It’s a tale right out of a Hindi movie — a small-town girl with big dreams is on the path of great recognition fueled by passion, hard work and imagination. Aashi Bhatnagar, the Moradabad girl, is a bartender at Pune’s bar-first restaurant Cobbler & Crew, where she is flourishing by pushing her creative limits.
From wiping glasses to winning awards
Young Bhatnagar aspired to become a fashion designer, but destiny had other plans as she enrolled into a hotel management course with food and beverage as her specialisation. She describes it as the “most beautiful accident of my life”. During her training, under the pretence of an injury, she requested to work behind the bar to wipe glasses. “So that I could see how the behind-the-work operation works,” recalls Aashi. That is when she knew the bar was her place.
Bhatnagar’s passion is what won her the ‘Mixologist of The Year’ award at the L’Oreal Paris Hyaluron Moisture presents Zee Zest Unlimit Awards 2023.
Inspirations and lessons
In the very early days of her career behind the bar, she was inspired by Donn Beach — better known as the ‘father of tiki culture’. Tiki culture and tiki bars are inspired by the tropical islands on the Pacific Ocean, which is an amalgamation of Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian influences. Tiki bars came to the fore with their island-inspired interiors and potent rum cocktails. But for Bhatnagar, it was Beach’s sneaky business acumen — the tale is that he would run water on the roof of his bar to give the illusion of rain and keep his customers for a while longer.
Prior to being at Cobbler & Crew, Bhatnagar was at Ritz Carlton Pune. This is where she participated in World Class India, 2021 — a professional bartending competition by spirits brand Diageo. During the competition, Bhatnagar came up with the two cocktails that she is best known for — Bloody Mary Foam and Hustle Bomb. “I believe in the phrase, ‘knowledge never gets wasted’ and it is my key to success. When I started studying the techniques to strengthen my basics, I read a lot about experimenting with flavours. That’s when I came up with these two cocktails,” she explains.
Motivation and aspiration
At Cobbler & Crew, Bhatnagar works with an equally talented team who keep each other on their toes and push to become better. “At Cobbler & Crew, different minds come together to achieve the common goal of offering the best to our guests. We’re also offered multiple opportunities that help us upskill and always stay on our feet, which has made us more creative,” she says, adding that her motivation is “the truth behind being a part of hospitality which means ‘a job that brings a smile to other's face’ and that is done when you serve emotions with the drink and service.”
Someday in the future, Bhatnagar aims to open a bar of her own, the success of which — she is clear — will be based on consistent products and understanding the changing consumer demand and market. “We should adapt continuously to tackle them and paying attention to upgrading ourselves too can help get there,” is her clear-headed response. But before all of that, Bhatnagar has a more realistic goal — “My first goal will be to represent my country on a global platform and live my passion like there is no tomorrow.”