Conversations with IWBS – Harish Acharekar

Harish Acharekar, Trade Ambassador, Bacardi India

Harish Acharekar ‘Winner ‘ of the 8th Indian Sommelier Championship, 2015 is currently the trade ambassador for Bacardi India. He is amongst the first sommeliers of the country certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. With over a decade of work experience under his belt, Harish has worked as the General Manager at The Table Restaurant, Marketing Manager for Brindco Sales Pvt Ltd and assistant sommelier with the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai.

If not beverages, what’s the one skill you really want to learn?

I would paint the world and stir creativity. I enjoy watching abstract paintings, that is one art which allows you to express. Diverse emotions and feelings can be conveyed through different shade and strokes.
On one canvas there could be joy, sorrow, nostalgia, faith, victory and many more feelings all at once. Meaning of each art is so deep and subjective similar to the wines that’s how I relate to it.

How do you explain your job to a kid?

With kids it’s always a fun conversation. I would tell them that I earn lollipops and chocolate for a living by making fruit-based drinks, smoothies and take tuition classes of other people who want to learn how to make them.

What makes cocktails a hit?

The best cocktails are usually associated with a great memory, a memorable experience with friends and family.
For me, the hit cocktails have always been the ones that look appealing, have various layers of aromas and, on the palate, open like a dream. To sum it up, a cocktail with a balance of flair, excitement and appeal, like a Classic Boulevardier, And yes!!! Block of ice is a modern basic.

What is the most unusual ingredient you have seen or used in a cocktail?

ICE, well I could name some obscure ingredient from the by lanes of Khandesh which no one has ever heard of, but I feel ice is once such ingredient; it’s right there in front of us, yet unusual, difficult to understand if not well utilized, can destroy a cocktail.
There has been so much development in ice programmes since I started as a bartender. I feel understanding the use of ice could be a different topic of discussion altogether.

How has winning the Indian Sommelier Championship changed your life?

After winning the 8th ISC in 2015, my career graph has always been upward. It gave me purpose and confidence to acquire and develop a new skill and further pursue it professionally as a career.

Left to right: Lalit Rane, Harish Acharekar, Pratik Angre (winner ISC, 2015)

It opened my avenues in various aspects of food & beverage; in fact, my promotion as a Hotel Sommelier / Beverage Manager at Four Seasons Mumbai, (FSM) influenced a lot of young beverage professionals to take up Sommellerie as a profession in Mumbai.

I fell happy and proud that when I started as a sommelier we were just 2 in Mumbai. As of today, Sommelier is one of the sought after position in hotel and restaurant operations and there are approximately 25 + Certified Sommeliers in India, all credit goes to The Indian Sommelier Championship which gave us the aspiration and desire to become a Champion Sommelier and make India proud.

How would you describe your transition from wines to spirits?

At Four Seasons, Mumbai, we never had a concept like a bartender, sommelier, beverage manager. It was always F&B personnel doing the job of a bartender and multitasking in restaurant operations selling wines. That actually helped me to keep up with both wines and spirits as the atmosphere in the hotel was competitive.

A lot of people do not know that I have worked behind the bar at San:Qi for 2 years doing an inventory of 250 + labels of wines. (inventories actually helped me learn wine names quickly) Multi-tasking in the restaurant operations is where I actually gained experience and an edge in my professional career.

I feel a beverage professional be it a bartender/sommelier should have an overall knowledge of beverages like teas, coffees, wines, cocktails and food as well.

What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?

As a Brand Ambassador of Bacardi, I usually tend to try different beverages all the time but these days I drink low alcohol cocktails like a Martini tonic or soda. Its a perfectly refreshing summer drink.
M&T was always available on my bar shelf. I wonder why I never tried it before, It’s so tasty.

What does it take to become a beverage expert?

Certifications & knowledge is an asset but its successful implementation in operations is more crucial. A bar’s profitability lies in minimizing costs and finding consumer acceptance so the beverage programme one implements can determine one’s expertise.

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