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It’s high time to mix with Margarita
- Bartending master responds to city clamour on how best to blend its cocktails

The city is finally starting to stir it up. With word on “how to drink better” getting out, Calcuttans are clamouring for the information and the skills to entertain and be entertained in style.

This, according to the woman who knows it best. Shatbhi Basu, founder-director of Stir, “India's only bartending academy” and editor of tulleeho.com, is in town, conducting the Smirnoff Bartending Masterclass ‘Cocktail Mixing and Serving’ workshop at Tantra. A two-day session for professionals was held on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday is reserved for amateurs.

Stir has been conducting workshops around the country for some time, but it is only now that the demand from Calcutta, gauged through tulleeho, the website for drinking enthusiasts, has warranted a workshop in the city. “Cocktails have suddenly become a big thing. Even people who don't drink want to find out more to entertain well at home,” says Basu, all for freeing the pubs from five-star clutches in town. A “change in drinking culture” here can only be brought about by giving people access to more places through stand-alone bars.

While the pro line-up was restricted to barmen and stewards from all major city hotels, the amateur register includes high-ranking executives, those who enjoy throwing a good party and businessmen who want to feel in sync with the barstool talk abroad.

And there was quite a bit to know, as “a bartender not only needs to serve the drinks, but has to be able to explain them to the customer”. So, the correct temperature at which to serve red wine is room temperature, yes. But in France, that means 18 degrees, not 34! There was drinking trivia, too. Did you know most Indian whiskies were, till a few years ago, not made from grain at all, but molasses, making them, technically, rums!

Most of the F&B pros on Friday were looking for tips on flair bartending. This usually involves stunts while mixing drinks — from throwing the bottles in the air, to getting up on the bar for pop stunts. But Basu cautions against style without substance. “I hope that all the bartenders I teach throw a lemon in the air only to mix a drink. We don’t want jugglers.”

Some tips for the next party: Basu predicts that alco-pop, or premixed bottled cocktails, will be the next big thing, having already hit the bars in Maharashtra. But as things stands, the universal faves are Margarita and Long Island iced tea. Bottoms up!

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