Written by Pia Krishnakutty
With new bars and restaurants popping up in the city frequently, bartenders need to ‘mix’ their skills up to compete in Mumbai’s growing nightlife industry. The solution: Becoming a mixologist — a step-up from pouring drinks to making uniquely flavoured cocktails.
Thane-based connoisseur Priyanka Devsaria (31) has been teaching cocktail theory and practicals to over 200 students since 2016. “Guests get really excited when you tell them small facts while making their cocktail, even if it’s the difference in pH levels between lime and lemon. Knowing the details and ingredients that go into a drink come in handy for bartenders and also to help them can make unique alcoholic pairings of their own,” said Devsaria, one of the three trainers at Flair-O-Logy Bar School, Vile Parle East.
Earning about Rs 30,000 for her expertise, Devsaria teaches mixology courses on alcohol, cocktails and beverages. Classes usually take place at ‘dummy bars’ where students can practice their skills. While history and physical properties of spirits are part of her main classes, measurements, understanding the range of glasses and even holding a shaker are taught as part of the ‘basic’ course.
“Proper handling of tools in the rush of service is another important skill I help people develop. The Hawthorne strainer, for example, needs to be handled with care because it has a little spring that helps finely strain ice and fruit pulp,” said Devsaria. She also conducts small scale master classes separately, wherein if a restaurant is introducing a new whisky, she is brought in to teach the bartenders about it.
With a background in hotel management and bar assistance, Devsaria has worked at leading five-star hotels before pursuing bartending in 2013.
According to her, mixology and bartending only recently received recognition outside the service industry. “In 2008 and 2009, the word bartender was not a position or designation in any five-star hotel I worked at. Women bartenders were even fewer. Now, in my classes, of 15, there are two or three women, which is a great improvement.”
While some of the people she teaches have cleared Class X and XII, most looking to switch careers and start their own bars and restaurants.