Mixologist Ami Shroff: ‘ juggling the shakers or glasses might be a part of it, but that’s not what ‘flair’ is’

Mixologist Ami Shroff: ‘ juggling the shakers or glasses might be a part of it, but that’s not what ‘flair’ is’

Ami Shroff, who is passionate about flair bartending and mixology profession

Shruti PanditUpdated: Sunday, March 24, 2024, 10:56 AM IST
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Juggling things and doing things with her hand was Ami’s calling ever since she was a child. “I played with things — balls, nunchaku — just name it. Object manipulation was something I continuously did. It was my
calling,” shares Ami Shroff, the award-winning bartender and mixologist.
“And, yes, the Tom Cruise-starrer movie Cocktail was a game-changer as well. I saw ‘flair bartending’ for the first time in the movie and was immediately attracted to it.”

Ami did a lot of odd jobs during her college years. One of the gigs was at
Nagpur where she, along with her buddies Delnaz and Sabah, witnessed ‘flair bartending’ live for the first time at an event. And, that kind of sealed it. The three got to know Shawn Dsouza and others who offered them a gig in Goa, where these three joined the professionals as assistant bartenders. That was the beginning of a profession. “We watched videos and learnt on the job. Few schools taught these skills at that time. But we were quick learners. Delnaz and I did a synchronised flair…”

It was a ‘learning on the job’ process for Ami, who was studying to become a lawyer when she decided to call it quits and follow her heart. “I dropped out in the second year. I realised that I didn’t have the dedication required to be a lawyer. I wanted to do flair, mixology, and bartending — something that I learnt through my college years while doing these impromptu, freelance gigs as an assistant, experimenting, meeting fellow artistes, and watching videos.”

When Ami started, there were few flair bartenders in India. “Few flair bartenders and fewer women in the profession,” shares Ami. “It was a niche profession.”

Being one of the first Indian women in this profession threw up many challenges. One of them was dress code, which distinctly placed them apart.

“For example, they were expected to wear heels or skirts… nothing wrong in wearing skirts if that’s the choice the girls make. They can wear sarees if they are comfortable, but why make it a compulsion? Heels or open shoes can be hazardous on a bar floor and it’s not hygienic either. Uniforms, therefore, were a challenge when I worked or recruited. I think these gender norms should be dropped.”

According to this winner of many flair bartending and mixology awards, ‘flair bartending’ is often mistaken for jugglery that a bartender does. “Yes,
juggling the shakers or glasses might be a part of it, but that’s not what ‘flair’ is,” says Ami.

“To look at it, the word 'flair' itself means talent or skill… So, it’s not just juggling,” she reiterates. “It can be anything when it comes to
bartending — doing little things like spinning a spoon on fingertips and then stirring a cocktail, it could be the technique of shaking, or stirring four cocktails at the same time or pouring the drink differently… anything. You can add flair to the bar without juggling as well. For that matter, even the way that a South Indian coffee is poured and repoured from the two utensils, is also flair or juggling if you want to call it that. Or the way they make the rumali roti…”

She then goes on to explain the types of flair that rule the bars — Craft, Work and Show. “Craft is the way you pick a glass and place it, pour a drink, and stir. Work is a quick, subtle, and short performance. The show is juggling and more performance-oriented.”

Ami admits that she likes challenges that take her out of her comfort zone. “I thrive on challenges. My comfort zone was cocktails and performances. Practising and working out new moves was a challenge then. Today, new recipes, new food techniques... are a challenge.”

What are the other challenges? “Other challenges are when at an event you don’t have a proper bar with a sink, but just some tables that create a make-shift bar. That can impact your efficiency.”

Ami has catered to mega events, small parties, shoots for advertisements,
promotional events… the works. What is she particularly proud of? “I am proud of all the drinks I have created,” she replies promptly. “I am very happy when I discover new ingredients and new methods. Like… I have been playing with flowers a lot recently. Brewing them and then using them for cocktails. The lovely natural colours and flavours enhance the cocktails.”

Which is the flower she loves most? “Each one is unique. I love Marigold, Jasmine... But I play a lot with Hibiscus. It has, comparatively, a strong flavour for a flower and combines well with rosehip. The tart, tangy flavour that goes well with gin and beer. If you want something subtle yet innovative, simple gin, soda and hibiscus brew can give a lot of flavour,” she informs.

“Also, when I can lessen wastage, I am satisfied, happy and proud,” she adds. What’s next on the list? “Plants. I am learning a lot about plants. Plants which you can use in your cocktails… windowsill plants that can be used. Fresh herbs give a lovely aroma and flavour. And I plan to work on them next,” Ami signs off.

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