“Making cocktails is an opportunity to perform, to showcase your skills. Try not to mess it up,” says Vinit Udyavar who works as a bartender at AER Bar and Lounge. AER is located high up on the 33rd floor of the Four Seasons building in the Upper-Worli area. It has a magnificent view of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse and as the sun sets slowly over the sea, the lounge is flooded with its rays.
It is about 5 pm and the bar is just opening for customers. Vinit has been a bartender at AER since the last year. He preps up to face another shift that will run into the night.
Vinit is an alumnus of St Xavier’s School and has trained at the Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai. He also has a Diploma from Cocktails and Dreams Institute, Khar, and is a certified bartender. Always attracted to glamour professions, he found his space in bartending after his previous career aspirations of becoming a hairstylist and a photographer fell through.
He hails from a family well versed in the hospitality industry. His uncle is a veteran of the industry and his father always encouraged him to follow his interests. He first trained to be a server at AER but put all his energy into becoming a bartender, after catching a glimpse into the life of bartenders at AER.
Vinit has worked behind the bar at multiple heavyweight hotels, gaining expertise, exposure and developing his craft. Under his belt are names like Ellipsis in Colaba, J W Marriott in Pune, and Taj hotels in Panjim, Goa. He has spent a little over a year at each location. “When you travel to different places, you get to know different people, their cultures and their cocktail. The exposure is really good.”
His days at the AER start at 2.30 pm, with shifts running up to 1.30 am on weekdays. On weekends, “the bar shuts when the cops come,” he says.
“Bartending cuts into one’s social life. Family time and time with friends has been drastically affected,” says Vinit. “While my friends are out on treks, I’m either working or catching up on sleep.”
However, he has had many memorable experiences at AER, from parties that run into six in the morning to dealing with unruly customers. “We make up to 60 to 70 cocktails on a daily basis, and sometimes go up to 130 cocktails on busy nights.”
Vinit has participated in multiple bartending competitions, having come out at the top in an All-India competition held earlier in March. He considers bartending bigwig Dale Daggroff as his all-time hero. A bike aficionado with an admirable collection, he spends his days off riding in and around the city with groups like Bombay Bikers Club.
To those looking to get into the profession, Vinit says, “Make up your mind, the profession seems easy and fun-loving, but when you get in, you will realise how tough it really is. All it requires is a bit of dedication.”