CHENNAI: Strobe lights, bar tools, stacks of glass bottles and colourful syrups. No, we are not at a bar, but in a classrom at a bar-tending institute. Every wall of the room has charts displaying the types of drinks, and stages of brewing — right from manufacturing at distilleries till the drink gets bottled. We’re at the Chennai Institute of Bartending in Thiruvanmiyur, which is run by Nallasamy. The institute was first set up on TTK road, 10 years back.
Nallasamy, who has been in the beverage industry for 32 years, has watched this sector tide over rough times and evolve. “I completed my Restaurant and Counter Service course in Trichy in the 1990s. Back then we had only a one-year course. A three-year course was introduced after 1993. Other options included hospitality courses, front office jobs and housekeeping. Classes on bartending were a small portion of the syllabus. The subject would be wrapped up in just two days. It was still in the nascent stages,” says Nalla.
Cocktails and dreams
Nalla was always actively involved in catering services. But the functioning of the bar counters disturbed him. He decided to set up his own institute. “We struggled to get even one student in the beginning. Eventually, with changing times, people started signing up for bartending courses. Now, hotel management and catering institutes invite us for demo sessions. This is an additional skill that adds value to the resume of students. Over the last eight years, the industry has been booming with opportunities,” explains Nalla while his boys flip bottles and practice for their next practical session.
Contrary to popular belief, the industry offers ways to be creative at the bar counter. The twisting, the spinning, and turning of slender bottles is an art that students can become a specialist in. As far as jobs are concerned, many students prefer freelancing opportunities over a full-fledged job, which is the advantage of taking up this course.
Nalla offers theory sessions that involve presentations, and also practical sessions. The batch is divided in two — morning and evening — with about 20 students in each. Weekends are often spent at parties for an on-the-job exposure. “Age is just a number. Like how whiskey matures with age, the older, the better a person’s interest towards the subject. I’ve been lucky enough to take a few batches to local distilleries. They must be well versed and graduate to become connoisseurs.
From weddings and bachelor parties to birthdays, bartenders are much sought after. Many patrons have a favourite bartender. We also offer a mobile service which has a bar counter with equipment set up inside a van. We have already got one booking for next year,” says Nalla. Their charges depend on the number of people at a party.
Art of mixology and flair
The institute offers a three-month certificate course in bartending. After completion of the course, every student receives a certificate, which is recognised by selective local and international cruises. “Students will learn about the basics of every drink and what goes into its making in the first month. After which there are two main subjects which can be completed in one month. Mixology is the art of preparing mocktails and cocktails with different proportions of syrups and condiments. Flair bartending is performing shows by flipping a maximum of three bottles. All these together form the professional bartending course.”
An advanced course prepares students for stock handling, bar management, training workers, and taking care of the whole unit single-handedly. There is also a course for women called domestic bartending. Women are taught to host house parties. There is a course for children under 18 years of age, which involves mocktail preparations only. Nalla will open another institute for bartending in Trichy next month.
It is the practice of bartenders entertaining guests, clientele and audience with the manipulation of bar tools and bottles in dazzling ways. Used occasionally in cocktail bars, the action requires skills associated with jugglers using a maximum of three bottles.
Quick five out of 30 styles
● The drop
● Back on the handle-cradle
● Flat behind the back
● Double behind the back
● Flat from behind the back
Chennai Institute of Bartending, 109/38/ ECR, Near RTO signal,Thiruvanmiyur.
For details call: 09841885504