Shanna Rajaram, 31, started her career as a waitress but soon decided that she preferred making drinks instead of serving them.
Bartending was just more fun, she told WMN. “It’s really awesome, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity and all the support I get,” she said, taking a break from behind the Angostura bar last Wednesday at the Trade and Investment Convention opening ceremony, where she spent the night working her magic to create the signature Queen’s Park Swizzle.
Rajaram is also fresh off her win as part of the victorious TT National Culinary Team — where in addition to being part of the team’s seventh straight victory as best Caribbean Culinary Team at the Taste of the Caribbean competition in Miami in June, she was also named Bartender of the Year, and copped best non-alcoholic cocktail for her Beet the Iron concoction. She also aced the mystery ingredient cocktail competition, since the mystery ingredient was one she was already familiar with — Amaro di Angostura liqueur.
It’s not a bad journey for someone who really only started in earnest three years ago. “I just fell in love with the bartending scene. Then I entered basic competitions and won those,” the Cunupia native said. Soon after, she moved into the big leagues — the Angostura Global Bartending competition. In her first year, she came fifth — great for a newbie — and in the next year, she came second. Both times, she was the only woman in the local leg; in June, out of the 13 Caribbean countries in the competition, she was also the only woman.
The champion bartender isn’t stopping anytime soon. While she’s still not sure what’s next on the competitive line-up she’s choosing instead to focus on her craft — she’s started her own private bar service, Shanna Stirs It Up, and also does specialty work for Angostura.
“It’s really awesome because bartending is dominated by men. We’ve opened doors for the rest of women who may be shying away from entering competitions or taking a turn behind the bar. I want them to be inspired that a woman did it without any other woman in the competition. I hope to see more females next year,” she said.
Photos courtesy Shanna Rajaram