A champagne for Sushmita Sen and a ginger ale for Rani Mukerji. Reetika Rai, perhaps the only lady manning a bar in the city, is stirring things up at Sante, the bar at Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences.
“It sure feels great being the only lady bartender in town,” smiled the 26-year-old, breaking into a wide grin when t2 dropped into the Rajarhat hotel for a sip of her signature stir — Bengal Tiger.
Who would think that her love story with bartending began with a simple glass of nimboo pani! “This used to be my permanent fix after school. And later, when I got into hospitality school (in Siliguri), I’d find myself drawn to the bar,” said the girl from Darjeeling.
Rote learning is one thing, making drinking an experience is another, stressed Reetika. “One needs to have knowledge of the drink, which is taught in college. The flair you display comes on the job.”
As we moved on to the next drink — a green Bay of Bengal, inspired by the “Bengal” touch of gondhoraj, Reetika shared her starry tales as personal butler to Sushmita and Rani, something she considers “building blocks” in her career.
Sushmita is adorable. She was shooting and didn’t drink much, but when asked she said she’s a champagne person. Rani on the other hand wasn’t much into alcohol, but loved her glass of ginger ale.”
Her word on the few women who dare to raise the bar? “It’s simply because of the conservative mentality of most families that we don’t see more girls behind the bar. It’s not such a bad world out here,” she smiled.
Things do look good. As the glasses are emptied and the afternoon draws to a close, further congratulations are in order as we are told that she’s soon going to be heading a speciality restaurant coming up at Novotel. “There’ll be special wines and themed drinks typical of the region,” is all she reveals.
Until then, cheers!
Couple-y drinks: The lady will inevitably order wine and the gentleman a whisky.
A trend makeover: Cocktails are catching up with men while women are coming to terms with Scotch.
Drinking is... An experience. People need to respect what they’re drinking. Sit back and enjoy it.
Funniest blunder: The order was for sweet and salty fresh lime juice. I put in the salt and the sugar and topped it with soda, and only when I served it did I realise that I’d forgotten the lime juice. I apologised to the guest before he’d sipped the drink and luckily he had a good laugh!
She’d like to make a drink for: All the unaccompanied ladies who don’t mind going out there and getting a drink alone, like I enjoy doing. I raise them a glass of Cosmopolitan!
The signature Bengal Tiger is prepared using pomegranate and pineapple juice with a dash of brandy and white rum. But it is the hint of gondhoraj lemon that makes it a hit. “I remember offering it to a group of German gentlemen and they went on to order it for the rest of their stay here!” beamed Reetika.
Combine vodka, Blue Curacao and orange juice with gondhoraj lemon and you get a refreshing Bay of Bengal.
Pictures: Pabitra Das