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The best cocktail is the one that tells a story

May 13, 2024 01:31 AM IST

For World Cocktail Day, here's a roundup of storied concoctions from bars across the country.

Here’s one way to look at a cocktail: it’s a libation made with a spirit, sugar, water, and bitters with intentionality and a plan to achieve a certain flavour profile. And here’s another way: It is a story, told to the patron by the barkeep through the investment of time, effort, and ingredients, along with the explanation of why they were chosen.

From taking cues from their host city to paying tribute to India’s textile legacy or simply reminiscing about characters from classic literature, these bars don’t just pop up a coaster and serve up a drink.

While the taste and experience are what make the patron come back, it’s the story that stays with them and disseminates into the world. From taking cues from their host city to paying tribute to India’s textile legacy or simply reminiscing about characters from classic literature, these bars don’t just pop up a coaster and serve up a drink. Instead, they narrate tales of people and places, from near and far, through their mixology.

Basque, Dehradun
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A Drink with Alice in Wonderland

Classic literature meets mixology in an immersive experience called Tales of Classic Literature. The cocktail program at Baque, Dehradun, has picked up "timeless classics and taken inspiration from characters, places, and stories," says Ankur Chawla, beverage expert, and sommelier. "We have tried to bring nostalgia through cocktails. The Wonderland Elixir cocktail is a concoction that mirrors the author Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The mesmerizing blue hue, courtesy of the blue curaçao, and gin, with its botanical notes, transports you to a garden of peculiar wonders," he adds.

The Bombay Canteen, Lower Parel Mumbai

An Ode to Mumbai Taxis

Ever noticed that objects behind a kaali-peeli cab are closer than they seem? This phenomenon inspires a drink at Bombay Canteen that pays homage to the city of Mumbai. "In Bombay, no matter what time of day, you are invariably stuck in traffic! The Rear View cocktail, inspired by the city’s iconic kaali peelis (cabs), comes with innovative ingredients such as black garlic (kaali), honey (peeli), ginger, tequila, and a squeeze of lime," reveals Yash Bhanage, Founder, and COO at Hunger Inc. Hospitality (The Bombay Canteen). "With no residual flavor of garlic to linger on your palate, this drink is an umami bomb," he adds.

Hortus, Kochi

Malabar Magic

In the 17th century, the governor of Malabar wrote the book Hortus Malabaricus, celebrating the coastal flora’s richness and medicinal properties. Now, at Kochi’s Hortus—The Garden of Malabar, ingredients featured in the book are incorporated into cocktails. The tangy Zamorin, made from tequila, tamarind, coriander, chili, and citrus, pays homage to the Zamorin families of Calicut, who ruled the trading hub for six centuries. This cocktail program also serves as a tribute to the botanical legacy which has influenced mixologists to craft flavors from these botanicals.

A Turkish Delight

Turkish people offer the non-alcoholic beverage Lohusa Şerbeti to guests and to women after childbirth. At Rizq, Delhi, bar mentor Viju Raj has crafted a Spiked Lohusa Şerbeti. "Like its traditional version, the cocktail is crafted using sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, red food coloring, and water — and bourbon and a dash of bitters, served with dehydrated orange peel. These elements are warming and inspire a sense of home and welcome," he elaborates.

Indian Textile History in a Glass

"Our Kantha cocktail is a tribute to the embroidery tradition of Kantha stitching from India's east coast. Much like the fabric, our drink blends simplicity with elegance. We use kaffir-infused Bacardi for a bold base, then layer on tropical and citrus notes with pineapple, coconut, and liquorice. The edible rice paper garnish, which depicts women engaged in the stitch, further reinforces the connection," shares mixologist Shelton Fernandes, Beverage Head of PCO Mumbai.

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