After winning the prestigious title of World Class India Bartender of the Year 2023, Aashie Bhatnagar from Pune’s Cobbler & Crew went on to compete in the Global Finals at Sao Paolo, Brazil. Winning the People’s Choice Award and millions of hearts there, Aashie Bhatnagar is now all set to transform Pune’s bar scene. Read on to find out more.
When you first enter Pune’s thriving Cobbler & Crew—host to some of the most incredible pop-up events by chefs and food industry experts—you simply aren’t likely to notice Aashie Bhatnagar till you approach the always-crowded bar. Ready with her signature smile and amiable banter while whipping up delicious cocktails with utter ease, Aashie Bhatnagar lives up to her social media monicker of Pocket Dynamite to the T. Now, of course, the world knows about her, thanks to her consistent and award-winning presence at Diageo World Class 2023.
In July 2023, Aashie Bhatnagar became the first Indian woman and mixologist to be crowned as the World Class India Bartender of the Year. While she floored the judges panel, consisting of Ashish Kapur, Manu Chandra, Jenna Ba, Millie Tang and Yangdup Lama, with her deft hand at creating stories with spirits, the attention soon shifted to the fact that Aashie Bhatnagar was now going to represent India on the international platform by going to the World Class Global Finals in Sao Paolo.
Truth be told, Aashie Bhatnagar’s performance at the Sao Paolo Global Finals 2023 just gave the young mixologist a chance to show off her impeccable skills while sharing the stage with the world’s best mixologists and experts. While she didn’t win the title, she managed to bag the prestigious People’s Choice Award at World Class 2023 and gave the Top 12 a tough competition indeed. In an exclusive conversation with Slurrp, Aashie Bhatnagar opened up about her experience at the event and all about her journey.
Competing With World Class Mixologists
The fact that Aashie Bhatnagar stood up amongst the world’s best at the Diageo World Class 2023 event is a matter of pride for most Indians who know anything about the global food and beverage industry. For Aashie herself, the experience has been nothing short of a whirlwind. “I am very proud,” she says. “I saw a dream to make a drink in front of my country's flag and finally it came to life at the World Class Global Finals. There is nothing I could be happier about and this moment has my heart.”
But from winning the India title to travelling to Sao Paolo, Aashie Bhatnagar did indeed listen to her heart and creative mind more than anything else. “My whole journey was so emotional, and it was a lifetime experience that can't be described in words,” she explains. “It was completely a fairytale for me and I performed each challenge by listening to my heart. I only wanted to see one thing, and that was a smile on my guest's face and yes, I did it.The experience of performing in front of legends whom I admired since I joined this industry was the best part of this journey.”
So, did the event also give her a chance to learn more? "The key things that I learned from this competition is to trust the process and work on it, rest everything will fall in place,” she quips. “Another one is to keep yourself calm in all situations.” Though she didn’t win the coveted title of best in the world, Aashie Bhatnagar’s efforts did win her the hearts of all those who attended the event—hence the People’s Choice Award. She says that she teared up when her name was announced and that she holds the award close to her heart because it represents her identity as the Pocket Dynamite so well.
Learning Curve: About Ashie Bhatnagar’s Mentors & Dreams
For those who are regulars at Cobbler & Crew, the fact that Aashie Bhatnagar (and in fact the entire restaurant team) blooms under the guidance of Mayur Marne, Bar Head and Partner at Cobbler & Crew and experienced mixologist, is pretty well known. And Aashie Bhatnagar has herself repeated innumerable times that Mayur Marne’s guidance has been critical to her success. “The person who is the hero of my World Class journey is Mayur Marne,” she says. “His constant support ensured that I never missed any opportunities along the way, and for that, I am very grateful. Speaking about her work at Cobbler & Crew, which is quickly becoming homeground for Pune’s cocktail lovers and foodies, Aashie Bhatnagar says that the place has been like a second home.
“I work as an Innovation Artist at Cobbler & Crew,” she explains. “In my whole journey, my team has had my back and I am very lucky to be a part of this wonderful family that is very passionate.” As for where she now wants to take her future creations at this Pune restaurant and bar, Aashie Bhatnagar says that there is a lot in the works. The World Class competition gave her and the team at Cobbler & Crew much-deserved attention, but they do want to help grow this interest by keeping up the momentum.
“We wanted to take Pune to represent our beautiful nation and yes, we did it,” she explains. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the love and blessings we received from our community and we are glad that Pune's community is growing and supporting us. I believe now is the time to work on and transform Pune's bar scene, take it to a place where the world looks up and pays attention.”