Bar consultant Yangdup Lama on his new book and why you should allow your mixologist creative license
Retro, vintage, craft … there are many ways to shake up a cocktail, even something as misunderstood as the Cosmopolitan. Bar consultant and trainer Yangdup Lama seems to know this very well, for his debut book, Cocktails and Dreams — The Ultimate Indian Cocktail Book, has been compiled for both the expert and the home bartender. Known for his C&D Speakeasy bar in Gurgaon, Lama, 41, has 50 cocktails in the book he has co-authored with friend and spirits expert, Geetanjali Chaturvedi. So you have the usual suspects like the mojitos and caipiroskas sharing the bar counter with imbibable innovations like Jaam-a-elachi (cardamom) and Southern Somras (curry leaf, jaggery and rum). The former tea trainer also has his share of Darjeeling’s finest — Whisky First Flush. Tracing the journey of the cocktail into a culinary form, Lama puts his 18 years behind the bar to good use. “Beers can be flavoured. All it takes are simple ingredients, like a fresh slice of cucumber, to turn it around.” Other gems? Serve whisky with green tea. And don’t let summer go by without a watermelon and mint martini.
While Lama’s Prohibition-era concoctions are a big hit at his bar, the book steers clear of them. The mixologist insists he’s saving these, together with barrel-aged experiments, and a round-up of tribal spirits for his next written project. His concession to homegrown beverages is a ‘going local’ section. And while he can tell you a thing or two about Mahua (made from a tropical flower) that we associate with Orissa and Madhya Pradesh and chang (Himalayan rice wine), it’s best to corner him at his bar for details on sourcing American oak barrels online or bitters (he has over 20 varieties at the ‘speakeasy’). If visiting, he suggests you specify your base liquor and flavour preference and leave the rest to him. “Try ‘Whatever You Say’, our shot at giving the bartender creative license,” he suggests, insisting that the global trend is worth a try if you are certain about your bartender’s cocktail chops. As for the cocktail that will never go out of style, it’s the mojito as “It is unisex, refreshing and looks tall, indicating more value for money!”
— Rosella Stephen