June is the month of summer holidays and cocktail parties — full with the promise of upcoming rain and the desire to beat the heat at all costs. It’s the time of the year when bartenders mostly bring out the mint and the lemon and the cucumbers to marry them with fruity chilled alcoholic concoctions. June is also almost synonymous with a Mojito. Given the heat wave, one can imagine nearly all of Delhi out looking for something cold, refreshing and, well, alcoholic.
“As summer progresses, all I can think about is sipping cocktails at some remote beach,” says Deepali Gohain, a 20-something corporate lawyer. The beach might be a bit of a stretch but one can definitely aim to find a good cocktail in the city, while living vicariously through friends who are holidaying."Delhi has never quite had a cocktail culture and for as long as I can remember there would only be some classics at most bars," says Marut Sikka, Delhi-based restaurateur. "One of the reasons why the classic cocktails are never quite right here is because we insist on making them ‘Patiala peg’ style — with 60 ml for every measure instead of the international standard of 50ml", he adds.
As we went in search for the perfect summer libation, we braced our livers and lived through some mind-numbing and gut-twisting concoctions that almost made us lose faith in alcohol itself.
(Mixologists in this city need to understand that not everything they put in a frozen margarita will work. Fruit concentrates to be precise. Such experimentation must be banned for the good of humankind).
We also came across some surprising revelations that restored our faith in this city’s ability to fix up a good cocktail.
Hemant Pathak of the Blue Bar is a skilled bartender (a national winner and an international finalist in the Delagio World Class Bartending contest) working ingeniously with liqueurs, infused with spices, and in the case of one of the Taj Palace’s best selling cocktails — Blazing Saddles — 156 different spices. “Their crazy burnt spices and absinthe infused cocktail is worth saving up and falling over,” says writer Pragya Tiwari.
Another Taj cocktail (Rick’s at The Taj Mansingh) that has turned into a classic is the Burnt Orange Martini — potent and refreshing, it is the perfect heady summer mix. A well-deserved shout-out to their Apple Chilli Martini as well, which, at R500 is something to unwind with.
The Belini at Sikka’s new bar/lounge Keya is almost a revelation with the delectable flavour of fresh peaches and a recipe handed down by the inventors of the drink served in a tall champagne flute. A distinctly Indian palette might even appreciate the Pan Mojito Keya whips up, but you have been warned to proceed with caution. Photographer Anshika Verma highly recommends the Espresso Martini from the vast and exquisite selection of martinis at Magique and we couldn’t help but concur after a single sip of the heavy kick-inducing drink.
Delhi might not be famous for its cocktails but we have to admit that we’re finally getting our mixes right at many a spot. The experimentation might not always work out as planned — and some times even go horribly wrong — but we are, at least, acquiring a taste.