The cocktail scene has never looked brighter with city mixologists reinventing classics or going creatively bespoke
New age or classic, what’s your style?
Watching a rerun of Sex and The City last week, I was fascinated anew by the time the four leading ladies spent in bars, drinking delicious looking stuff in elegant stemware. The TV series set cocktail trends like nothing had before. Remember Carrie Bradshaw leaning out of her car at a fast-food joint, asking for “a cheeseburger, fries and a Cosmopolitan, please”? No wonder the vodka-and-cranberry mix became ‘the’ thing to order at a bar.
A decade after SATC, cocktails still rule the beverage mindscape. In Bangalore, they are getting bigger, brighter, funkier — served in copper lotas (Copper Monkey – Monkey Bar), science-lab style beakers (Longest Island Ice Tea – Social) or Nutella jars (Mangaa – Monkey Bar), the occasional pickle jar (Aacharoska – Social) or frozen on a stick – the new ‘poptail’ flying out of freezers at Monkey Bar. In fact, the ability to invent, or reinvent cocktails has become the standard by which lounges, clubs and bars are often judged.
I remember Liquid Lounge at the Hyatt and its reinvention of the Bloody Mary into the Rasam Mary (adding desi spices and curry leaves), to make a zingy afternoon drink.
I’m a dry Martini person myself. A clean, classic drink with a legion of followers from James Bond to Winston Churchill. Just swap the gin for vodka on occasion, and hang on to the olives (or pearl onion). Ila Naidu agrees. She loves a dry Martini. And the cocktails at Monkey Bar — Monkey Mule (beer, vodka, spices), and Mangaa (vodka and aam panna). “Nothing too sweet for me,” she says. Ditto, echoes chef Jean Michel Jasserand, who is French, ergo a wine guy, but enjoys a Mojito on occasion. “It’s fresh, minty and not too sweet – perfect for a hot summer.” In India, we must get over our love for sugary drinks, he adds. In France, a Cinzano (vermouth) works well as an afternoon aperitif, and no one asks for sweeter stuff.
“There’s a cocktail for every kind of person,” says Shatbhi Basu, India’s first lady of mixology. “It’s all about the time, place and the mood you’re in. And the company.” Cocktails are getting lighter, fresher and fruitier, with some fads dropping away – the clutter of too many spices and herbs or molecular mixology in a glass. The new ones are just fun ways to serve drinks, she says. “It adds to the excitement and breaks the monotony.”
At expat photographer, Julie McGuire’s farewell party, the bartenders at Olive Beach created a drink especially for the McGuires, the ‘Tom & Julie’, a combination of her husband’s favourite gin and her favourite Prosecco. A great hit, judging by their friends’ happy faces. Like Carrie, Julie is a fan of the Cosmopolitan, because it “reminds me of my days in Manhattan where the bartenders create the perfect mix of sweet and strong!”
Well, test tubes or jam jars may come and go, I’ll stick to my dry Martini, thank you. After all, some folk prefer not to be shaken or stirred.
-Ruma Singh (The author presents an (independent) column on observations, insights and what’s buzzing in the city)