The future is yours to create: Aashi Bhatnagar
Our third interviewee in our new series is Aashi Bhatnagar, innovation artist at Cobbler & Crew bar in Pune, India. She talks to us about being inspired by women in the industry, falling in love with the stories of classic cocktails, and how a fake injury got her behind the bar
A little bit about me
I hail from ‘the brass city of India’, Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. I love what I do, and I do what I love.
I actually wanted to become a fashion designer, because I love to create art and give soul to something.
I still remember the incident that changed my life. I had decided to take up a course in my college which had just two to choose from – Fashion Design and Hotel Management. When I joined college, my destiny took me to the Hotel Management course, where in my first year I chose food and beverage, simply because I love to serve people with art, and what’s better than a job which brings smiles to others’ faces?
I started to fall in love with the stories behind classic cocktails. This filled me with a fire and curiosity to learn and do more in the field. I went on to do my training and eagerly wanted to work behind the bar. But that required some patience – as we know, good things take time.
“I love to serve people with art, and what’s better than a job which brings smiles to others’ faces?”
During that period, I was reading about Don Beach, the father of Tiki culture and came across one story about him which stayed with me and changed the rest of my trajectory. In the story, he used to turn on the water tap on the roof of the bar for customers to stay longer, as they thought it was raining outside. It sounds funny, but this story gave me an idea. I took a bandage and food colouring from the bakery and tied it on my toe and requested to be assigned a position behind the bar wiping glasses to rest my ‘injured toe’. I used to watch the bartender hosting guests and saw how happy they felt when they treated them to their art. Since then, there’s been no looking back and I finally feel like I’ve found the place where I belong.
How I approach my work
My favourite part about my job is the opportunity to give life to the ingredients and make the best use of everything I have.
It brings me great joy when I can be a good host to our guests and make them feel happy; like the bar is their second home, where they can celebrate special occasions with us.
For me to progress professionally I need education, because knowledge never gets wasted. Knowledge gives me the confidence to progress in life both personally and professionally. Competitions also give you recognition and confidence to believe in yourself. Travelling gives you creative ideas and you stay updated with the trends.
“Knowledge gives me the confidence to progress in life both personally and professionally.”
I want to create an environment where my team and I work together to achieve a common goal, and is a place that helps everyone grow in all aspects.
Employers should create and maintain a positive work environment and could provide regular trainings, not just constrained to my job profile but my role as well, which shows an understanding of the importance of employee motivation.
My thoughts on mentorship
I look up to my mentor, Mr Mayur Marne, because of his journey. From a house bartender, he grew to become a bar artist and now, he also has his own bar. He’s lived the life that every bartender dreams of and is so inspiring. He is a great team leader and a person full of passion as he puts 100% into everything he does. He is a great host as he puts his soul into the drinks and vibe at the bar, which is an important aspect of being a successful bartender.
I also look up to my mum who always gives me positive motivation to do what makes me proud. She is my biggest cheerleader, and I have learnt how to tackle the biggest problems in life from her.
“I want to create an environment where my team and I work together to achieve a common goal.”
For me, a role model is someone who is worthy of imitation and has an inspiring success journey. I have found inspiration from the legends like Shatbi Basu, India’s first female mixologist; Bannie Kang, owner of Side Door in Singapore; and Matt Whiley, the inspiration behind sustainable bar culture, among others.
Leaders can act as mentors for the next generation and help them to perform on a platform to create unforgettable, inspiring stories. They can guide them towards the right path and create modules like work-life balance, health advisory, financial growth, etc. which will also help the next generation have more planned and secure futures.
My hopes for the future
If I could change one thing about industry it would be the categorising of ‘female bartenders’. I believe in equity and I think now the time has come and we should accept that just as a female pilot is a pilot, a female doctor is a doctor, then a bartender is a bartender, be they male or female.
“Just as a female pilot is a pilot, a female doctor is a doctor, then a bartender is a bartender, be they male or female.”
Bartenders hold the power to define the industry because, behind the bar, it’s never just another day at the office. There are infinite possibilities of who will come through the bar doors, what kind of energy they will bring to your environment, and how busy you will be that evening. We have to continuously try to remain focused, amiable, on top of orders and out of the weeds, which aren’t easy feats to perform.
Supporting each other is the best way to grow together. We must create a benchmark for everything we do to provide the best to our guests, and also inspire the future generation of bartenders and bar professionals. With a small industry like this, it is important to motivate each other and create a positive work environment that will support creativity and innovation, and help everyone to grow together.
My generosity will be my legacy through which I will mentor others and be an example to them. My story could touch them in some way.