Shaken and stirred

| Updated on March 29, 2018

Vita Vladimirski: She's known for her unusual flavour pairings as a bartending consultant and mixologist

Her cocktails are known worldwide for their unusual pairings and flavour profiles

Vita Vladimirski, 30, is most comfortable behind the bar.

The bartender and mixologist is a stellar representative of Israel’s talent, having won many international bartending competitions for her country. The first cocktail she made was either a Classic Martini or a Classic Negroni. Today, her cocktails are known worldwide for their unusual pairings and flavour profiles. Take the Esmeralda, for instance. This ruby drink is inspired by the Alaska Sour and has Gin, chartreuse, mango syrup, eucalyptus honey-water, fresh lime juice, egg white and creole bitters. Vita calls this drink ‘a symbol for female empowerment behind the bar’.

Known for her mixology, menu creation and management skills, Vita is the Brand Ambassador of scotch whiskey brand, Dewar’s, which she first discovered on her visit to India (to work as a consultant for a five-star hotel). Whiskey is something that is always present in her home bar, along with Japanese shochu, rum and champagne. In India, as part of World Scotch Day celebrations, she talked about bartending, her creative process and what makes for a good cocktail.

How did you get into bartending?

I enrolled at a bartending school in Israel at the age of 18, which is also the legal drinking age in the country. I have never left the bar since! I started bartending because it was a fun, flexible and a cost-effective job to manage along with being a part of the Israeli army, and balancing my education alongside other jobs. Four years back when I had to choose between pursuing a conventional career or devoting myself to the bar, I had an opportunity to participate in a cocktail making competition for female bartenders. Having agreed to be a part of this competition, despite only knowing how to pour beer and shots, and possessing no experience in preparing cocktails, I failed miserably. The exposure led me to newer dimensions in the industry — new techniques, history, the art of mixology and an entire community that I did not know of before. The road from there was short. Within a week, I left my job and devoted myself to learning and developing my mixology skills, and most importantly doing what I enjoy the most.

What was it like being a woman in what’s considered a male-dominated industry?

I haven’t felt it was a big struggle working as a woman in Israel. However, in India, I barely know of women in the bartending community, which is quite unfortunate, because the industry is craving for hard-working talented women who can contribute to this industry.

What is your process when it comes to experiments behind the bar?

Over the years, I have developed my modus operandi that helps me create a different experience through a new cocktail or menu. It starts with penning downthe right components, such as the purpose of the cocktail, what it is supposed to broadcast, the flavours and aromas I want to achieve, and the experience it is set out to create for my audience. This is followed by jotting down the recipes that I think will fit the idea, and how the cocktail will look or be presented. Once the theories are in place, I go to trails to ascertain the success of all my components. For an experience, you don’t want your audience to forget, always craft it with finesse and love what you do.

What spurs you on, creatively?

Everywhere and everything can spark an idea. From dishes I eat at a restaurant, to being out with the nature, books, movies, art, music friends and colleges. We just need to keep an open mind. It is always interesting to work with local ingredients wherever I go. The whole idea of exploring flavours which are new to me and then using those in my cocktails is one of things that make my travels so exciting.

You’re a bar instructor in Israel…

I teach at the Zman Amiti Bartending School in Tel Aviv, which is the oldest, biggest and most well-known in the country. Our sessions are a combination of practical and theoretical studies that cover the basics of spirit knowledge, working techniques, cocktail history, mixology skills and more.

What is the cocktail scene like in Israel?

It’s lively and vibrant. The cocktail scene is developing quickly. You can find a wide variety of places showcasing different concepts, and even bars that do not focus on cocktails are striving towards a higher level. So maybe we’re not London yet, but the fact that you can have a cocktail in Be’er Sheva containing rum from Barbados shows that we’re on the map.

You attend bartending competitions worldwide. What excites you about them?

I enjoy travelling a lot. Such competitions give me an adrenaline rush, they help me push myself to the limits of my creativity and get out of my comfort zone. The competitions in themselves are memorable. During one of them, I spent five days in Tokyo eating delicious food and getting a chance to explore the culture with bartenders from all over the world.

Your thoughts on India’s drinks scene:

My first night in India was spent doing a bar crawl, which truly made me feel at home. The cocktail scene in India is very young and there is a lot to discover. The bartenders in India are passionate and eager to learn, and I am sure it will only get better.

What are some of your favourite cocktail creations?

I recently discovered the flavour combination of Scotch whiskey and coconut water, especially in India where you always have abundance of fresh tender coconut. This intrigued me into preparing a cocktail with whiskey, cacao liquor, coconut water and bitters. The honey notes in the whiskey and the silkiness of the fresh coconut water together with the sweetness of the cacao makes this an enjoyable drink. Another favourite would be my preparation with Bacardi white rum, raw mango syrup, lime juice and yogurt; a delicious treat I eagerly look forward to making every time.

What do you look for in a good cocktail?

A well-balanced cocktail is where one flavour will not overpower the other.

Joanna Lobo is a freelance writer based in Mumbai

Published on March 29, 2018

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