Bank on the bar

Shatbhi Basu | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on February 20, 2015


Long Island Iced Tea

Shatbhi Basu

When one thinks about it, bars are not that different from banks... And life is rather like Long Island Iced Tea — a little bit of a lot of stuff to make one, reasonably balanced, happy drink

Let me begin by saying that this is as personal as it gets. Pure, unadulterated me. Picking from everything I have dabbled in on a journey that began — what feels like — eons ago. I have to admit, it has been fun. Sharing it simply makes it more joyous. A glass in hand will most definitely make it better.

It’s funny how the strangest thoughts come to you while contemplating a simple exercise. I was asked to put together a mixology workshop as an icebreaker for a group of bankers and I was wondering what I could say that would get their attention, make them curious and, in turn, participate with enthusiasm. And that’s when it struck me. When one thinks about it, bars are not really that different from banks. A bank — as we once knew it — was a small, often dingy place where we deposited our earnings, withdrew cash and, occasionally, put some into a fixed deposit, or used a locker. A bar too was a dark, smoggy place you walked into, asked for a drink, drank, sometimes hung around for music, or to play pool or a game of darts.

In both cases, the people we connected with were reasonably affable, yet slow and ponderous. I remember walking alongside my dad while he conducted his business in the bank with quiet precision, smiling at all the little cubicles along the way. Years later, as I peeked into shiny, predictable five-star bars with their stiff-upper-lip managers and eager-to-serve underlings, or peered into the dark, noisy ones with definite uncertainty, I wondered what I would become. Sheesh, I thought!

Today’s banker, however, does far more. Apart from the usual give and take, he manages people. And their money. Advises, invests, shapes their financial future. He knows that each of his clients thinks differently. Some worry about security. Some believe in now and instant karma. Still others want to invest one step at a time, slow and steady. So he must look at a multitude of options to pick and choose correctly, in tune with their needs. A mixed basket.

Now consider the bartender. Today, he too understands that every person who walks in has a unique personality, tastes and flavour profile. That he needs to dig a little deeper, ask the right questions, take a little risk, to be able to find a drink that suits his customer best. It could be the right pint of perfectly cold beer; a glass of zesty wine; a rich, mouth-filling whisky or an uplifting cocktail. If he has made his customer happy, he has invested in his trust, while constantly smiling, twirling and stirring. And that is the beginning of recurring income and a lot of joy. A lifetime spent doing just that has allowed me to look beyond what’s obvious.

Life’s like that too. From being pretty straightforward it has become increasingly complicated. It’s a constant pause, look around and make choices. Why on earth should we have to do that? Let’s look at opportunities as a way of expanding our portfolio. Of having fun finding ourselves. Shaking up our mundane existence doing every little thing we want to, however ridiculous it might be. Sure, I began with the bar. Along the way I learned to write, teach, speak, engage and even go back to the kitchen, splashing in my favourite liquids to elevate the experience. I even cut up a curtain from a skirt once and a Swiss milkmaid’s dress for my three-year-old daughter’s fancy dress from a nightie — just like that. God, I was proud. It made my life more interesting, and me who I am.

Rather like Long Island Iced Tea — a little bit of a lot of stuff to finally make one, reasonably balanced and happy drink. Sure it could whack you as well, but then, such is life…

P.S. The bankers’ workshop was a riot, especially after the first cocktail wet their parched throats. Happiness!

Shatbhi Basu is a mixologist, author, television host and head of Stir, a bartending academy in Mumbai

Published on February 20, 2015
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