Have you ever stared hard into a chilled Pina Colada on a hot summer day and wondered about the delicate interplay of the strong white rum with the playful tang of the pineapple juice? Have you reflected upon the smoothness of its coconut cream or the freshness of that delicate wedge of pineapple balancing on the rim? Oh, you have probably downed it by now!
You could still probably sing ballads about it when you’re down three more, if you’re the poet kind of drunk. But what would you say about someone who does just this all day and night, completely sober and in fact, when at work?! Presenting to you, a delightful anomaly- Valdroy Dias, ZBF-Ziggy’s star bartender, and whom I call the Maestro Mixologist.
His creative cocktail recipes make him a hot favourite among the guests. Matching his towering fan-following every bit in height but completely contrary to the sky-high praises he receives, or the many accolades he wins, Valdroy Dias is pretty much the most down-to-earth person one could come across. He is every bit a humble Goan Cheddo.
Having completed his basic schooling at St. Anthony High, he then pursued Hotel Management at Fr. Agnel School. After graduation he joined The Lalit, erstwhile Inter Continental for training in the F&B sector of hospitality. It was here that during his tenure working as a Service trainee for 5 years, that he developed an interest in bartending looking at the bartenders from Mumbai and Delhi. He was awed and fascinated by the science of mixology, and wanted to explore it. How he discovered his passion is definitely a work of destiny given that his father had always nudged him towards the Confectionery and Baking line.
Perhaps it was this striking passion about him that made him stand out in the eyes of Claude Pinto, the F&B Manager there, and whom Valdroy considers his greatest mentor and guide. He encouraged him to delve deeper into the field and come up with his own cocktails. All of which eventually led him to participate in the All India Bacardi Legacy at Cafe Mojo in 2012. Then there was no looking back, he knew this is where his true potential lay.
A short chat with him makes it evident that he has certainly gone beyond the confines of a traditional bartending specialization. He talks about spending hours on google learning more about alcohols and exploring new blends, discovering new flavours. He has also done his fair share of experimenting, and still does. His close group of friends are both his lab rats and cocktail connoisseurs who are the first to taste and critique his every new creation.
“When I try any new alcohol, I keep brainstorming all the different flavours that can be added to elevate it, and keep thinking of newer recipes”; while most of us drink to unwind and loosen up, here we have an eccentric who only gets more imaginative and analytical with every drink.
Such is his zeal for his work. Eventually pursuing his aspiration to work on a cruise ship, Valdroy left The Lalit but his love for cocktails, followed him across the seven seas and five continents. Every shore his journey took him to- be it Mexico, Thailand, Singapore or the Carribean, he would explore the local drinks to get a keener understanding of flavours. So now you know that every glass of cocktail he presents to you at Ziggy’s is his unique concoction, inspired by flavours the world over… it really is a whole word of flavours in there!
The generally coy and shy bartender, beams with a bright smile and talks fervently when asked what he loves about his job. Incorporating the seasonal and local flavours is something he considers his speciality. At the moment he is trying out many creations using urak, bimbla and kokum. Can it get more summer and Goan than this? I think not! Next he talks about how he pays close attention to the garnishes. That’s right, the little wedge of lemon or fruit on the rim we neglect isn’t just eye-candy, it is well-intended and masterfully selected to subtly but powerfully elevate your cocktail experience, and is an integral part of a wholesome cocktail. He recalls a certain cocktail which he garnished with a pineapple vodka-glazed jalebi. Now that’s something you’ll think twice before tossing away!
Presenting his creations beautifully is also important to him he says, as he swipes through his gallery to show me some absolutely stunning images. It also allows for creativity, for instance, he loves serving Pina Coladas in a scooped out pineapple or his Sugarcane-based cocktails with a stirrer made of sugarcane. Taking pride in his ability to understand what the customer wants and customising a drink to their taste, he feels happy and content seeing them rave over his recommendations.
I was mind-boggled listening to how some of his recipes involve techniques like glazing, boiling down modifiers to concentrates and some pretty intense measurements and ratios which would make any math-fretter like me get cold-feet. My outlook on cocktails stands changed, it is as much a science, as it is an art; and I think this is an understanding we must all gather in order to appreciate them better.
He has a lengthy bucket list for his career but the item on it that stood out for me was ‘learning more’. For Valdroy Dias, learning never ends. Even now, he is keenly attuned to the alcohol industry- anytime a new kind of beer or vodka is launched, he makes sure to get his hands on it. He is constantly gleaning about new blends to diversify his palate, so that he can create new relishing cocktails for his customers. I think the major takeaway for us, especially the youth, is that having prowess and tact in your field is not enough. It is important to keep your passion kindled and fervid in order to enjoy every bit of your journey and achieve greater heights.
On that spirited note, we have some good news for our thirsting readers. Here’s announcing, in all gusto- a Cocktail Recipes series only on Incredible Goa in association with the one and only Valdroy Dias. So Goa! Be prepared with your shakers and crushed ice every week to try out these ritzy DIY cocktail recipes, and show off your mixing skills! Cheers!