Santosh Kukreti is a bartender who hails from Mumbai, Maharashtra. He is currently the head bartender at Ek Bar, New Delhi. He recently won the Monkey Shoulder India Contest with his bestselling whiskey cocktail – The Royal Monkey Punch and is soon going to visit the 3 whisky distilleries in Scotland. He gives us a glimpse of his journey as a mixologist.
Santosh never thought that he would be where he is today. He wanted to join the army and serve the nation (He does that very well now, in terms of serving the nation his lip smacking cocktails!). But it seems like he was destined to do something else. Santosh started his career in the F&B industry as an assistant steward at Ellipsis Restaurant in Mumbai which also specializes in craft cocktails. Long before he knew, he was promoted to the position of steward. It was at Ellipsis where he met his idol and inspiration, Devender Sehgal who was then the head mixologist at the restaurant back then. Santosh started observing him and others behind the bar. His fascination grew stronger. He says “When I saw them, I was inspired to work at the bar so I spoke to my manager about it.” Santosh was turned down at first, but after presenting his new found passion before Devender Sehgal, he was transferred to the bar where he initially worked as a bar-back. Santosh says “In turn for prepping the bar and cleaning up the glassware, I used to ask a lot of questions”. From all the knowledge he gathered by asking questions and observing, he soon became a bartender. And eventually became the Head Bartender.
According to him, it was his passion and hard work that has got him a long way. He says “Something I have learnt along the way is that you should ask a lot of questions. It is your curiosity and passion that will help you be a success”. He looks up to his mentors Devender Sehgal and Nitin Tewari for all that he has learnt about bartending.
For all the upcoming bartenders he says that “Bartending is an art. The world itself has “ART” in it. One should be honest to his art and use fresh ingredients.” And he follows this himself. He claims that his passion for cocktails is so great that he is always thinking about it. He believes in making something beautiful out of simple things and puts emphasis on mastering basic techniques of cocktail making such as stirring, shaking, layering well, among many more.
“I find inspiration in things around me. Mostly
my experiences with food and friends. For instance, City of Nizams is a cocktail I created that was inspired by the flavours and vibrance of Biryani. I came to notice the flavour while I was eating it one day and I thought about making a concoction based on it” says Santosh.
His co-workers call him the “encyclopaedia of classic cocktails” and his dream is for his one of his creations to be known as a “classic cocktail”. Santosh says that one day he wants to win a global mixology competition so that India marks it place on the mixology map and we wish him all the luck for the same! Kudos!