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Tulleeho Bartending Academy: From a community to an academy

The Tulleeho Bartending Academy in Bangalore deals with beverage education and training. The academy has been helping enthusiasts since 2009. Started as an online portal in 1999, Tulleeho Portals has turned from a community site for drinkers to a beverage-training company. Now, they are looking to grow even bigger.

As Bangaloreans, we have lost our bragging rights on a city’s once famous nightlife. Discotheques losing licenses, bars shutting down, curfews before the night sets in… the list goes on and on. But this does not deter the spirit of the city’s interest in the art of flair and mixology.

The Tulleeho Bartending Academy is dedicated to aspiring bartenders who want to be in the beverage industry. These include wine appreciation sessions, cocktail workshops and scotch and single malt appreciation sessions.

The name Tulleeho is a combination of the old hunting cry ‘tally ho’ and the colloquial Hindi drinking word ‘tullee.’ It is also an Indian expression for ‘cheers.’

The faculty at TBA comprises professionals with diverse back rounds in the beverage industry.

Hemant Mundkur is a lead trainer at TBA. A graduate in hotel management, he completed a professional bartending course at Mumbai's Cocktails and Dreams in 2009. He then became a bartender with JW Marriott, Mumbai and joined TBA in 2012.

Sonaivel Venkatasen’s love for flair and mixology made him move to the hospitality sector. He started his career at Taj Vivanta based in Chennai and moved on to work in various leading hotel chains across India. Venkatasen has participated in many bartending competitions like the Bacardi Martini Grand Prix, Ambrosia, an all India bartending competition, and is a winner of the Accor Group of Hotels Bartending Competition. He became a part of the TBA faculty in 2011.

Antara Kini, also an assistant manager, heads the wine tasting sessions at the academy. With an MBA degree, she joined TBA in 2012. Kini organises the Wine and Spirit Trust, London (Level 1 and 2), at the academy.

Kini gives us a brief description of TBA’s credo. “We believe in providing beverage training. TBA has been providing marketing consultancy and services for alcoholic beverage companies since 1999. Our website www.tulleeho.com is a leading source of information and entertainment on drinks and drinking out. We’ve worked with brands such as Smirnoff, Bacardi, Johnnie Walker, The Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Sopexa, Teacher’s, Signature, Fling, Tres Magyues Tequila, Sula and Grover.”

The academy offers a range of courses. One can simply walk in and sign up for sessions divided into a two-month course, a five-day course, or sessions that spans over just two days. “Our aim is to polish our students. We make sure that they are ready to face the bartending scene in India, which is picking up slowly. We want our pupils to reach a level so they can be confident enough to stand behind a bar, know their recipes and make a proper drink,” says Mundkur.

Venkatesan goes on to add, “Our batches have about eight to ten people. Each pupil is given equal attention to ensure that at the end of the course, they’ve learned something. We see to it that they get their money’s worth.”

Mundkur continues, “The bartenders on the Bangalore scene are a mix bunch. There are only a handful of actual professionals. On the other side of it, people take it for granted that working behind a bar implies knowing everything there is to know about bartending, which I don’t like seeing. When we get new students, we push them into using the acquired skills on a daily basis so that their technique comes naturally to them.”

Anyone can sign up for the sessions. “We get students who have passed their 10th their 12th, hotel management students, working professionals and many more,” says Kini.

We asked the faculty about women in the bartending scene in India. Mundkur answers, “It’s inspiring to see so many women taking up the profession across India. Sadly, in Bangalore, there isn’t much happening. Although a few bars, like TGIF for example, employs woman bartenders. In TBA, we always have at least two to three women who join our sessions, aspiring to be professional mixologists, or hoping to get in to the wine industry.”

Apart from training students in the mixology, TBA has a wine academy where they provide courses offered by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), London.

Kini tells us, “We do a lot of wine training for wine and spirit companies, hospitality companies and retail industry. A lot of beverage companies approach us, asking us to conduct training on their behalf. It was when we conducted a one-month course on flair and mixology at the ITM Institute of Hotel Management, Bannerghatta Road, which got the attention of colleges. We started getting a lot of calls from then on.”

For many, bartending may not sound like a stable career choice. At TBA, students get the chance to turn that around.

Mundkur explains, “The beverage industry in India is booming. The number of brands that are coming into India is crazy. It has been elevated to a global level with a wide range of brands from other countries investing in the beverage industry in India.”

He adds, “We take inspiration from the bartending scene around the world. We have introduced the skills and techniques that are on an international level, and we want Bangalore, as well as India to enjoy those very same skills.”
So, what next after TBA? We are told that people don’t necessarily take up bartending as a career. Students can get in to the line of wine tasting, marketing, or become trainers and beverage consultants. “There are a number of paths they can choose after a course such as ours.”

With strong statements such as these, the next question would obviously be – How are TBA alumni doing after they walk out of the academy?

Venkatesan answers, “Most people who walk in aren’t experienced in the line of flair, mixology or wine tasting. We suggest that they work behind a bar after clearing our courses. We have enough contacts for placements for to guide them in to a career. In Bangalore we have former students at Fenny’s, LikeThatOnly and Caperberry. When Spice Curry launched their menu, we were asked to design it. There are many who are now working as professional bartenders outside Bangalore. Some have even moved abroad. In fact, many of our students joined TBA because they want to take up bartending as a job, be it full time or part time, outside India.”

TBA has evolved from a site to an academy and is looking to grow even bigger. “The Tulleeho Book of Cocktails is something any Indian can relate to. It is divided in to festivals and suggests using ingredients that are easily available in the market.”

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I’ve always been an old-fashion kind of guy.

TBA is surprisingly located on a residential lane in Koramangala. This writer wanted to try his hand at being cocktail maker and the team was most happy to take me through a brief lesson on wine tasting and mixology. I’ve never been one with flair skills, so learning a simple cocktail recipe and a basic talk on wine tasting were the easier sessions, or so I thought.

Mundkur thought it best that I learn a two hundred year old cocktail recipe. Why not? I’ve always been an old-fashion kind of guy.

Five minutes. That was all it took to mix an Old Fashioned cocktail (the two hundred year old cocktail). A tumbler, a cube of sugar, two dashes of angostura, cubes of ice and bourbon. Sounds easy enough right? Not really. I was told that technique is everything in mixology.

From crushing a cube of sugar with angostura to stirring the concoction, the intricate details that build up to making this cocktail was an epiphany. It felt like I was back at school – albeit a cool one. I say this because my teacher (Mundkur) could have easily caned my hands because I was quite sloppy. The easiest step was garnishing the cocktail with an orange peel and finally placing a cherry on top of it all.

“One for the road?” asks Mundkur.

“Perhaps just a sip,” I replied. It wouldn’t hurt to taste my hand-made first ‘proper’ cocktail. Tulleeho!

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