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A new bar code

Smita Tripathi | August 28, 2004

Yangdup Lama may not be Tom Cruise in Cocktail, but he comes close. Lama started Cocktail and Dreams, a freelancing bartending company, in 1999 with an initial investment of Rs 10,000. At that time his company was one of the first of its kind in Delhi.

Lama served as the bartender at various private parties and soon trained a group of other people to do the same. As the company grew, Lama decided to open the School of Bar and Beverage Management in 2003.

He now trains students in the art of bartending and undertakes training programmes for new pubs and bars opening in the city. He has trained the bartenders at Agni and Spirit in Delhi besides a few others in Kolkata.

After completing my hotel management from a private institute in Kolkata, I joined the Hyatt Regency in Delhi as a waiter. However, I was posted at The Polo Lounge and started working behind the bar. A few weeks into the job I realised that I really enjoyed bartending and so started concentrating a lot more on that.

I was really inspired by the senior bartender there and learnt a lot from him. I worked at the Hyatt for nearly five years and represented it in two bartending competitions, which I won. However, my designation was still Captain. That's because a lot of hotels in India do not have bartender as a designation.

In 1999, I quit and decided to become a freelance bartender. That's when I set up Cocktail and Dreams. My very first private party was a total mess. But I learnt a lot from that experience.

At a commercial bar, everything is organised and is in its proper place. But at a party, you need to tell the host where he needs to place what.

Also, at a commercial bar a person is paying for the drink and so generally orders only one or two at a time. But at a private party, drinks are free and so people order four or five cocktails at one go. So at a party for 500 guests I end up making 1,800 to 2,000 drinks -- that's a lot of work for me.

I realised that handling a bar at a private party was a team effort. So I started training some boys. Initially I gave them specific jobs like it was one boy's responsibility to simply open soda bottles, another would just keep pouring a peg of whisky in different glasses. This made my life simpler.

In the first year I only did 15 parties in the entire year, but this climbed to 100 by the second year and today on an average I do a party a day.

Of course, I now have a team of 12 senior bartenders and I only go to those parties where the host insists on my presence.

Also starting out on your own suddenly makes you responsible for a lot of other things than just bartending. When a client comes to me, he wants to know how much alcohol he should buy, what kind of glasses does he need, what quantity of coke and juice is required. In fact, now I even interact with the client and the event manager and decide upon the size and location of the bar.

I now concentrate more on the School of Bar and Beverage Management which I opened in 2003. We offer a three-month course and a six-month course and teach students everything about bartending.

The problem is that hotel management institutes hardly pay any attention to beverage management. There is very little theory and hardly any practical training.

At my institute we do a lot of theory in detail and lay stress on practical training. All my students are attached at a pub or bar for at least 15 days to a month. Besides that, we also teach them about body language and how to maintain a positive attitude.

Besides the school and private parties I also undertake training contracts for new pubs and bars. I've trained the bartenders at Agni, Ssteel and Spirit in Delhi. Training is generally for a month, and then to develop loyalty, every once in a while we provide free training to these places.

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