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Staying Sip Savvy: Karl Fernandes’ Foray into Creating Succesful Bar Consultancy Programs

  • Name: Karl Fernandes
  • Instagram: @the_feni_guy.karl
  • Industry Experience: 15 years
  • Favorite Drink: Palmetto
  • Favorite Non Alcoholic Drinks: Taro Bubble Tea , Ice Barrel Aged Cold Brews
  • Current Operating Bars: Ru Hyderabad, Waikiki Mumbai, Thai Thai Lagos, Vamos Goa.

Like most aspirants in the hospitality sector, Karl wanted to focus on being a chef when he first started out in 2010. A closer look at the inner workings revealed that the role is “not very defined. From a kitchen aspect, it was hot, heavy, and very intense in terms of pressure.” The bar, in contrast, seemed far more vibrant; “you were right in front of the guests, you were entertaining people; there was more interaction,” adds Karl. That isn’t to say the front of the house breezes through service with zero pressure! For Karl, the major draw to this department was maintaining your cool in the midst of pressure and how different people did that. The universal nature of beverage programs was yet another draw – regardless of where one travels in the world, you will still be able to understand a bar menu.

Today, 15 years after his first bar stint, Karl is a leading bar and beverage consultant. His philosophy is backed by 3 simple principles; “maintain discipline around smoke and mirrors,” – which means crafting a great drink program without clouding it with too many gimmicks. Consistency is next; for Karl, it is vital that the entire bar team is able to execute the cocktail program at the same level of consistency. Being realistic is the third, “You can make things that look great, but if they cannot be executed en masse, they’re not going to work.”

How do cocktails make the final cut? Besides thoroughly studying the market, Karl’s approach involves elevating popular, current drinks to give patrons what they enjoy the most. His latest project in Hyderabad is a shining example. RÜ is a homegrown brand deftly adapting to the high-energy, heavy entertainment city-wide trend across F&B establishments, backed by a cocktail program based on the rich history and culture of the city of Nizams.

As a bartender-turned entrepreneur, Karl’s learning curve is mainly about understanding the business side of mixology. How is he tackling it? “It’s more about taking risks and risk management at the same time,” he says. The recipe for an exceptional bar program is all about balance for Karl, with concentrated efforts from marketing, a solid vibe by the service team, which makes patrons feel at home. How does he strike this balance on the business side of things? “I’ve never found that balance! There are times when you look at the business aspect; others, you just look at the creative bits. So it goes left and right all the time, there’s no balance,” adds Karl.

For aspiring mixologists and beverage consultants, Karl’s advice is simply to focus on your guests! “Your cocktail is just 20% of your overall experience. So stop putting 80% of your energy into it and 20% into interaction.”

Currently operating as a one-man consultancy unit with Sip Savvy, Karl’s focus is on building a solid bar consultancy portfolio and expanding his team come July 2024. In the future, he hopes to have a slew of self-invested brands and IPs under names that patrons enjoy and keep coming back to!

  • Nagwa Kureshi