Mixologist from Poland and Russia will represent India at global mixology contest

Updated: Sep 29, 2019, 08:00 IST | Benaifer J Mirza

Meet Agnieszka Rozenska and Evgenya Prazdnik, who will represent India in a global mixology contest

Jungle Calling and Certainly, Ma'am
Jungle Calling and Certainly, Ma'am

Mixology is as much of a science as an art. From the precision in measurements and balancing the flavours, to the drama that is created in the glass, a lot goes into the making of a cocktail. And, now, India is gradually entering the exciting era of sophisticated and layered cocktails, which are beyond just spirits and aerated drinks. Giving this growing trend all their love are two female bartenders, who have made India their home, and are stirring things up.

The world's a stage

Born in Poland, Agnieszka Rozenska, 38, first honed her mixology skills there and then in Amsterdam. Her journey began as she waited tables at Brama Jazz Cafe, a local bar in Szczecin while studying Pedagogy—Resocialization at the university there. Following this, she assisted bartenders in other bars and soon found her calling. As a bartender, Rozenska worked at GOKO Japanese Restaurant in PoznaÅ„, Poland, Octans in Luxembourg and Bluespoon–Andaz in Amsterdam.

Jungle Calling and Certainly, Ma'am

About two years ago, she was asked to come to India to support the opening of Hong Kong Club in Andaz, Aerocity. And, she fell in love with the country instantly. In September 2018, she moved from Amsterdam to Mumbai and worked at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, as Bar Manager. She then moved to Delhi this July to join Andaz. In just a few months, she announced her arrival in Delhi, winning the Greater Than London Dry Gin Competition, 2019 and was named the Favourite Bartender at the PeakLife Gourmet Awards, 2019. Now, Rozenska is all set to represent India at the International Rémy Martin Bartender Talent Academy Competition in Cognac, France, this October.

Her creation at the India finals of the Rémy Martin Bartender Talent Academy Competition held on September 16 reflected her journey across countries and continents. "I took plums from Poland; a very popular fruit there. I welcomed my guests with a plum compote—a plum shrub (a syrup with vinegar), with cloves and cocoa nibs. Then I had some Campari for balance. And, of course, the exquisite Rémy Martin cognac, along with some chocolate bitters and dahi. I finished my cocktail by burning a cinnamon stick to lend the cocktail some drama and a rose petal as garnish."

Agnieszka Rozenska and Evgenya Prazdnik at Dashanzi, JW Marriot Mumbai, Juhu. Pics/Ashish Raje
Agnieszka Rozenska and Evgenya Prazdnik at Dashanzi, JW Marriot Mumbai, Juhu. Pics/Ashish Raje

Rozenska calls her creation Certainly Ma'am and, at the competition, served it in a traditional Indian mud pot. "I wanted to create a cocktail where you take a sip, close your eyes, smile, and then say that you would like to order one more. And, since we are in India, the bartender's reply would be, "Certainly, Ma'am"," she explains.

"At the international competition, a tulip garnish will represent my love for Amsterdam. I will also make the beautiful Rémy Martin logo, which is a Sagittarius symbol. So, it will all be like a fairytale, with mythology and meditation and music."

The globe trotter

Hailing from Moscow, Russia, 33-year-old Evgenya Prazdnik started her journey in the bartending and mixology business about 15 years ago. She worked at a number of prestigious bars, including Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, Moscow, Ales & Tales in Beirut, Sky Bar in Colombo and Boston's at City Centre Rotana in Doha before a friend invited her to set up Bubble Brunch in Goa.

Prazdnik didn't think twice and made Goa her new home. After working there for about two years, she joined Katzensuppe, Goa, and then finally felt that it was time to move to a more sophisticated style of mixology. Which was when she started running the bar programme at Gunpowder in Goa, and then Mustard in Mumbai.

Earlier in August, Prazdnik won The Botanist Wild 22 competition, organised by the Rémy Cointreau International Group. And, now, she is all set to represent India in the international finals slated to be held in March 2020 in the Hebridean island of Islay in Scotland. Held in Goa across three days, the India finals of The Botanist Wild saw 22 bartenders from India foraging for ingredients in the farms of Goa to create that inimitable Botanist gin cocktail.

Prazdnik has travelled across the globe to study mixology, and has also shared her expertise as Beverage Developer in countries such as Qatar, Lebanon and Sri Lanka. She has also won several competitions, such as the Diplomatico World Tournament, 2017 (India), and Bols Around the World, 2017 (Bronze). She is also in charge of the beverage programme at SEA (South East Asian Restaurant), Goa. Her specialty is cocktail art, where it's not just about the ingredients and flavours, but also the theatrics involved in the craft.

At the Botanist Wild 22 Competition, she created a cocktail called Jungle Calling. "I made a juice of raw passion fruit and star fruit. That was the acidic part of the drink. For the sweetness, I picked up a variety of citruses, such as lemon, sweet lime, and super-aromatic Gondhoraj, which are all native to Goa and added a full measure of Botanist.

"These days, we love to add some savoury notes to our cocktails. Usually, it's a saline solution, as salt brings alive all the flavours. But I used something super-native to Goa—tora shiro, which is pickled mango brine. This helped to stabilise my drink and for the flavours to pop. Then came a float of Shiraz wine, to add a delicate touch of tannins to it. The final touch was three drops of homemade chilli oil. All the ingredients were very delicate, allowing the gin to shine."

Prazdnik feels that India has a wealth of botanicals, fruits, herbs and spices, and that local bartenders should really explore this treasure. She is now delving deeper into the areas of fermentation and the art of preservation, keeping in mind that due to things, such as climate change, etc, in the future, we may lose some of the ingredients that are available right now.

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