Wine & Dine
Text by Zaral Shah. Photographed by Joshua Navalkar
Over the last decade, global culinary maestros have innovated new dishes by playing with unorthodox ingredients. Not to be left out, mixologists have been as creative, with bespoke cocktails, topping them with 24-carat gold flakes or blending in CBD (cannabidiol). If you’re looking to sample this trend in India, there is now a wide choice of wacky drinks to quench your curiosity.
Talking about the contemporary consumer’s ever-evolving palate, Sonali Mullick, mixologist at Mumbai restaurants Bayroute and Hitchki, shares, “The current generation is bold and all about experimenting with the latest cocktail trends. A little known fact is that our taste buds stimulate emotions, and at Hitchki, we aim to take our consumers on a nostalgic joyride with our hatke concoctions.” Anisha Maker, cofounder and chef at Colaba’s concept pub Garage Inc. Public House agrees, “Cocktails are not merely colourful alcoholic drinks anymore. In today’s day and age, a cocktail is an experience — and it should be as well-textured as it is flavoured.” Adds Bob Fernandes, head mixologist at Keiba, “Most of our consumers are globetrotters who have encountered different cuisines. Personally, I find creativity and flavour exciting — using ingredients which have rarely been used before in a cocktail, and pairing them with the right kind of spirits to create the required taste and consistency.”
Mullick, Maker and Fernandes show us how to move on from the tried-and-tested Old Fashioneds, cosmopolitans and Martinis….
Bob Fernandes, head mixologist, Keiba
Driving to where Keiba stands at one end of the parking lot in mahalaxmi race Course, you’re greeted by a massive hand-painted mural of two converging Japanese cherry blossom trees. Combining the buzziest health food with some rather amusing ingredients led to bob Fernandes creating morino batah — a mix that brings together avocado, honey, Nigori sake, vodka and soya milk. The key he says, was in pairing avocados with the right ingredients to bring out its subtle flavour, while keeping the drink light and refreshing.
“Morino Batah translates to ‘cream of the forest’. Avocado is a popular health food, and I don’t see why we should limit cocktails to just the commonly used ingredients. This is the perfect drink for the health-conscious. Avocados don’t have a very distinct taste of their own, so the Morino Batah is perfectly balanced with subtle ingredients to bring out its flavours. Avocado and soya milk go hand in hand and offer a thick, creamy texture to the drink while the rice vinegar reduction, honey and Nigori sake give it the required consistency.”
Sonali Mullick, mixologist, Bayroute and Hitchki
Bayroute is currently one of the city’s toughest restaurants to score a reservation at, and what drives people there is the eccentric bar menu. One of Mullick’s more popular cocktails is Hey Bartender… There Is Hummus In My Drink! which is infused with hummus and baba ganoush and garnished with coriander leaves.
If you feel like indulging in a culinary trip down memory lane, Hitchki — any of its many outlets in the city — are your destination! And while the niblets — starring the likes of cheeselings, Maggi and Phantom cigarettes — are sure to satiate the nostalgic foodie in you, the cocktails cannot be missed either. With her creation Aati Kya Khandala, Mullick has brought the magic of crunchy chikki to a glass. She offers another zany experience with her concoction Shaktiman — a blend comprising chyawanprash and gin.
“I wanted to play with some key Mediterranean ingredients and capture their flavours. And it was after a couple of experiments that I came up with Hey Bartender. Hummus blended best with tequila; its creamy texture creates the right balance. This drink incorporates the high of tequila with the creaminess of hummus, while giving the taste buds a different experience.”
“For Aati Kya Khandala, the thought was to capture the vibe of the place. We all love peanut chikki and immediately connect it with Khandala. Its caramelised flavour seemed to work very well in a drink. And to further enhance the taste, we also ground the chikki and sprinkled it over the drink. The combination of caramel and dark rum is classic, and the nutty flavour of peanuts adds a whole other dimension to it. I believe that dark rum is most suitable with chikki, as other spirits such as whisky, vodka and Scotch are comparatively more heaty and hence unlikely to mix with the chikki.”
“One of my son’s favourite things to eat is a spoonful of chyawanprash alongside a glass of milk, and his enthusiasm gave me the idea to try and combine it with alcohol. Gin was the game changer here, as the spirit can easily be blended with a variety of flavours and mixers. I personally wanted to create a drink with chyawanprash as the hero ingredient and combining it with gin resulted in Shaktiman, a true winner!””
Anisha Maker, co-founder, Garage Inc. Public House
Nestled in a quaint Colaba by-lane, this Indian, Chinese and pub-grub-serving eatery might revive the magic of the past through its interiors, but the real stars here are its progressive signature cocktails. Like the Deconstructed Pesto Bloody Mary, in which Maker has seamlessly blended a mix of Italian flavours (garlic, parmesan croutons et al) into the smooth notes of vodka.
“The world is a smaller place, and people are trying flavours that lie outside their comfort zones and learning to enjoy a global F&B experience — like bacon in cocktails! What drives my innovation in mixology is incorporating new ingredients as part of a combination in a way that is unique yet complementary; it is about making cocktails that ignite your umami taste. Pesto is a strong flavour for a cocktail, and to add it directly would be too crass. Which is why I’ve deconstructed and incorporated its different elements into the cocktail. The vodka is infused with basil; as a neutral alcohol, vodka takes on any flavour you infuse it with.”