A vibrant, daring person, Jeet Verma (@flavour_designer) recently won the Bartender of the Year 2020 award in Dubai conducted by Caterer Middle East. His signature style of infusing Indian flavours into drinks and introducing people to a whole new world of relishing cocktails is what makes him Dubai’s favourite.
He found his love for bartending when he took up a Mixology course after graduating in Hotel Management and realized his interest in Mixology was a little more than usual. Intense studying of wine and understanding the basics of flavours in the kitchen, and giving his 100 per cent is what has made him what he is today.
In a candid conversation with Jeet, we got a little bit of scoop on the tips and tricks to make flawless drinks and the secret to becoming the best bartender in town!
As a flavour designer, what drink of yours are you the proudest of?
Well, that is a tough question to answer because I have designed so many drinks, but I think I will pick my all-time favourite – ‘Pink Fleet.’ It has the perfect combination of Grapefruit, Gin, Elderflower, Ginger, and Togarashi, making it the best antidote to beat the heat. It is just so citrusy, spicy, crunchy, and juicy at the same time that I could drink 2 litres of it in one go!
What is your simple lockdown make-at-home drink recommendation?
I always say this, and I will say it again – go through your kitchen and play around with whatever ingredients you have. Did you know that beetroot is one of the easiest to infuse because of its strong flavours and colour? You can pair it with ginger beer, and lo and behold! You have a tasty drink ready. Even orange works well for a simple promising drink. Not to forget, you can also add chilli with a little bit of lime, sugar syrup, and ice. Shake it a little, and you have a perfect spicy-sweet drink ready at home.
As a person specialising in making drinks, what is the best tip you can give to avoid or deal with a hangover?
Well, avoiding is always better than dealing. I, too, hate to deal with the headache that happens the next day. So I will say drinking lots of water in between and dancing it off on the dance floor is the best way to deal with a hangover.
What are some skills/lessons you learned after you started bartending?
As a bartender, I believe we learn something new every day. But I certainly did learn to polish my communication skills, guest relationships, and self-confidence. You see, at the end of the day, we are not just serving drinks but also making sure that everyone feels like they will have a good time when they approach us for a drink.
What according to you is the most essential quality a good bartender must-have?
A good bartender must know how to add that ‘personal touch’ to their hospitality. This is more important than just serving their drink. Being clean, crisp, and having good body language is essential and a good bar team is like a model that shows the skills and work of the entire bar.
There are tricks by which bartenders remember recipes. Do you have tricks of your own?
Oh, having tricks is important or otherwise, you will mess up. Some signature cocktails require precise drops of ingredients, and some have more than 10-12 ingredients. What I do is I see the colour of the drink and start breaking down ingredients colour-wise. Like if I have to remember how to make the ‘Pink Fleet’ drink, I will know there is grapefruit since it’s pink coloured. Then, it’s time to understand the style of the drink – Gin-Tonic styles or kinds of tonic used. Basically, my trick is to visualize and observe the flavours/colours and break them down one ingredient at a time.
What is the most boring drink to make?
Virgin Mojito. And especially when people are very particular about the ice – no ice, less ice, more ice. And the most tedious and frustrating part is when someone returns a drink asking to remove the ice after touching the beautiful garnish that was done on the top.
Dubai is a multi-cultural place. If you had to pick one nationality as the ‘liveliest drinkers,’ which one would it be?
I think every drink has its own crowd. Whiskey is preferred by Indians; Gin is enjoyed more by the British, and Italians are more about cocktails and aperitif. I’ll pick Italians for my answer, but Indians are a very close runner up too.
An embarrassing or funny incident that happened with you while bartending?
I remember when I had started bartending, and I was very energetic and completely in the zone that I took a Pepsi can, shook it, and opened it only to see that the guest in front of me was soaking in Pepsi that had sprayed out all over him. After continuously apologizing for half an hour and taking care of his laundry, I learned my lesson to never open a can facing the guest. Isn’t it often a disaster that makes a beautiful memory?
According to your experience as a bartender, what are a woman’s go-to drinks and a man’s go-to drinks?
Nowadays, it is very tough to generalize, but I think women prefer a floral, easy drink with a sweeter notch, and men prefer a more intense, old-fashioned Negroni cocktail. Usually, fruity cocktails, elderflowers, chocolate-based drinks are what women prefer to order, but as I said, things are changing, and I know a friend who enjoys her Negroni’s and can drink more than I can.
If not bartending, what would you be doing professionally?
Musician. I like rapping and writing lyrics. Not an expert in any way, but that is something I enjoy doing. In fact, I once rapped in the Mr Dubai Modeling contest (2018), where I was once a contestant. But, someday, I will make an official rap too.
With a bucket of talent and that zeal to make the most of opportunities life throws his way, Jeet plans to start a winery of his own someday. He wants to break the general perception of India not being a ‘wine country’ by making his future brand more accessible and appealing with some unique features that shall be disclosed when the time comes! Guess he’s got us all hooked but till then you can follow @flavour_designer on Instagram.