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Mixing Moments: Sarath Nair’s Artistry Behind the Bar

Sarath Nair


Favorite Bar: Bangkok Social Club-  Four Seasons, Bangkok

Favorite Alcoholic Drink: Negroni

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Cranberry, pineapple, orange juice with some sweet and sour

Some time ago, The World Class 2016 competition was held in Goa. The bartender who intended to attend was a no-show. A young man was pushed by his manager to take part instead. For the first time ever, Goa made it as one of the Top-20 finalists. The man who made this possible – Sarath Nair. Sarath is full of a sort of positivity that is highly contagious. Much like his cocktail of choice, the Negroni – A general humility and simplesness surrounds him, making him easy to appreciate. This is complimented by a sort of profoundess and complexity of thought, that provokes the mind and heightens your senses when you are conversing with him.

Honestly, one would wonder what it takes to pull off hours like this. I can firmly confirm that it takes a whole lot of passion – something Sarath is in no shortage of. According to Sarath, bartending is the kind of work that requires a lot of passion to keep you going. It’s not as simple as it may look. To some extent, I guess making something so layered look so effortless must be the mark of a good barman. He emphasized that there is knack and technique that you can learn only if you have served your time behind bars (pun intended). This is not really something one can pick up as a skill by watching YouTube videos titled, “How To Be A Bartender”. He says 85% of learning happens on the job. Handling clients, coordinating with the kitchen, managing stress, teamwork and remembering orders when the client so casually says, “hit me again” are all unspoken elements of the job. There remains an element of feel, taste and muscle memory that is developed only when you start working at a live bar. Sarath has been a practicing bartender for around 7 years. I was surprised to learn that he clocks around 11-12 entire hours behind the bar per day. He is by all definitions an expert.

In all his time, I’m sure that Sarath has served every kind of clientele. I was curious to know how one should NOT behave with a bartender – from his perspective. Insightfully, he mentioned that home bartenders, or those people who have learned their bartending from the internet, tend to want to see their own spins on the cocktail. You see, there is really no need to mess with a classic cocktail – and yet so many of us would prefer to change a drink to suit our palate, than develop a palate for a classic drink. Throwing money at a bartender and name dropping too, tend to be all too common – and let’s be honest, we owe our bartenders better. In fact, Sarath  informed me that 10% of Asia’s best bars are from India, so let’s operate under the assumption that our bartenders are more than qualified for their jobs.

Sarath gains inspiration from mentor Nitin Tiwari and Philip Bischoff. He too holds himself to such standards and strives to see what it would be like to run a bar outside the country. He would especially like to see how bartending as a profession is received overseas – will it be more or less of a taboo. He did mention that there is a changing perception of the industry in this day and age. It is quite accepting and inclusive for all kinds of people and he encourages more people to join. He says there is a demand for good bartenders all over the county. The industry is looking for new talent to groom – provided you are prepared to get your hands dirty. Bartending is not for the faint hearted, but it is very rewarding. It must be noted that it can very well be a full time profession, that allows you a healthy work-life balance.

Talking to Sarath has corrected a lot of my misconceptions of the field and he brought on a fresh new take to my frame of reference. Sarath is burning with ambition and dreams, so I advise you to keep a lookout for him – soon, you’ll be seeing him everywhere.