Diageo World Class Finals 2014 and the Indian bartending story!

Mumbai,India

It was an evening of high energy and higher emotions at the J W Marriott, Mumbai where Varun Sudhakar was adjudged the best bartender second year in a row at the Diageo World Class India finals.  ‘World Class’ Diageo’s property started in 2009 has now become a force in the bartending world which inspires and raises the bar every year and I have been a witness to that in the Indian scene.

The last five at the World Class India finals.  Photo Credit: Vaniitha Jaiin

The last five at the World Class India finals. Photo Credit: Vaniitha Jaiin

World Class 2014 like always was a long and systematic process which went over 3 months.  250 plus bartenders across cities were trained and tested against various parameters which included theory and mixing drinks.  20 bartenders or rather toppers out of the 250 competed at the India finals and the 20 came down to 5 after another round of mixing. The ultimate round was a speed mixing challenge where the participants were expected to make at least 4 and maximum of 8 cocktails in 5 minutes. It was a true test of mental strength and some stood up to it and some shuddered at the moment of truth.  Only one could have emerged victorious and it was Varun from the Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai who represented India in France last year and will again in England this July.

Varun Sudhakar- Double Whammy at World Class India Finals 2014

Varun Sudhakar- Double Whammy at World Class India Finals 2014

Bartending and India:

Bartending in India has undergone a massive transformation over the last 5 years. More and more hoteliers have started to accept and are investing in bartending as a skill. Liquor majors  and importers have played a big part in imparting trainings, conducting competitions, organizing  fam tours at distilleries and importantly  by placing  well travelled and experienced bartenders usually expats in hotel bars to mentor and raise standards to a large extent. Lastly bartending schools like the Tulleeho Academy and Stir have been instrumental in opening up the world of bartending to hopefuls in an informed fashion.

Indian’s yet to raise the bar at the global level!

Indians are fast learners and many of the bartenders have done a great job but then to be renowned at the world stage, we have to get some Indian identity to our style of bartending. Can we come up with a technique, ingredients, an enhancement or something that bolsters India to the global scale? I am sure with the kind of exposure and the creativity in our bartender’s, some of us will surely make a mark and the effect with mothball gradually.

Lastly, Bartending as a career!!

The dilemma lies here; the natural career progression for a bartender is to end up in a supervisory role and then a managerial role. The unfortunate part is that every time they go up the ladder they are distanced from bartending. Can Indian hotels create positions for skilled bartenders and importantly an organizational structure which can help sustain their skill, get them to a higher position and let them churn out good cocktails whilst mentoring others! Otherwise we would end up losing homegrown talent to other countries.

I end with a hope of India making a mark at the World Class Global Finals … Keep Stirring!

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