Cheers to best bar­tender

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By ROSE CAW­LEY

SAI Ham­sala turned his back on the nine to five life­style.

He was study­ing to be­come an en­gi­neer but threw it all in to work be­hind a bar.

‘‘They are worlds apart, those two ca­reers,’’ he says.

‘‘But I’m a peo­ple per­son. I tried to do that nine to five thing but I couldn’t. I love be­ing here, talk­ing to peo­ple, find­ing the drink for them and com­ing up with new recipes.’’

The 28-year-old was crowned World’s Best Bar­tender in the Di­plo­matico tour­na­ment in Venezuela in April.

The Mt Roskill res­i­dent had to test his the­ory, senses and cre­ativ­ity against 27 of the best bar­tenders from around the world, be­fore walk­ing away as brand am­bas­sador for the rum com­pany and with US $10,000. He started en­ter­ing com­pe­ti­tions as a way to make a name for him­self.

‘‘You want to be a land­mark that peo­ple come to for your cock­tails.’’

But the bar manager at Scar­lett Slimms & Lucky in Mt Eden says it’s not as easy to do that as it once was, with bar­tenders step­ping up their game.

‘‘It’s all about molec­u­lar mixol­ogy. The new crazy things they do with food, well we im­ple­ment those tech­niques with cock­tail mak­ing.’’

But he says fancy in­gre­di­ents and in­tri­cate tech­niques ul­ti­mately mean noth­ing.

‘‘A good cock­tail is one that any per­son can go into a bar any­where in the world and or­der. It has to be repli­ca­ble.’’

Ham­sala stores hun­dreds of recipes in his head to whip out on de­mand.

But he says it is im­pos­si­ble to pick what a per­son will drink when they walk in the door.

‘‘That is a myth. Not un­less they are a regular any­way.

‘‘A bar­tend­ing se­cret is to use a few broad ques­tions to nar­row down what the per­son is re­ally look­ing for.’’

He says he has been left scram­bling a few times.

‘‘A girl came in and asked me if I knew my cock­tails. I said I wasn’t bad so she asked for a vieux carre. I hadn’t made one in years.’’

He says the job does have its draw­backs – mostly New Zealand’s binge drink­ing cul­ture.

But he says he works hard to edu-

love be­ing here, talk­ing to peo­ple, find­ing the drink for them and com­ing up with new recipes. cate peo­ple on the art of drink­ing.

‘‘Some peo­ple come in with that mind­set to get smashed, ask­ing for those types of drinks and we will say: ‘Look you can have this so­phis­ti­cated drink for the same price, sit down, en­joy it, take your time and talk to your friends’,’’ he says.

‘‘Drinks are made to en­joy not abuse.’’

So what would he sug­gest you try this week­end? Or­der a ne­groni or a martinez – Ham­sala says th­ese drinks are be­com­ing more popular.


Sai Ham­sala, 28, of Mt Roskill, has taken out the ti­tle of World’s Best Bar­tender in Di­plo­matico’s World Tour­na­ment Fi­nals.

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