Whisky cocktails for the Indian summer
Contrary to popular belief, whisky provides a complex and flavour-packed base for a range of cocktails, suitable even for the Indian summer
Summer is here and many people are reluctantly locking away their favourite whiskies and turning to beer. Or switching to tall icy drinks featuring white spirits for that much-needed, post-work drink. But here’s the thing: Whisky is not a seasonal drink, and, contrary to popular belief, provides a complex and flavour-packed base for a range of summer cocktails.
“A lot of people think about vodka when they think of cocktails," says Jay Malik, senior brand manager—MENA, Brown-Forman, one of the largest American spirit makers, known for its Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve whiskies and Finlandia vodka. “Vodka in general has no flavours or aroma. A whisky, on the other hand, already has flavours that one can work with."
The important thing while crafting a whisky cocktail is understanding the flavour profiles of the whisky at hand as well as the ingredients that will pair with it.
“There are only two ways to approach the flavours, you either complement or contrast them," says Vaibhav Singh, founder of the Delhi-based Perch Wine and Coffee Bars. “So, for example, if you have a Jack Daniel’s with caramel or honey notes, which are sweeter, you can either contrast them by pairing it with citrus notes or complement them by using nuts."
The key to summer drinks is that they should be refreshing, which means adding fresh fruits and herbs, say mixologists.
“Citrus is the key; lemons, grapefruits, oranges, mandarin, etc.," says Malik. “We have also seen many bartenders using a lot of herbs like basil and rosemary. Passion fruit is another hot ingredient. The minute you add this to a whisky, the flavour intensifies. Take, for example, a whisky that has caramel or chocolate notes. An orange can do wonders when paired with it."
“With the kind of temperatures that you have in India, a long drink in a tall glass is always more refreshing than whisky on the rocks," he says.
Malik and Singh were members of the jury that judged the final round of the North American Whiskey Cocktail Championship in New Delhi last week. Fifteen finalists were chosen from among 230 participants over two rounds of competition, based on the originality of the drink, its balance and presentation, and actual sales figures. The bartenders were given 30 days to promote their cocktail at their outlet and submit the sales figures.
Vikram K.U. of Blue Bar, Taj Palace hotel, New Delhi, won the championship for “The Amazing Grace", a walnut and fig infused Woodford Reserve, spice syrup, dashes of home-made spice bitters and lemon bitter stirred and served with an orange twist.
More people are now experimenting with newer and local ingredients.
“There is a joke in the industry: The Old Fashioned is so old, it was called Old Fashioned even 100 years ago," says Vineet Agrawal, Brown-Forman’s marketing head for the India subcontinent and Maldives. “But with more bars opening across cities and bartenders getting more knowledgeable, there is emphasis on local ingredients."
Vikram Achanta, co-founder and chief-executive officer of drinks training and consulting firm Tulleeho, agrees. “The knowledge these guys have, their depth of research, is just amazing. In fact, I was surprised to see that one of the bartenders had taken inspiration from Ayurveda to create a cocktail," he says.
That drink, called Yogi Jika Jack Amrut, was created by Vadivel Chettar of Social, Mumbai, and combined tulsi leaves, tamarind juice, jaggery syrup and a pinch of salt, all stirred into 45ml Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel.
One classic (and other new cocktails) for the summer. Avoid Scotch, any other whisky will work just fine.
2 oz Jack Daniel’s Old No.7
1 tbsp simple syrup
1 mint sprig
Muddle the mint with simple syrup. Then fill with crushed ice. Add Jack Daniel’s. Stir gently. Garnish with mint sprig.
Back to the roots by Akhilesh, Ek Bar, New Delhi
60ml Woodford Reserve
4 dashes cocoa bitters
4 lime wedges
Build up the ingredients in a high ball glass. Add ice. Garnish with rosemary.
Royal Pacific by Soumyadipta Pachal, JW Marriott, Pune
60ml Woodford Reserve
30ml passion fruit puree
5-8ml fresh orange juice
10ml lemon juice
1 stick rosemary
2-3 drops of bitter
1 piece orange wedge
Shake the ingredients and serve in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange wedge.
Whangdoodle by Prajjwal Rai, Speakeasy Bar, Gurugram
30ml egg white
15ml maple syrup
20ml lime juice
3 dashes of black walnut bitters
10ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
50ml Gentleman Jack
Shake all the ingredients and serve in a coupé glass. Garnish with maple-leaf shaped orange peel and grated orange peel.