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Monday motivation: Create bar-style cocktails at home in the lockdown

Regressed to the rum and coke routine from your college days? Professional bartenders share their guide to creating elegant cocktails at home

Guava and cinnamon-smoked chilli cocktail by Neil Alexander.
Guava and cinnamon-smoked chilli cocktail by Neil Alexander.

Can you take leftover bottles of whiskey and basic spirits like rum and gin and create a bar-style cocktail experience at home? Professional bartenders say it's possible with some clever thinking.

The starting point is categorising your bottles into heavy and light spirits: whiskey and dark rum are in the former category, while gin, white rum and vodka are in the latter. Then check-in with yourself to trace the flavours you crave—light and fruity, a herb and vegetable base, a simple shot of sour or mood-shifting sweetness?

Certain simple ingredients will fulfil your needs. Watermelon will be apt for a fruity drink, cucumber with tomatoes for vegetable, raw mango or lime for a tart taste, and ripe mango for those with a sweet tooth, says Santosh Kukreti, founder of advanced bartending school in Mumbai. Kukreti has been busy whipping up drinks on Instagram via his handle @indian.bartender. Last week, he posted a detailed story on the platform to make ginger beer and it seems spectacularly simple.

Kukreti says a light spirit—think vodka or gin—will pair well with the summer-friendly watermelon. Introduce a dash of coriander, squeeze half a lime and stir in a sweetener or salt if needed and your afternoon cocktail is ready. Gin or tequila, with their herbaceous notes, will pair well with cucumber and fresh mint.

You can muddle in a little bit of tomato too and throw in a hint of tabasco. If you are using raw mango for a sour drink, chilli powder will guarantee a great pairing. You can recreate the classic Mojito with basil or tulsi for an extra edge, if that's what you have at home. A whiskey-sour style mango-based drink is perfect for those with an inclination for sweet flavours. Stir in 30 ml mango puree with 60 ml whiskey and 15 ml lime juice, shake and say cheers.

Even bitters can be made at home and Neil Alexander, corporate mixologist at the Bengaluru-based Windmills Craftworks, suggests an ingenuous smoked chilli recipe.

Take a large cinnamon stick on a metal plate and torch it, as soon as there are some flickering flames, cover with a glass container and the fire will immediately be put off. Meanwhile, take three spicy red chillies, slit them into two, put them in the smoked container and place the lid tightly. Once cooled, add 200 ml of a white spirit like rum, vodka or gin and let it rest for one day for the smoked infusion of chilli and cinnamon to mature. This concoction will not get spoilt if stored in room temperature and away from sunlight for almost a month because of the high alcohol content. It can be used for a lip-smacking guava cocktail.

Blend 60 ml gin, 60 ml guava juice, 5 ml bitters, a big pinch of salt and pepper (adjust to taste) and 10 ml lime juice. Then refrigerate for two hours and serve chilled in a glass rimmed with chilli powder and salt, and raise a toast.

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