"Cocktail culture is exploding globally. It’s all about a return to fun,” says Jenna Ba, sipping coffee on the fringes of the recent World Class Cocktail Festival and Bartender of the Year Awards that saw 50 mixologists from across the world taking part in a three-day “cocktail Olympics”, navigating intricate instructions to create complex drinks from a set of spirits assigned by Diageo’s World Class team. Ba, a veteran of the global bartending scene, is not a contender—she is present at the Sydney, Australia, festival in her role as global brand ambassador at Diageo. She is a frequent visitor to India and was last seen whipping up drinks at Mumbai’s Slink & Bardot nightclub. She has also worked at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, made a cocktail using leftover gulab jamun syrup and Talisker single malt, and learnt how to make the perfect jaljeera from a vendor in Mumbai’s Dadar market.
Speaking to Lounge, Ba lists a few trends that are rocking the world of cocktails, making drinking a fun and social activity after all the solitary juicing-up of the pandemic years.
Martinis are big: “A Martini is so simple, it’s actually complex. It’s like a beautiful black dress, it changes depending on how you personalise it,” says Ba. The classic gin-and-vermouth Martini is getting the gourmet treatment with many flavour twists—from the relatively sedate espresso Martini to the daring Aviation Cocktail, which uses a very specific liqueur, créme de violette.
Cocktails are food: The craft of making cocktails has come a long way from adding sugar syrup and lemon juice to a white spirit. Now there are edible garnishes, trendy new flavours, storytelling around cocktails and a new sustainability-meets-local angle—much like there is in gourmet food. Cocktails and mixologists are not playing second fiddle to food and chefs any more.
Making whisky fun: The “sacrilege to mix anything with a single malt” kind of attitude is out, says Ba. “Whisky always had gatekeepers who were judgemental about who drinks whisky, where and how but much of that is changing, with a new generation of mixologists who are not scared to play around with whisky,” says Ba, pointing to Indian bars like Whiskey Samba, in Gurugram, Haryana.
Zero-alcohol cocktails: The concept of drinking more meaningfully is gaining ground; Ba calls it “hedonism with self-respect”. Ba’s favourite zero-alcohol drink is a Zero Collins, made with Tanqueray Zero and a dash of lime juice and sugar syrup. She calls it “a shower for my brain”.
Get ready for tequila: Mixologists predict that it’s tequila’s turn to take over bars—and when we say tequila, we do mean any agave-based drinks, though there’s buzz that Diageo’s multiple award-winning tequila, Don Julio, might be making its way to India.
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