Himanshu Desai, Cheersing India Globally


Tell us what inspired you to become a bartender? Please share the proudest moment?

Himanshu Desai: I always wanted to do something different in life than the typical 9-6 job. Well, I mean no offence to anyone who’s doing that but I always felt it’s just not for me. The idea of travelling the world, the desire of being different from the rest, meeting interesting people on a daily basis and putting a smile on their faces was something which inspired me to choose to bartend. I used to be extremely shy and introvert and I needed to boost my confidence and I knew I won’t be able to do that by doing any ordinary desk job.

My biggest achievement was to represent India on a global cocktail competition. I was the first Indian to represent my country at the “Remy Martin Bartender Talent Academy” in Cognac, France. I competed with some of the worlds top beverage professionals and I won the Second prize worldwide. This changed my life for the better and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to represent India on a global stage.

Is it true you call yourself a bartender rather than a mixologist? Why do you say so?

Himanshu Desai: Yes definitely. I will tell you why, because the term Mixologist is misused by many in the industry over the years and it’s highly controversial. Mixologist is the title which is given to you by your guests or other industry legends but to become a so-called “Mixologist”, one has to learn how to become a great bartender first which requires so much more than just mixing cocktails.

It’s more of an American term and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it but I would suggest all those young bartenders to learn the art of bartending first then focus on mastering your mixology skills.

Who in the industry do you most admire? What is your inspiration?

Himanshu Desai: Well, there are many actually but specifically, two gentlemen whom I admire the most.
Rohan Jelkie who’s currently a Country head for “The Blend Program by Beam Suntory” and Mr Yangdup Lama who doesn’t need any introductions anyway. I have the utmost respect for both of them.
I’m my own inspiration because to wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are. While learning from others is an integral part of life, we must embrace our own character.
I work hard every day to become a better professional than I was yesterday.

You have worked both in India and abroad. How different is bartending in India as compared to abroad?

Himanshu Desai:India’s bar scene is growing like never before but we’re still not there yet. However, cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are nailing it. Bartenders are pushing the boundaries to come up with some of the most creative drinks and I couldn’t be happier. India is much more challenging to work compared to abroad and I feel to create something really unique is a bigger challenge due to non-availability of some of the greatest spirits & liqueurs. But this really helps bartenders to push their boundaries and helps them with their craft.

What factor do you consider while planning a bar menu? At Musaafer what different we can find?

Himanshu Desai: I believe it’s extremely important to know and study the concept of your restaurant in depth. I also believe in studying the market and the clientele around (Extremely important). Every cocktail in your menu has to make sense and justify the cuisine you’re serving.
I’m extremely thrilled for Musaafer as it is Houston’s most anticipated restaurant. We have a super-strong team on board. Our Executive chef and the owners are very well travelled and have a great understanding of food and beverages which gives us a great platform to express ourselves.
It’s a Neoteric Indian restaurant. All our speciality cocktails are crafted using some of the most unique and rare indigenous Indian ingredients with cutting edge mixology techniques while sticking to authenticity and culture. Every cocktail has a story so our guests can expect lots of storytelling.

What’s going on in the gin world that excites you right now?

Himanshu Desai: I love Gin and lately, it’s taking over all other spirits if you believe me. Gin is all around India if you notice and gin has always been bartender’s best friend because it has so much to offer in terms of flavours.
Indian Gins like ‘Stranger & Sons’ and ‘Greater than’ are nailing it and I couldn’t be happier. They’re much appreciated by the global bartenders already and I suggest every gin lover in India to order these at the bar instead of your usual commercially popular gins. Thank me later folks.

Share an experience in which you successfully prevented a problem related to a customer’s excessive drinking?

Himanshu Desai: I can’t just remember one particular experience to be honest. I’ve completed 09 successful years working at the bars and I came across plenty of the situations wherein I had to prevent the guest from excessive drinking. I believe the most important part is to educate your team about “Responsible Drinking Experience”. Alcohol can be overwhelming depending on the situations but a bartender needs to take responsibility and understand the importance of the personal safety of the guests. We want them to drink responsibly, have a great time, go home have a nice sleep and come back to our restaurant again. #iamresponsible

How important is the placing of liquor in a bar?

Himanshu Desai: Honestly speaking, I don’t think it’s that important when you’re running a cocktail bar as your focus is completely different. I personally never let any specific brand dominate my bar and rather focus on coming up with the most unique cocktail menu and training the staff. Again, no offence to all my brand friends, not to name any but some brands are too desperate for the visibility on the display or just getting their products in the liquor menu and that’s about it. I believe it’s extremely important to conduct regular pieces of training for the bartenders and also important to host educational yet fun activities for bartenders. It’s simple, if bartender genuinely connects with your product, they will go out of their way to sell it at the bar. India needs more trade activities from the brands as abroad it’s massive.