Tastemaker: Mixologist Benu Kundra shakes his way to the top

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benu kundra absolut winner brew bistro - susan wong 2015

In November 2014, championing mixology artistry, Pernod Ricard Kenya presented the third annual professional mixology competition in Kenya – “MIX IT UP with ABSOLUT.”

Mixologist Benu Kundra from Brew Bistro Bar and Lounge emerged as the winner of the 2014 edition after edging out Kenya’s top 30 bartenders.

“It was named after the man that taught me how to bartend,” reminisced a coolly-dressed Kundra in all-black, when asked what inspired his winning cocktail “DS2014.”

The affable mixology talent hopes to open his own bar in the future, but first, wants to continue to learn and soak up as much knowledge about the business as possible.

Capital Lifestyle recently caught up with the soft-spoken 25-year-old Delhi-native, fresh from his trip to the ABSOLUT Vodka headquarters in Sweden where he received an opportunity to train with some of the best mixologists in the world.

I decided to become a bartender…

7 years ago when I was still a student in India. I was bartending part-time and began to enjoy it. I really love socializing with the guests.

A new trend in mixology…

is the creation of more dry cocktails. In Kenya, people enjoy sweeter cocktails. But in Sweden, I noticed that dry cocktails were more preferred. So right now, I’m working on creating cocktails that are less sweet and have a subtle dryness for Kenya. Also I want to focus on recreating all the classic cocktails with more floral touches like with tangerines, roses, etc.

Something that Kenyan bartenders can improve upon…

is the storytelling. Every cocktail has a story. For example, a Jealous Martini is usually a very strong and horrible drink because the bartender is jealous that they’re stuck behind the bar when you’re having a good time. In Sweden, the other bartenders were very creative with the story of a drink. The British presented a “Baby Martini” and served it with a pillow. Storytelling is part of the bar experience.

The biggest mistake Kenyan bartenders make is…

bruising and muddling fresh mint too much in cocktails. When you over do it, the mint smells like rust.

The hardest thing about being a bartender is…

you don’t have a lot of time for your personal life. I only spend time with my family once a year. When your friends are out having fun, that’s usually when I’m working.

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SUSAN WONG

Susan Wong is the Editor of Capital Lifestyle, a resident photographer, an award-winning journalist, radio presenter, full-time adventurer, long-time admirer of anything edible, and a spicy food athlete at Capital FM.

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