The Art of Mixing

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When it comes to bartending, there are many things that can be learnt from those with years of experience behind them. The very art of bartending has blossomed in recent years and has come to be known as ‘mixology’– the science of preparing cocktails. One such person who has seen this evolution is Yangdup Lama. With over 14 years behind the bar and several bartending awards to his name, Lama saw it all– the highs and the lows and new trends in the industry right up to the establishment of his own bartending academy.

“I completed my hotel management course in 1995 and was looking to get a job in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, which led me to join the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi. My first assignment was not as a bartender, but to work at the bar serving drinks. After three months of working in various areas of the bar, from requisition of stores to setting up back stations, I realised I wanted to learn bartending and take it up as a full-time career. I took refuge in my two gurus, Laval Lim Hon of the Waikiki cocktail bar, Spain (a visiting bar consultant and trainer from Hyatt International), and Atul Bhola, my senior bartender at the Polo Lounge,” explains Lama. He looks back at his earlier days saying, “It took me almost six months to get my first break. One of the key reasons then was the fact that most of us in India never realised the importance of a good bartender to successfully run a bar, and that bartending could even be a profession!”
In 1999, Lama took the plunge and gave up his job as a bar captain with the Hyatt and established Cocktails & Dreams, a mobile bartending and beverage consultancy company and bartending academy with a vision that the F&B industry would go through a drastic change, requiring specialists to deliver in the years to come. The bartending industry is a lucrative one, feels Lama. “The job has started to pay off very well these days as compared to
a few years back. It will only get better with time as new mixologists emerge and consumer awareness develops. Today, a good bartender could start off with a basic package of Rs.15,000- Rs.20,000, plus service charge and could go as high as Rs.1,00,000,” he says.
“One of the key skills that an aspiring bartender should have is the art of good communication. It is the key to professional bartending because bartenders cannot be boring and must be open to conversation to keep the bar alive for people around,” explains Lama.

When asked about his thoughts on the growing number of women in this field, he says, “In the past we had enrolled 12 girls in the bartending course who have gone on to do very well in the industry, working for bars as well as for liquor marketing companies. We also have a lady enrolled in the ongoing batch who is a dentist by profession! However, I still feel there are not many girls taking up bartending unlike the West, simply because of safety concerns. Hopefully things will change for the better and we will see many more girls taking up the trade,” says an optimistic Lama.

Lama signs off with a piece of advice for young, aspiring bartenders: “Today’s world is all about where your interest lies. Whatever you do, give it your best shot. I see a lot of young people coming to our school to seek admission but most of them have a wrong notion that bartending is all fun and no work. The real stuff is all about hard work and sacrifice. The first few years of a young professional’s life are about experimenting and then taking a strong decision about where one wants to be. It’s a competitive world our there but it can only get better if you are really passionate about what you do.”

Volume 1 Issue 11

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