Rohan Matmary from Sidecar, Delhi, the winner of Diageo’s World Class India competition is all set to represent the country at the finals of the global competition in Madrid in July. We caught up with him to chat about his World Class experience, and all things cocktail.
Diageo’s World Class is one of the largest and most prestigious competitions in the bartending and mixologist industry. Launched in 2009, until date, World Class has been involved with over 350,000 bartenders across the world. This year, for obvious reasons, the competition was held virtually. While the Indian leg’s initial rounds saw hundreds of participants, the number was whittled down to a handful for the final round. Rohan Matmary of Sidecar Delhi, emerged the winner and will represent India in the finals of the Diageo World Class Competition to be held from July 4-8 in Madrid.
Incidentally, Sidecar is also the only bar in India that was featured on the prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for this year. The bar has launched a new cocktail menu that comprises cocktails curated by Rohan for the World Class India competition. Given that this year’s theme was sustainability, Rohan also brought in a dose of nostalgia for ’90s kids, with the four drinks featured on the menu inspired by the cartoon show Captain Planet, which taught a whole bunch of us about nature and climate change.
We got a chance to catch up with the award-winning bartender from the award-winning bar, on his World Class experience, current cocktail trends and his eagerness to showcase India’s rich cultural heritage on a global platform.
TD: Tell us about your World Class experience. What was your signature cocktail? What lessons did you learn from this competition?
RM: World Class in 2021 was an exceptional and unique experience as it was held virtually this year. With the challenges, my focus was to personify every presentation that could allow the jury to relate with my drinks. My signature serve in the final competition round was ‘The Symphony’ as it accurately described the orchestrated symphony we work with at Sidecar. The serve was made from rapid infused Tanqueray No. 10 with watermelons, sandalwood cordial, Peychaud’s Bitters and tonic water. The drink was garnished with a hibiscus-stained mango skeleton leaf and edible flowers. From my experience in the industry, I have learnt that it is imperative to create cocktails that look, sound, and taste good from a customer’s standpoint. Additionally, having a personality behind the bar plays a very important role.
TD: Tell us a bit about new-age cocktail trends, both in India and the world. What’s on right now, what are we likely to see going ahead, especially when we return to bars?
RM: Many bars are now focusing on local supplies, as large imports have stopped globally, because of the pandemic. Bartenders are now returning to their roots to discover the incredible flavours that their respective countries produce. We are likely to see home-grown flavours in action when we return to bars post lockdown. Also, a dynamic shift is expected in the global bartending industry since bartenders have utilised this time to improve their skills and expertise.
TD: Could you elaborate on the need for sustainability in this industry? What kind of measures can be taken to ensure this?
RM: Sustainability is key. As responsible citizens, we must ensure the utilisation of natural resources is at its optimum. It is never too late to act on saving our organic resources to ensure maximum yield. One must identify the most-often utilised resources and begin work on them gradually to assure success. It was not only my zest that made me win the competition but also my sustainable commitment towards the Indian bartending community. One of my sustainable initiatives, ‘The Zest of Happiness’ which is a part of the Ketel One Collective Challenge at the World Class Global, features my use of citrus peels and pulp which was mindfully transformed into an Oleo Saccharum with some glucose and turmeric. I then mixed it with cold water to make a delicious soft beverage to serve Covid-19 frontline workers in Delhi including hospitals, food delivery boys, security personnel, and crematorium workers. Bartenders have been creating Oleo Saccharum for almost a century, but only a few know that it can be made from recycled ingredients. I believe that such initiatives can benefit the Indian bartending community overall.
TD: What would be your advice to other aspiring bartenders/mixologists?
RM: The only piece of advice I have for bartenders is to be humble and choose the right mentor who recognises your work, skill, and talent. I am blessed to have mentors such as Yangdup Lama, Minakshi Singh and Arjit Bose by my side who have never failed to inspire me and show me the right path. The right mentor will help you grow much faster than you could ever do alone. Humbleness and humility are the keys to a bartender’s success wherever he/she goes.
TD: You must be excited about the finals. What are you looking forward to?
RM: The global final is a well-articulated module, with challenges ranging from Ketel One Community Project, Johnnie Walker Hidden Cities Highball, Tanqueray 10 Master Class, and Don Julio Subterranean Serve. It was incredible to e-meet national champions and teams behind these brands. I look forward to highlighting India’s cultural heritage through my knowledge and skills of sophisticated cocktail serves. I really want to change the perception of Indian ingredients’ influenced cocktails for the global bartending community.