Name: Anil Sabharwal
Years behind the bar: 11
Notable Competition results/Awards:
Havana Club flair UK Championship 2004 – 1st
Santa Fe best bartender competition 2004 – 2nd
Roadhouse UK finals 2004 – 6th
SA Nationals flair 2007 – 2nd
SA Nationals flair 2008 – 2nd
Skyy Vodka Global Flair Challenge 2008 SA – 1st
Skyy Vodka Global Challange 2008 International Final – 6th
King of Africa 2008 – 1st
News Cafe Menlyn 2008 Flair – 1st
Roadhouse World Flair Challenge Finals – 22nd
SA Nationals Flair 2009 – 3rd
Skyy Vodka Global Challange 2009 – 3rd
News Cafe Menlyn 2009 Flair – 1st
Cape Flair Society Ambassador, Cape Town South Africa
Beer – Corona with a fresh wedge of lime, or Hoegarden
Wine – any tasty fully body red will do me
Spirit – depends on my mood, but a good tequila does get me excited!
Cocktail – Seem to have developed a new love for straight up margarita recently...
Bar – Asoka, Tequila Town, Fiction, The Assembly
Restaurant – Anywhere that does a good steak or ribs has my vote
City – well Cape town defiantly, London and Monte Carlo are in my top 3
Film – Shawshank Redemption and Old School
Book – Any good cocktail book that can hold my interest for more than 5 min
Q & A
How did you get started in bartending?
Needed to get a job, any job, so i ended up collecting glasses in a night club for a while till they let me behind the bar.
You work for Shaker now in a training and events based role. What are some of the good/bad points of this vs regular bartending?
Well the first good point is that I’m the boss, so everything i did not like about the bar industry from drinks recipes to what products I use, I have full control over. I also love the fact that i get to pass on all the information and experiences i have had over the years to future bartenders who attend our courses.
I guess the bad points are that you sometimes not only have to work 9 – 5 but sometimes all night on the same day. I guess the only other bad thing is that I don’t have as much time to practice now that I run the business to when I was just bartending.
What are some trends you're noticing in the cocktail world?
Everyone seems to be going the MM (molecular mixoligy) vibe at the moment, which looks great and is very impressive but is not always practical. I feel drink trends have not changed that much in the past 10 years, with people still enjoying simple light and fresh drinks, and bartenders taking some of the old school classic cocktails and giving them a modern twist.
Any pet peeves about bartenders you’d like to share?
Bartenders who don’t put things back where they found it or don’t clean up after themselves tend to wind me up. Also, I think I have a bit of an OCD thing when it comes to venues back bars displays. I sometimes want to jump behind the bar and start straightening the bottles and facing all the pourers the same way...
Have you ever taken any courses/been on any formal drinks related training? Is this a worthwhile path for bartenders to follow?
I only ever got trained at the venues i worked in, which was great, but did not really help my general bar knowledge. I have trained some bartenders who have been working the bar for a while and will still learn things that they did not even think of. I feel to get formal training is always worthwhile cause it improves your knowledge, service and attitude in the industry, which in turn will make you more money
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Bartending is not rocket science. 4 things make a good bartender
1. A good personality – being able to talk to strangers on a daily basis
2. Good memory – being able to remember orders and recipes
3. Common sense – (is not that common so you can argue with me on this one)
4. Being fast – the faster you serve, the more people you serve, the more people you serve, the more money you make.
What inspires you / goes into creating a cocktail for you?
Depends, with my job now i am always given tasks of creating new cocktails so i try to meet the clients need even though i get some random and sometimes impossible requests.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
I love to bounce ideas of my great staff both here and in the UK.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Parking your car for ya!!! Hahahahahah. I did computers when i was at school so i’m sure i would of gone that route.
Over the years you’ve built up a name for yourself as one of SA’s top flair bartenders but what is your take on the Classic/Mixo vs Flair division that seems to exist?
I think even though that most hard core mixologist’s won’t admit it, they all like the attraction of flair, but they can’t be bothered to practice the long hours it takes to get good. You can wake up the morning of a cocktail competition with a drink recipe, use it and win! The same can’t be said about flair competitions. You need to practice!!!
Do you think it exists outside of competitions?
It does, but it shouldn’t. Some of the best bartenders i have met over the years have had a combination of good drink skills and are entertaining behind the bar.
Do you think the two should be more integrated?
In competitions? Yes! Most flair bartenders i have met from travelling round the world could not even make u a proper gin and tonic!
Any preferences between the two?
Ok, you’re fairly well travelled as far as South African bartenders go... Tell us about some of your international experiences? I heard you did Nigeria recently and of course the Roadhouse and Skyy comps?
The Road House in Covent Garden , London was epic. It is the biggest comp in the northern hemisphere, With 10,000 pounds for the winner. The best of the best compete so i was really happy to be there!!! The Skyy Vodka Comp in Monte Carlo was really cool. They looked after us like rock stars, limo from the airport, 5 star hotel, free drinks & food and a trip in a Ferrari round the Monte Carlo F1 track!! Very cool!!!
How does the standard of competitions differ in other countries?
They are very well organised because the people who are doing it treat it like a business. They want to make sure the competitors and sponsors are happy. This will attract more competitors and more sponsors which makes the events bigger and better
What is the perception of South African bartenders overseas? Do they even know we make cocktails down here?
Amarula and The World Cup seemed to be the main talking points when i tell people where i am living. I think most bartenders are not too sure what goes on in SA. They probably thing we use elephants as our back bar!
Can you give us the recipe for one of your favourite cocktails?
Hops, water & barley = BEER ( the best cocktail in the world)
Cool thanks Anil...appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Any parting words?
If life chucks you a bottle, FLAIR!!!