Wednesday, July 31, 2013
20 Questions with Gegam Kazarian
In conversation with famed mixologist, Gegam Kazarian from Armenia who started his career studying biochemistry in Yerevan, and had a passion for bartending.
1. How did you get into the field?
The very first drink I made was when I was 5 years old, at my grandfather’s house, made with fresh cherries, sugar and water in a lemonade bottle with a cherry stick. Back then I obviously didn’t add alcohol to it, but that was a sign.
2. Where did you start your career?
I started in Armenia at a bar, working under a bar manager, an Indian guy, Biju Varghese. At the age of 20, I said goodbye to Armenia and headed to Alicante, Spain. I soon started my own bars Kazaris Lounge Bar, Kazaris Cocktail club, and Zulu Cocktail bar, among others – an amazing experience for 6 years.
3. What exactly do you do now?
In 2009, I closed down my last bar and decided to explore the world, study, travel, see other cultures, and hence began Project Kazaris. It’s a gastronomic project around food and cocktails, applying knowledge, science and art. I share my experiences with the world; I have also learnt many new things from bartenders around the world. I consult at different bars and restaurants, working with brands like Molinari, G’Vine Gin.
4. Is this your first time in India? How has your experience been so far?
Yes, this is my first time, and I love India! I have tasted Indian food before but it is so different here, here you can actually smell all the spices in the food.
5. Why India?
India is growing, and in the next 5 to 10 years, India will probably be the cultural centre of the world! In India, you have the most important ingredients – hospitality and love.
6. What do you think is the next big thing for India in terms of beverages?
I think Gin will see a big market in India soon. Tequila at the moment seems to be doing really well around the world, and that could also reach the Indian market.
7. What do you think about the bartenders you’ve seen so far in India?
I’ve seen some really nice bars, a very good level, not just bartending, but in the concept, the music. The bartenders I’ve seen so far have pretty good knowledge about beverages and have the passion to learn!
8. Around the world, what is lacking in bartenders today?
Well, not in Asia, but many parts of the world have some highly skilled bartenders but most times the hospitality aspect bit is missing. In India, it is so different.
9. What is the one thing bartenders should keep in mind while participating in a competition?
Enjoy the experience, have fun. Because you are in that moment, and you will never get it back. So be cool and give it your best.
10.If you weren’t in this industry, where would you be?
I would be working as a chemist
11.Your most memorable moment in the bar?
This was in Spain, when I opened my first Kazaris Lounge bar – the first day. It was big, a dream come true.
12.What were you doing before you joined the industry?
I was studying biochemistry. Learning things like floral design, jewelry design. I also played the Spanish guitar, I still do. I want to learn how to play the sitar now that I’m here.
13.Why did you choose this industry?
When I was a student, I used to see a lot of people going to bars and restaurants. I wanted to be with these people, and I also wanted to earn some money, so I thought why not be a bartender.
14.Which is your favorite beverage ad campaign?
I’m not a big fan of big international brands and ad campaigns. But one company that has made it big, according to me, is Molinarihttp://www.molinari.it/. They started off really small, and now are spread over 85 countries, maintaining consistency throughout in terms quality of their products. Also, I work with these brands because I believe in them.
15.Have you served any celebrities while working behind the bar?
Yes – Naomi Campbell, Penelope Cruz, Alejandro Fernández and Luis Miguel (famous Mexican singers)
16.Which is your favorite ingredient while making a cocktail?
Just one? That’s tough! If I had to choose I’d go for Ginger because it’s spicy, has citrus notes and is a great ingredient to make a drink.
17.And your favorite spirit for a cocktail?
Has to be G’Vine Gin
18.Do you like Indian food?
I love Indian food! But I can’t really handle the spiciness.
19.If you were stranded on a desert island. What is that one drink you would like to have?
I will have to choose water. While I’m on that island, I could experiment with the water by mixing and infusing some ingredients from the island. Because without water I would be nothing.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Tulleeho Trainer Diaries - Cointreau Cocktail Adventures in Nashik and Aurangabad, with Priyanka Kandalkar
Cointreauversy in Wine Country and City of Heritage
This monsoon my work gave me an opportunity to visit two wonderful cities of Maharashtra - Aurangabad, a city of heritage and Nashik - India’s temple and wine city. Unwinding through the ghats of Kasara and feasting on nature makes me love my job all the more.
