Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > Food> Drink > Picante, a cocktail that is like fiery chaat in a glass

Picante, a cocktail that is like fiery chaat in a glass

With its sour-spicy flavours, this tequila-based cocktail is fast becoming popular across the country

Pickled Picante at Foo.
Pickled Picante at Foo.

If there’s one cocktail gaining a following across the country, it’s the picante—a tequila-based drink with spicy-sour flavours that appeal to the Indian palate. Crafted with chilli and coriander, muddled with tequila, lime juice and agave syrup, this drink is like boozy, fiery chaat in a glass.

The cocktail came into prominence in 2012 with Picante de la Casa, at SoHo House in Los Angeles. Mixologist Nitin Tewari, who runs the beverage catering service 30Sixty in Delhi, first came across the drink in San Francisco in 2017 while setting up the bar for a restaurant called Rooh.

“I knew this cocktail would eventually reach India. The combination is unbeatable with the heat from jalapenos and the herbal flavour of coriander. These flavour profiles are integral to our cuisine,” he explains.

Today, highly rated bars in Delhi such as Lair, Sidecar and Home have a picante cocktail on their menu. The popularity of the picante should be viewed in context of the overall trend in mixology in India. In 2017, gin had taken over all the bars. However, today, people have shifted to agave spirits such as tequila and mezcal.

“No drink can become popular just by itself. Liquor companies have created a fear of missing out by pushing picante,” says Tewari.

On a rise

In India, liquor companies can’t directly advertise their product, so the cocktail acts as a perfect promotion for them. “As more people drink picante, the tequila category itself gets bigger. Since it features ingredients that are not alien to us, it is the perfect cocktail,” Tiwari says.

The numbers are testament to this. Kunal Bhimji Patel, co-founder of Monika Enterprises that imports Jose Cuervo and 1800 brands of tequila, says they have seen an upswing in the sale of premium tequilas in the last year with the majority of sales coming from Mumbai.

“I have also seen more outlets with picante than without in recent times. The trend of drinking picante, along with sipping tequilas, is only going to grow from here on,” says Patel.

Also read | Agave-based spirits are fuelling a new Mexican wave

The addition of jalapenos instead of chilli elevates the picante from a spicy margarita to a cocktail with a unique flavour profile.

The drink comes in different versions, when paired with fruits such as pomegranate, pear and mango, and aromatics like celery, parsley and lemongrass.

Mumbai’s Cirqa 1960 cocktail bar added the Clear Picante, made by clarifying the cocktail, as a permanent fixture in its new menu after witnessing a five-fold rise in the number of orders from 50 a month in late 2023 to 250 a month currently, says Pankaj Gupta, founder of the hospitality brand Flavour Pot Foods.

Keenan Tham, co-founder of the Mumbai-based Pebble Street Hospitality, says the Pickled Picante at their restaurant Foo, Bengaluru, made by pickling jalapenos and adding a dash of celery salt to amplify the sourness, is popular.

“Picante has found favour among those who enjoy a bit of heat in their drinks,” he says. “At our newly opened Mexican restaurant, Pompa, in Mumbai, we have a signature picante, which adds saline for a harmonious blend. We sold over 2,300 picantes in March, with approximately 600 of them at Foo in Bengaluru alone.”

Going mainstream

Unusual ingredients are being shaken and stirred, and new styles have emerged. At Cobbler & Crew in Pune, which was crowned the second-best bar in India in this year’s 30 Best Bars list, head bartender Mayur Marne regularly finds his patrons recommending the passionfruit version of the picante. This has inspired him to experiment further and add another picante with a twist to the menu.

The drink, B Grade Blockbuster, features tequila, maple, jalapeno, mango and bell pepper marmalade. “People have started asking for picante shots instead of tequila shots now,” he says.

It is not just bars. Picantes have entered the retail space too—an indication that the drink has gone mainstream. Last week, the ready-to-serve cocktail brand Mr Jerry’s launched a guava picante. The 500ml bottle is a premix cocktail currently available in Goa for 600. Simply pour 100ml from the bottle over ice and you can enjoy a picante anytime.

Guava Picante pre-mix by Mr Jerry's Cocktails.
Guava Picante pre-mix by Mr Jerry's Cocktails.


• Rouge at Tresind Mumbai (Hibiscus tea and prickly pear shrub)
• B Grade Blockbuster at Cobbler & Crew, Pune (Mango and bell pepper marmalade)
• Centro Paradiso at Mehico, Kolkata (Cilantro air)
• Lager Than Life at Bar SoGo, Goa (Feni and lager beer)
• Lair’s Picante at Lair, New Delhi (Gondhoraj and kaffir lime salt)

Priyanko Sarkar is a Mumbai-based writer covering the F&B industry.

Also read | On a cocktail trail in Kolkata


Next Story