Conversations with IWBS – Shatbhi Basu, STIR Academy of Bartending

Shatbhi Basu passed out of IHM Mumbai in 1980 and did something unprecedented – she ventured to forge a career behind the bar. As India’s first woman bartender, the journey couldn’t have been easy but Shatbhi overcame each obstacle and established herself firmly in a space that had been an unquestioned male bastion since time immemorial in the country.

She worked with several international brands, judged internationally, contributed as a journalist and even penned the first book on Cocktails in India. Today, with STIR, she is shaping young minds in the field of mixology and remains the flagbearer for promoting equal opportunity in the space. Here is a sum-up of a brief exchange we enjoyed with her recently.

What have been your best and worst sips so far?

Oooh, worst? Nothing that I remember recently though Fernet Branca and Jagermeister do make me want to politely decline. But the Talisker 18 and the Millstone 100 Rye have been just outstanding!

Do you have a bar wish list for Christmas and NYE 2020?

I do, I do. I’m hoping my bottle of Paul John Christmas Edition 2020 gets to me before the year-end. I have a Teeling Reserve 24 YO Irish that may just be opened up. Then there is a box of my favourite wines from Reveilo wines and some interesting light sparkling wines from the Good Drop winery. 

What to you is a balanced drink?

A drink that looks exciting, has an interesting nose and a palate that bursts into song!

Any advice on how to pair drinks with food, mood, and/or company?

Two ways to look at it – for yourself and for your guests. I instinctively know what bottle I must turn to, especially if it’s my mood we’re talking about. But when pairing drinks in the company of others, knowing the cuisine and the guests helps. I only serve what I know best, no experiments. And I do taste comparisons in my mind, to ensure I’m getting it right. The trick is to either enhance, complement or contrast but never shock or overwhelm the palate. 

One thing that boys can (mayyyybe) do better than women? 🙂

Ahahahaha – you wish!!!!!

What advice do you have for women who aspire to become an industry leader like you?

Pick a profession because you love it, not because you want to be different. Immerse yourself in the joys of learning and be the best that you can be. Pursue it from every angle. Be persistent and open to new learning. Don’t be afraid to be different but don’t try to stand out. You will shine because of who you are. And share and be kind to others. Remember at all times that you are a woman – you don’t need to be one of the boys!

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