The hospitality I received from the hotels and outlets I visited overwhelmed me. I was representing Remy Cointreau and conducting Cointreau and Mount Gay Rum trainings in Express Inn (Nashik), Speciality Restaurants Pvt. Ltd (Nashik), Vivanta by TAJ (Aurangabad) and LemonTree (Aurangabad)
The participants' enthusiasm was infectious, and their curiosity to know more about Cointreau knew no bounds. It took them by surprise to see the versatility Cointreau displayed in the form of the Cointreau Fizz, where it combined with simple ingredients like tea, mint, cucumber and basil.
Speciality Restaurants, Nashik - Cointreau Basil Fizz
It was quite disheartening however to discover that the bars in most of the outlets did not have the right equipment and ingredients, too. Compared to bars in metros, the bar set up and equipment was very minimal. Using the right equipment and ingredients to make a cocktail decides whether the drink will be of good quality or not. The one exception was Express Inn, Nashik, which had a good selection of alcohol as well as a proper bar set up. The bartenders here, too, also took extra efforts in creating some wonderful fruit garnishes for their cocktails. So along with Cointreau and Mount Gay product knowledge, I also stressed on the importance of having the right equipment and ingredients in a bar.
As a trainer, I felt that cities like Nashik and Aurangabad need to be focused on for conducting more beverage related training programs, and being situated in the wine region, a major influence of wine in the beverage menu and décor of the outlets was observed.
After 2 exhaustive days of fruitful training I am back in Mumbai, looking forward for some more exciting and Cointreauversial experiences.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
Tales from Scotland, Part 1 - A Visit to Aberlour
The past few years have been good to my passport. I have had some wonderful opportunities to travel to places that have always ranked high on my wish list. And well what do you know, there was a bit of work to be done in the British Isles this year! So a few days ago, I packed my bags, hopped onto my first Dreamliner to London and chugged my way up to Aberdeen through the amazingly beautiful Scottish countryside. And the agenda was really quite simple – try one of my favourite tipples at source.
With only two days to spend in that part of the world (which I realised was painfully short to even scratch the surface of a true Scottish experience) I had to make a choice of the places that I could go to. The oil city of Aberdeen, in the eastern Highlands, is just on the fringes of the Speyside area. I quickly realised that getting around the area on a Sunday is painfully difficult. Well most distilleries are too lazy to work on a Sunday. And then the few who do stay open are next to impossible to get to unless you drive up to them yourself. Public transport on weekends is minimal and cabs cost a bomb to get around. I managed to get day return tickets to Elgin from Aberdeen. Elgin and Keith are probably the best places to get to if you want to make a trip into Speyside. Of the few distilleries that stay open on Sundays, my pick was the Aberlour. The ride into the area is a very scenic one with some of the biggest names in the malt business popping up along the drive. Reminded me of home and my childhood trips into the tea belt in upper Assam. Pristine.
Once you get to the town of Aberlour and to the distillery that is located on the banks of the small stream called ‘Lour’ that meets (Aber) the river Spey a few hundred meters away and hence the name. It’s a small distillery and you’d think that they might not be making much. But guess again. It infact is one of the top 10 malt brands in the world today.
A View of the Distillery
A tasting of the variants
The tour of the distillery is much like any other – the process in whisky making don’t differ – but what often makes up for the experience are the stories that surround the brand and Scotland is steeped in such local folklore. At the end of the experience you also get to bottle your own duty paid bottle of Aberlour if you like. And it is quite an attraction here as the whisky you get to bottle here is one that the distillery doesn’t sell commercially.
Later that evening I caught up with local lad, Adam Elmigirab – producer of Dr. Elmigirab’s range of bitters (and fine ones that too!), and a good friend. I’ll leave the next part of the story for my next blog. I still nurse the effects of that night as I type this. Sneak peak – never take on a Scotsman on a drinking spree. Regret will be an understatement. Period.