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BARTRENDER NITIN TEWARI

Jasmeen Dugal  (click here to know more about this blogger)

"A cocktail is not merely a mix of spirits and flavours, it is an epitome of art — taste, skill, presentation and a story to bring it to life." Nitin Tewari

 

The cocktail culture is evolving at a fast pace in India, with mixologists pushing the boundaries. "Bartrender" Nitin Tewari found his calling early in life, visible in his passion, creativity and career graph. In conversation with the co-founder of Together At 12TH

 

When did you first become interested in the cocktail culture?

 

I developed an interest in the art of mixing drinks quite early when I was on a summer break after my Class X board exams. I saw my cousin mixing juices and syrups to make refreshing non-alcoholic drinks; that was the moment I just knew… and I never stopped mixing. From non-alcoholic to drinks to cocktails], it was just a matter of time…

 

There were bartenders and mixologists. You, however, are acclaimed as "bartender". How would you describe what you do?

 

BarTrender is combination of two words — bar and trends. When I started bar tending, and for many years while I was working in India, I realized most bars and bartenders were following footsteps of what has been done globally or what's been done by someone who is influential. I wanted to break away from this ideology and create a wave where bars and bartenders start believing in their own creativity and knowledge and put out a beverage concept which they can proudly present as their own. Hence, BarTrender was born. A bartender setting trends in the market, for me, is a bartender. In this journey I consulted several bars like Ek Bar, Masque, Toast and Tonic, Rooh San Francisco and Talli Joe London… and finally opened my own bar Together At 12th. All these bars have been instrumental in setting a new trend in the world of bars and cocktails. 

 

Tell us about your role as a "bartrender" at 'Together At 12TH.'

 

After consulting several bars, when I decided to open my own place, a true bartrenders bar was born. My team is one of most knowledgeable talented team you can find in any bar and moreover they have all worked with me at some part in their life so we have a great understanding of each others positives, negatives and expectations. So, I give initial directions to the team about a new cocktail we have to create and how we can set a new trend and then they do their research and trials for months to finally come up with a unique concept which blows peoples' mind with its simplicity of flavour albeit an out of the box approach!!

 

What’s a typical work week like?

 

My work week is mix of everything, since I have turned from a person behind the bar to a person running his own bar. My schedule each day is similar — calls, meetings, planning for events etc. We, as a team, do trials each day and then sit and discuss future cocktail ideas or competitions the team is participating in. During service hours I love attending to each guest, taking orders and serving drinks because I believe a cocktail is now not just a liquor, it's an experience, which if not presented correctly guests will not remember for long. 

 

Tell us about your signature cocktails and why they are distinctive.

 

Our current menu is based on 'Memories' of occasions where you were 'Together' with different people in your life, be it friends or family. With each cocktail, we recreate a nostalgic moment with which you can connect the cocktail. Some favourites include 'Travel': when you travel in India you always stop to drink tea, hence in this cocktail we used Assam tea infused in gin. 'Reunion': a cocktail dedicated to college days when you loved drinking old monk and strong drinks like LIIT. This one is a sophisticated LIIT with dark rum and no cola. Served in recycled cola cans, as in college when you spiked Coke bottle with spirits to take inside the hostel without getting caught by the wardens.

 

What are your favorite infusions?

 

We use homemade concoctions at our bar. Some infusions I really like are 1) Assam tea with gin. It can also be consumed straight with tonic water. 2) Mixed berry with gin: a sous vide gin with mixed berries which is a twist to a classic negroni. 3) Blue pea and gin: when you infuse blue pea in gin it turns it deep blue-violet and when you add citrus it changes color to magenta-pink.

 

What do you like about what you do?

 

It's evolving, engaging, it's fast and you have to be smart to understand what your guest needs in his or her cocktail and act quickly. I hate when you have boundaries in what you do and that's why Together At 12TH is a freestyle restaurant and bar. Similarly, as a bartender, you get a chance to be freestyle with your cocktails with the aim that each one you push out of the bar should make the guest happy with its flavour and experience.

 

On the other hand, what are the challenges you face as a "bartrender"?

 

Challenges are many but to be honest which stream of work does not have its own set of challenges? I see it as opportunity to think beyond them, do more research and develop something out of the box. For example, a big concern in India is the limited availability of liqueurs that help add flavor to cocktails. Since we don't have it, we researched and starting using infusions and fermentation to create our own liquid which creates new flavour. If we had liqueurs it would have not pushed us to do something like this. So I believe challenges are good. 

 

Nitin, you've worked at prolific bars and restaurants all over the world. Is there a country that left a lasting impression and still influences your style behind the bar? 

 

I have been lucky to travel and work in different parts of the world and meet exciting people. Everyone I have met taught me something new in life. Each country, city and bar has a special corner in my heart. From Australia to San Francisco, Tel Aviv, France and many more, each city has its own style of bars and cocktails but one thing in common is that they are all making cocktails with a single vision — that smile in guests' face after a sip of the cocktail. So each time me or my team shake or stir a cocktail we look for that smile in your face because there is no feeling better than that…

 

What is your advice for aspiring bartenders who aspire to get into the game?

 

Learn from people who have knowledge and experience. Read and be updated with what's happening around you and in the world. Try to push boundaries each time, keeping in mind the cocktail you are making is not for you but for the guest who is paying you to make it. So talk to them, ask them what they like or dislike, and use your knowledge to mix a drink which brings a smile on their face. If he or she doesn't smile, it is not the end — try again. I promise, the next drink you will make will satisfy the guest.
 

TOGETHER AT 12TH
Nitin Tewari, Co-Founder, Together At 12TH
 
22-SEPTEMBER-2019
 
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