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Shatbhi Basu: coming of age

First woman mixologist Shatbhi Basu, brings cocktails off the bar to the TV screen. Mehjabeen Jagmag tells more.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2007 19:38 IST
Mehjabeen Jagmag
Mehjabeen Jagmag
Hindustan Times

Forty seven-year-old director of Stir - a school of bartenders in Mumbai - Shatbhi Basu has another trick up her sleeve. She's hosting In High Spirits, a cocktail-based TV show that started off last week.

Although she had faced a camera, having hosted live shows earlier, her nervousness was apparent. "I couldn't talk into the camera or remember the script, in spite of having written it myself. But I got better by the second shot. At least that's what my cameramen tell me," she laughs.

In High Spirits is edging to make cocktails more accessible and introduce alcohol into kitchens. A far cry from being boring or scholastic, Basu is working hard to make it as informative and interesting as possible.

On the spot
"The show is interactive and impromptu, just like the training sessions at Stir," she explains, and includes insights into bars and restaurants around the city .

Her audience is anyone who enjoys travelling, eating and living. "It's not a regular food show. I'm surprised by the feedback. Indians know their alcohol."

People of all ages are opening up to introducing alcohol in their fare now, she believes. "Dining out is a dramatic and adventurous experience, the mindset of only using wine to cook has changed dramatically. Liquors and spirits are being used for the main course, appetisers and desserts. Although, alcohol doesn't mix well with all Indian food," she admits, it hasn't stopped her from experimenting with chicken, kababs and even desserts like Gulab Jamun and Rabdi however.

Looking back, the mixologist says, "When I started off, I was way ahead of my time. Friends told me I am ruining my career." In 1989 she used the skills she picked up while working for an ad agency, to write the script for her show, which never materialised.

"It was difficult to break the mindset, not only of the audience but also the programmers, because they wanted a mass audience - the same people who watch the soaps - to watch the cookery shows."

Bar-side story
After finishing studies the Institute of Hotel Management in 1980 she began working but soon got tired of the kitchen's regular chores and took to working at the bar.

"It was then that I opened the book my mother gave me - a bar tender's guide. It turned my life around." Looking forward to the telecast of her new show, she is hoping for a positive response.

Eventually, she'd like her show to explore boundaries and get an international platform. Hopefully that would help change people's perception of India's culinary skills abroad. "I'm tired of people telling me that you have to be white-skinned to do well internationally."

First Published: Oct 23, 2007 17:31 IST