24 Feb 2024  |   04:29am IST

Mixing up the winning cocktails

February 24 is celebrated as World Bartender Day, one of the world’s oldest professions. As a thriving tourist destination, Goa has created a name for itself among the top States when it comes to bartending professionals. They have been winning accolades and have redefined this section of the hospitality industry with their innovations
Mixing up the winning cocktails

Dolcy D’Cruz

The bartending industry in Goa is ever growing with new signature cocktails and new talent coming to the fore. The passion for bartending goes beyond just mixing the right ingredients for a cocktail but also communicating with a smile and having a conversation with the client. 

Donovan Vaz from Benaulim, was the first Goan to clear the first all India round of the Diageo World Class 2016, which is being organised by the World Class India, Diageo/United Spirits Team, to become one amongst the top 20 participants in the competition. His determination paved the way for many more Goan boys to follow his lead and even improvise on their skills. 

“In the past 20 years, Goa has been shining when it comes to bartending. A bartender is a psychologist who has to be with the client. If you are not hospitable, then you are in the wrong business. People have been taking their drinks seriously. The mind-set around bartending has changed and drinking has certainly got better instead of more. The market has also opened up to different kinds of alcohol. During the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone was reading about alcohol and especially bartenders were aware about different cocktails served around the world. They have to reinvent and innovate their drinks. The next generation is definitely on social media where recipes and techniques are shared. The industry has tremendously changed as now bartenders are offered the same salaries and recognition in Goa itself,” says Donovan, who offers a platform for young bartenders at their internship programme.

Speaking about the importance of competitions, Donovan says, “Competitions make you push harder to be different from others and competitions are definitely great. Bars in Goa are also giving exposure to younger bartenders and young minds are willing to explore, innovate and change their minds.”

Born and brought up in Goa, Sahil Essani was the winner of the Diageo Reserve World Class 2022 India. Having worked in various types of bars - local watering holes, beach bars, banquets, 5 star hotel bars and now a 200 cover social club, Sahil not only won accolades for his mixing but was also featured in an Amazon Prime Documentary called ‘Spirit’.

“Five years ago, I didn’t even know I was going to be a bartender. I was a super competitive student who wanted to be good at everything I did. I also wanted to make some extra pocket money, so I went up to a Feni brand ambassador and asked for part time work. I was fortunate to have an amazing mentor. His only rule was, ‘I will tell you what to learn next when you show me that you’ve done your homework on the previous thing’. He kept me on my toes and I kept falling more in love with the world of bars while building a solid foundation. Through working for him, I was also introduced to top bartenders, whom I had only admired on Instagram till then. I was pleasantly surprised how humble, welcoming and grounded all of them are and I decided that this is where I’d like to belong, in the world of bars. All the learning, friendships, the joy of working behind a bar has been very fulfilling,” says Sahil.  

In the past two years, he has managed a five-star, 20 year old institution in the New Delhi, made it into the 50 Best discovery; represented India in the 2022 World Class Global finals; and in 2023 was one of the three bartenders from around the world to feature in the Amazon Prime documentary called ‘Spirit’. “This saw my role in my bar community evolve to one where I’m told that there are bartenders who look up and are inspired by my journey. This comes with great responsibility, you have to set a good example to the newer bartenders, show them what the industry has to offer and show them what is possible if you put the work in,” says Sahil.

A reputed bartender with years of experience, Mohammed Ali is the founder of a bartending academy in Goa which has been training young students over the past decade. He believes in the motto, ‘Once a bartender, always a bartender’. “When it comes to one of the fastest growing careers in the hospitality industry, it is certainly bartending. The way people look at bars now has changed and young bartenders are given the biggest platform by alcohol companies to showcase their talent through competitions. Goa is one of the top tourist destinations in India and bartenders here are passionate about their work,” says Mohammed, who infuses local ingredients in his cocktails and stresses on balancing the drinks.

Rohan Barbosa from Moira represented India at the Diageo World Class 2019 finals. Since then, he has grown in the industry concentrating on mixology. Loaded with knowledge about classic and signature cocktails and surrounded by the right alcohol and ingredients to create cocktails, Rohan says that the industry is an explosion of crazy flavours and concoctions and work opportunities. “Now, there are bartending academies to specialise in bartending in Goa itself. Many bars in Goa feature among the top 100 in India and some are even shortlisted in the top 30. There is a lot of hard work also that is involved, and one has to also have to deal with customers tactfully. A bartender has to be a good host with a smile,” says Rohan, who is known for his signature cocktail, Pattoleo which features turmeric leaves, jaggery and coconut feni besides other ingredients.


Iddhar Udhar