Kamil Foltan comes from Mikulov, a small town of 12,000 people in the Czech Republic. Four years in hospitality school, following a lost opportunity to go to university, led to the start of his career as a bartender, starting with TGIF in Spain, then moving on to work with the legendary bar guru, Tony Conigliaro in London.
Kamil finally headed to Asia, where he worked in Tippling Club in Singapore and Potato Head in Bali, before finally striking roots in Singapore, where an investor saw promise in his vision.
This led to Kamil setting up Indigenous Bartender, which is both a bar consultancy as well as a bar in the avatar of Indigenous Bartender HQ. At the core of it lies his belief in a passion for flavours – more local the better – and a respect for the culture you work in.
Kamil was in India on behalf of Grey Goose, as a part of its ‘House of Change’ advocacy programme. This is a multi-faceted programme wherein six bartenders each from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are invited to a series of master classes, to help them in the all-round development of their personality.
The sessions were divided into different modules – focused on developing their social media skills, photography, communication, grooming, styling, as well as etiquette. That was Day One.
The second day saw Kamil step in, and in the evening other bartenders from across Delhi were invited for a masterclass by him on modern cocktails. Kamil spoke about how it is essential to know each ingredient and the role it plays in the drink, so that variations of the drink can be created, while preserving the essential logic of the drink itself.
Kamil uses as an illustration, the classic whisky cocktail, the Manhattan, whose core ingredients are American whiskey (either rye or bourbon), sweet Vermouth, bitters and Maraschino, with the drinks dilution via ice also playing a key role.
His point is that if we understand the taste profile/ origins of each ingredient, then our task becomes easier for innovation. Of the essence is the need to manage the dilution of the drink. Just as a chef works with fire, so does a bartender work with ice and water, to ensure that the drink is not over- or under-diluted.
We are all gathered at a spanking new bar called Together on 12th, situated on the 12th floor of the Le Meridien Hotel in Gurugram. The bar’s name draws inspiration from the partnership between ace bartender NitinTewari and chefVanshika Bhatia.
The assembled group of six bartenders is to be the face of the ‘House of Change’ initiative in the national capital region. They teamed up in twos to present their cocktails using Grey Goose. The flavour combinations had been discussed the previous day.
Kamil, who is on his first visit to India, envies both the freshness of the produce we have here and the variety, as compared to Singapore, where everything is imported, thus hiking up prices.
Our first cocktail from the team of Kamal Kohli and SahilNegi is called Luscious, which uses orange infused Grey Goose, combined with pineapple caramel syrup and lime juice and dashes of basil oil, garnished with basil oil and star fruit.
Kamil said, “What will be a nice touch for the drink when serving is to add some basil oil just before it is served. This adds a burst of flavor to the drink and gives the guest an extra experience.”
From classic cocktails, Kamil moved on to talking about a few pieces of modern equipment that some bars use. I’ve been witness to a few bars in Asia myself, which have a separate dedicated room just for research and development.
Our second cocktail, served up by Mukesh and Vikas, is a tall, refreshing drink called Fly with Grey, which uses Grey Goose vodka, cardamom syrup, a squeeze of grapefruit and lime juice topped with sparkling water.
We then moved to the Rotovapor (short for rotary evaporator), which enables bartenders to create their own distillates and infusions in the comfort of their bar. Kamil has been using this to great effect in his own bar, by creating a range of in-house distillates and infusions.
He spoke about a range of other equipment, including an induction heater (great for creating your own syrups), a sonic prep machine (uses ultra-sonic sound waves for a range of purposes, including rapidly creating a barrel aged flavour) and a centrifuge (which can be used to separate the components of a liquid, as in a fruit juice).
Our third and last drink, served at the bar by Varun and Sushil, is a Grey Goose Colada, with nut orgeat, fresh pineapple, kokum shrub, lemon grass, fresh cream and a spray of rose water.
The icing on the cake – rather the cherry in the Manhattan! – was revealed at the end of the programme when it was disclosed that three bartenders from across India – SahilNegi from Perch in Delhi, Krishna Kumar from BygBrewsky in Bengaluru and Santosh Kukreti from Thirsty City 127 in Mumbai – have been selected to visit Singapore for two memorable days in May!
They will assist KamilFoltan when the Indigenous Bartender will participate in the Singapore Cocktail Festival. Cheers to that!