WOW | Coffee Break
WOMEN OF SPIRIT
In this edition of Coffee Break, WOW talks to three female bartenders who have been creating a buzz and breaking the gender stereotype.
What stirred your interest in bartending?
Riya: While I was applying to go abroad for further studies, my friend suggested that I learn skills that would help me get a job easily in a foreign country. I came to know about Cocktails and Dreams. When I initially joined I had no idea about bartending but I gradually started to learn and enjoy what I was doing. In 2013, I participated in Monin Best Bartending Contest at the Food & Beverage Hospitality Exhibition Nepal held in Bhrikuti Mandap. Among the 45 male contestants, I was the only female participant. I secured the first position and this encouraged me to pursue a career in bartending and hospitality.
Shikha: While studying for my Bachelor’s degree, I was exposed to the subject of bar and beverage. I was looking for an institute that offered a professional bartending course and came across Illusion Bartender Academy. As soon as I was done with my internship at Intercontinental Sanya Resort, China, I enrolled into the academy.
Jeno: As I always wanted to work in the hospitality industry I studied Hotel Management. As for bartending, I fell in love with it during my first year of bartending training in Bahrain.
What is the best thing about being a bartender?
Riya: You get to meet a lot of interesting people. There is never a dull moment!
Shikha: You always have room for creativity. As the bar is always centre of attraction, it gives you the opportunity to develop your confidence and boost your communications skills.
Jeno: I get to learn new things and meet new people everyday. I enjoy making others happy by creating innovative cocktails and mocktails.
The most important skill a bartender should have?
Riya: Interactive and good personality.
Shikha: Should be able to make good drinks attending guest needs.
Jeno: Good memory and creativity.
In Nepal, do you struggle with the gender stereotype as a female bartender?
Riya: In Nepal, people do not consider bartending as a respectable profession. Especially if it’s a woman working behind the bar, they look at her in a different light. In my case, I did not face difficulties as everyone around me has been supportive. But I know of women who don’t pursue bartending because of their family and society.
Shikha: Although many people support female bartenders, there are still many who think it’s not a job fit for a woman. Many of my applications to 3 and 5 star hotels in Nepal have been rejected just because of my gender. It’s sad that they do not even bother to examine my skills.
Jeno: I have not encountered such situations.
How supportive is your family?
Riya: My family is very supportive, especially my mum. She has always been by my side. Also, I am very lucky to have been trained under Raj Kumar DC.
Shikha: The encouragement of my mentors from Illusion Bartender Academy, friends and family inspired me to take up bartending.
Jeno: Since the start, my family has been supportive.
A crazy experience you’ve had on the job…
Riya: It was during an event at Hyatt Regency. A man asked me to make him a non-alcoholic drink. So, I made him a mocktail. However, he refused to take the drink as he was under the impression that it contained alcohol. Despite explaining to him many times, he failed to understand that mocktails are non-alcoholic.
Shikha: Once I went to an event as a freelance bartender where the event organisers ordered us to refrain from serving alcohol for some time. The crowd got angry and started hitting the bar. They started throwing things. Later things got out of control. People jumped inside the bar and started taking the bottles, beer cans, whatever they could. We called the security team to get us out of the bar safely. I guess as bartenders we will keep witnessing such situations.
If you could make a drink for anyone, who would it be for and what would you make?
Riya: If I got the chance, I would love to serve Yangdup Lama, one of the renowned personalities in the bartending industry. I would serve him my signature cocktail: 5 Star.
Shikha: If I could make a cocktail for anyone, they would be my mentors from Illusion Bartender Academy: Sagar Thapa, Santosh Acharya and Sudan Batha. I would make a cocktail called Negroni as they always enjoy this drink.
Jeno: I would like to make the drink of his choice for my manager.
Message to aspiring female bartenders…
Riya: I would tell every woman to be strong, fight for their rights and ignore criticism.
Shikha: Bartending is an amazing profession. We get the opportunity to learn new things every day. There is great career growth. So do not hesitate to pursue your dreams because of social stigma.
Jeno: Do not suppress your dreams and passion. If you want to do it, go for it!