Benu Kundra From Brew Bistro & Lounge was the winner of the ‘MIX IT UP with ABSOLUT’ Mixologist Of The Year 2014. He recently returned from Sweden the home of ABSOLUT Vodka. The fully paid trip to train with the best at the ABSOLUT Head quarters was part of the prize for the win and a cash prize with KSH 100, 000.
We recently caught up with him and we had a brief Ask A Mixologist session. My questions leaned towards him & his skills in bartending & mixology. Here is the Q & A.
1. The moment you knew you wanted to tend a bar.
I was very bad student still I manage to top in my college ,that time I came to know that this is my place to be.
2. Tell me about yourself. Growing up, school and work.
I was born and brought up in India, but later relocated to Kenya. I consider this place my second home and I love it. I am a bartender by profession. I hold a degree in mixology from Institute of Bar Operations and Management (IBOM) in New Delhi , India. I also done a few courses in bartending. It is something I did out of passion and I enjoy.
3. You recently won an award. Tell us more.
I participated in ABSOLUT Mixology challenge and I won the award. I got an award for my creativity. My signature drink was DS1879. It’s a coffee based martini.
4. You were in Sweden the home of ABSOLUT Vodka. How was the visit like?
It was an amazing trip though it was really cold but I really enjoyed. I was working with bartenders from London, Paris and Prague.
5. What did you learn/experience?
I learnt lot of new mixology techniques , I worked with Ben Reed ,he is one of best mixologist.I got a chance to meet master distiller of absolute and I worked with best bartenders.
6. Difference between a mixologist and a bartender.
A person who works behind bar makes drink is called bartender. A Mixolgist is a person who creates drinks. Mixologists like doing different and unique things and they can change the drink according to the customers preferences.
7. First job behind a bar.
After finishing my bar-tending, I started working with same college as a bartender. My first bar was IBOM which was really special to me.
8. With a full bar at your disposal, you would drink?
I like tasting my drinks but it doesn’t mean indulging in drinking. I want to run my bar with professionalism.
9. Qualities of the perfect cocktail
It should be well balanced (not very sweet and not very sour). Presentation and taste also matter.
10. Most frequently requested drink by customers.
Most of the ladies like cosmopolitans ( Vodka ,cointreau,lime juice and cranberry) because of the colour (pink) while most of the gentlemen like old fashioned. The Old Fashioned is a cocktail made by muddling sugar with bitters then adding alcohol, such as whiskey or brandy, and a twist of citrus rind.
11. Most unusual drink request you’ve ever received.
Everyday we receive unusual requests but I remember some one asked me to make garlic and onion martini. It’s one of the most unusual of the drinks I make.
12. How does the bar/food scene in Kenya compare to the scene elsewhere? Its still developing but its growing very fast if you can mix good cocktail guests are ready to pay any price.
13. Favorite Kenyan restaurant?
Brew Bistro and Talisman
14. Can you name three behind-the-bar essentials you cannot do without?
I prefer a good and positive atmosphere in my bar and that’s why my team is full of young bartender. The second bar essential is definitely good ingredients good brand of alcohol. The 3rd one is hygiene.
15. Advice for aspiring mixologists/bartenders.
My only advice for bartenders and mixologists is to be passionate, love what you are doing and always try to do something new. Don’t be shy from your guest & always communicate. Most importantly dance and enjoy behind bar.