with the theme, the Pomegranate saccharum was made by overnight storing oranges peel of three fruits with 15 bar spoons of castor sugar in an airtight bag and adding fresh pomegranate juice to it in the morning,” Dhyani said.
For the main competition in Berlin in October, Dhyani is heading back home, in Uttarakhand, to forage in his backyard for ingredients such as Himalayan lemon, mint and a lot of other spices and Indian herbs.
Mote, who was in India for the competition, tells CNBCTV18.com a thing or two about resourceful bartending and the biggest trends from the innovative world of global bartending.
How would you define resourceful bartending?
Being a “Resourceful Bartender” means you’re looking at every ingredient, every move and every service thoughtfully.
Bartenders are part of a global network—along with chefs, artisan producers and farmers, who help reduce waste and single-use plastics, and challenge where our food and produce come from.
We touch the lives of well-travelled, well-dined and well-educated people each day on both sides of the bar with the power of our stories and flavours.
Identifying sustainability issues within our immediate environment and finding solutions becomes the key to being resourceful.
(The trend across the world) is to create a community garden with other bars, populated with seeds from a nursery or horticulturalist. The produce can later be used in your venue.
Develop a cocktail using everything, from the root to flower or root to tip, in the most efficient (and delicious) way possible. Go local—look around your area and think of ways you can champion local produce to reduce your carbon footprint and support your community.
What is the bar scene like back home in Canada?
Coast to coast, we have diverse and exciting cities and people, helping to define what it means to “eat and drink Canadian”.
Our country was built on immigration, and those families and cultures have stayed true to their roots, bringing those flavours and rituals along with them and teaching them to others.
Because of this, each city has its own identity—a blend of homegrown and international flavours, different techniques and communication styles, making the food and drink unique, inspired, creative, imaginative and delicious.
It’s not uncommon to walk into a bar anywhere in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal or Halifax and see a blend of team members from all over the world, different personalities and styles.
Which city do you think has the coolest nightlife and the best bars? And why? Name some of your favourite bars across the world.
There have been a few amazing bars and places that I’ve been in the world, and all for different reasons. We hosted the World Class Colombia Finals’ after-party at a club called Bolivar, in Medellin, where we danced to reggaetón all night with the bartending community. We had similar moments with the teams in Sao Paulo, Brazil at La Guilhotina and Sub Astor Bars. I loved spending time at Coldroom in Montreal, Canada and Herbs & Rye in Las Vegas.
What are the cocktail trends for 2018?
At the World Class Bartender of the Year global finals in 2017, I had the opportunity to present a trends seminar alongside other important figures from our global industry. We identified a number of key trends set to hit the bar scene in 2018:
Sustainability: The world is waking up to the impact their choices have on the environment, and sustainable practices and ingredients are becoming increasingly important. Signature serves: The world’s best bars are already ‘must-visit’ destinations for drink-savvy tourists. We expect to see a rise in signature serves in 2018 as bar owners come to appreciate the value in letting their talented mixologists strive to create unique drink experiences. Culinary cocktails: We have been waiting for bartenders and chefs to start collaborating on flavour development. Bartenders are using classical culinary techniques as a new way (for the bar) to preserve, extract and develop flavours. With the rise in the last decade of celebrity chefs, enlightened mixologists will experiment with flavours, ingredients and techniques from their peers in the world of fine dining. Deepali Nandwani is a journalist who who keeps a close watch on the world of luxury.