With monsoon in full swing, it seems like it’s also raining exciting events and experiences this season. If you’re a tipple lover, chances are, you’d have been aware about the highly anticipated finale of World Class competition that took place earlier this month. Some of the best bartenders from across India came under one roof at Leela Ambiance in Gurugram for the prestigious World Class India Finale 2023. The exciting night was all about sipping on unique concoctions and pushing the boundaries of mixology, with some healthy competition thrown into the mix—the top 15 bartenders from across the country competed for the title of World Class India Bartender of the Year 2023, presented by this year’s patron of World Class, Sobhita Dhulipala.
The mixologists presented their creations to an experienced jury that included restaurateur Ashish Kapur, the founder of Whisky Samba and The Wine Company; Bengaluru-based chef Manu Chandra; award-winning bartender Millie Tang; Yangdup Lama, who is considered to be one of India’s foremost mixologists; Nandini Bhalla, editor-in-chief of The Word magazine and former editor of Harper’s Bazaar India, Cosmopolitan India, and Brides Today; along with Jenna Ba, a seasoned mixologist and the global brand ambassador for Diageo.
While all the contestants stunned the audience with their skills and innovative drinks, Aashie Bhatnagar of Pune‘s Cobbler and Crew emerged as the winner, impressing everyone with her deep understanding of spirits and her imaginative blends. At Cobbler and Crew, she’s part of the talented team that crafts innovative cocktails that the bar is known for, and which has also received the award for being the country’s most sustainable bar by 30 Best Bars, India.
Bhatnagar, as luck would have it, stumbled into the world of cocktail-making after deciding to pursue hotel management last minute instead of fashion design. She said she loves being a bartender because she gets to make people happy by treating them with her creations. During her training in food and beverages, she got behind the bar under the pretence of an injury, just so she could learn the ropes of bartending which ultimately became her goal. For her, this big win was possible because of the immense support from the bartending community. “It is an absolute privilege to be named the World Class Bartender of the Year from India...World Class provides an extraordinary platform for aspiring bartenders to showcase their passion, skill, and knowledge of the art of cocktail-making. In the past year, cocktail culture in India has reached new heights, fuelled by radical innovations in flavours and the use of local ingredients,” she remarked.
At the competition, she whipped up cocktails that featured everything from on-trend infusions to clever ingredient layering. Bagging the top spot makes Bhatnagar the first Indian female to reach the World Class finale. Now, she will represent India and its diverse cocktail culture at the Global Finals in São Paulo in September this year. Here’s raising a glass to more instances of women rocking it in the industry!