Cocktails , like fashion, are a sign of the times. Think of a classic like, say, the Martini or the Manhattan, and it conjures up a certain era, a style, a mood. Others have similar associations — like a perfectly made Bellini or a Mojito. And barmen, or mixologists as they are now being called, are forever looking for ways to innovate, to capture in a glass the mood of the moment. In trend capitals like New York, cocktailmaking is constantly being re-invented . Now, while chefs are perfecting the art or science — if you will — of molecular gastronomy, cocktail experts are squirting foams and jellies of liquour combinations onto the tongues of customers, giving them a whole new taste sensation.
While that may be at the extreme end of the experimenting, there other distinct styles which now tend towards using fresh and indigenous ingredients to produce cocktails with clean, sharp flavours. In fact, they are being termed culinary cocktails for their sophistication, and cater to consumers who are now as informed, discerning and adventurous about what they drink as they are about what they eat. The quest for new and indigenous flavours has also shifted the focus onto Asian flavours. Cool bars here are now shaking up drinks based on unmistakably Indian ingredients . Diwakar, F&B exec at a luxe hotel, points to the Tamarind-Ginger Martini they serve at their high-end Indian restaurant. “We eschew all synthetic products, making our own tamarind syrup, for instance. Our Chutney Vodka with coriander and fresh pineapple is a big hit with guests,” he says.
The bar team constantly works at combinations with local ingredients to come up with these fresh ideas. Manish Kumar, F&B head at another fivestar , is also dealing with a new list of cocktails . “These came about because our bar got a makeover to acquire an Indian style. The cocktails had to reflect that atmosphere; hence our Curry Flavour (curry leaves, demerera sugar, citrus vodka) and Green Fire (coriander, green chillies, citrus vodka) and Dual Jewel (whisky, green chilli, mint and guava juice).” Manish says it’s an effort to give both foreign guests and well-travelled locals cocktails with a distinct Indian twist. The bar team here has been working at it for a long time now, infusing vodka with saffron, coriander and even cardamom and then blending these concoctions with other ingredients. “Of course, we waste a lot of alcohol, but the end results are well worth the effort,” says Manish. Innovative cocktails are being paired with interesting finger foods. “We are presenting local flavours with a twist on the bar food menu,” says Manish. “You have, for instance, a duet of pickled fish — one Mangalore-style mackerel and the other, rollmops.”
SEASONAL COCKTAILS: Bartenders are using local, in-season ingredients.
MICRO-DISTILLING : Artisanal spirits from small, regional distillers (often using locally-grown grains) are all the rage, particularly among bartenders willing to experiment with new products.
INNOVATIVE GARNISHES : Real and edible flowers, dried and dehydrated fruits, pickled foods, locally grown herbs are what are topping glasses now.
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