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Home > News> Big Story > Cocktail recipes and tips from India’s top mixologists? Dive in

Cocktail recipes and tips from India’s top mixologists? Dive in

The home bar is buzzing with quirky infusions, cocktail kits and trendy mixers. We ask six mixologists from across the country for ways to up our cocktail mixing game

The year of mixing at home has gone beyond classic G&Ts or even Cosmopolitans and Manhattans
The year of mixing at home has gone beyond classic G&Ts or even Cosmopolitans and Manhattans (iStock)

“Try making a Balle Balle Bloody Mary,” says Yangdup Lama promptly in response to a question about a recipe for this story. The co-founder of the award-winning Delhi bars Sidecar and Cocktails & Dreams has mastered the magic that mixologists posses: spreading cheer.

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It is this sentiment, with the pandemic offering little respite, that has made this a year of mixing cocktails at home. The beginnings were deceptively simple—making fuss-free classic cocktails like Gin and Tonic and Whisky Sour. The game went up a few notches with Cosmopolitans and Manhattans, and now we are talking home-made infusions.

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Bars and F&B brands have caught on to this shift. Just as restaurants pivoted to delivery, mixologists started creating pre-mixed cocktail boxes for takeaways, released elaborate drinking guides, and conducted paid cocktail mixing sessions on Zoom—most were sold out. New brands specialising in cocktail mixers are now stirring things up for amateur and optimistic home bartenders.

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These new products signal a change—a shift in tastes from hard liquor on-the-rocks to subtle, flavourful drinks that make the alcohol seem almost incidental. Some attribute this shift to the gin revolution in the country, while others speak of a hankering for anything artisanal.

If you are keen to get in on this game, Lounge asked six top bartenders to share recipes, expert advice and music suggestions to raise the bar at home.

YANGDUP LAMA: CO-FOUNDER, SIDECAR AND C&D SPEAKEASY, DELHI

Yangdup Lama
Yangdup Lama

Five must-have spirits at home

Whisky (Bourbon/Scotch); Vodka; Gin; Rum (preferably light and aged); and Tequila (Silver for cocktails and Anejo for sipping).

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Ways to elevate the drinking experience at home

Make it a sensorial experience. Let the drink lure you in by how good it looks, how good it tastes, and how inviting the aromas are. This means you will need nice glassware and garnish. Then up your game with some great music.

What’s on your playlist while you mix cocktails?

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar, Rupert Holmes’ The Pina Colada Song, Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook and What A Wonderful World.

RECIPE

Balle Balle Bloody Mary

Balle Balle Bloody Mary
Balle Balle Bloody Mary

Ingredients

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

2 green chillies, chopped

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2 tsp fresh coriander, chopped

Salt to taste

A pinch of rock salt or kala namak

A pinch of chaat masala

15ml lime juice

100ml tomato juice

A pinch of Maggi masala

60ml vodka

Lots of ice

Cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and mint sprigs for garnish

Freshly ground pepper

Glass: Stemmed goblet

Method

Take a mixer and put all the ingredients. Give it a good roll a couple of times. In other words, mix it like filter coffee by using two glasses (three times). Fill a stem glass with ice. Top up with the concoction. To garnish, slide in a slice of cucumber, cherry tomatoes and top off with mint sprigs. Sprinkle fresh ground pepper and serve.

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SHATBHI BASU: MIXOLOGIST, AUTHOR, BAR & BEVERAGE CONSULTANT, MUMBAI

Shatbhi Basu
Shatbhi Basu

Five must-have spirits at home

Gin; Vodka; Dark rum; Tequila; Good whisky

Ways to elevate the drinking experience at home

Use nice glassware. Take the trouble to garnish a drink. Use your imagination with the nibbles. Encourage local producers who create interesting wines, great beers and fantastic spirits. These are being made by a wonderful group of talented people against all odds. Let’s support them too while enjoying great experiences at home.

What’s on your playlist while you mix cocktails?

The playlist depends on the mood and weather. I love all kinds of music, from Indian classical to jazz and rock; from Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi and Vasantrao Deshpande to Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Jethro Tull.

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RECIPE

Cucumber & Curry Leaf Gin & Tonic

Cucumber and Curry Leaf Gin & Tonic
Cucumber and Curry Leaf Gin & Tonic

Use spirits and mixers made by local producers. I recommend Greater Than, Stranger and Sons for gin, and Svami, Bengal Bay or Sepoy & Co for the tonic.

Ingredients

60ml gin

30ml cucumber juice—use what’s in your kitchen

1 wedge lime—feel alive with a little tartness to wake you up

3 curry leaves—encourage your window garden

Tonic water

Garnish: slice of cucumber/curry leaf stick

Method

Fill glass with ice

Pour in the gin and juice

Squeeze the lime wedge and drop the peel in

Crush the curry leaves and drop them in

Top with tonic and stir

Glass: Tall

Garnish

KARTHIK KUMAR: BEVERAGE CONSULTANT; BRAND-KEEPER AT JOSE CUERVO; FOUNDER, TWO OUNCES, BENGALURU

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Karthik Kumar
Karthik Kumar

Five must-have spirits at home

Whisky (Scotch, Bourbon, single malt, blended Scotch); Gin (a London-style dry gin for cocktails and Navy Strength for the best Martinis); Vodka, the best spirit to experiment with; White and dark rums, not just for making Mojitos but also to make great Tiki-style drinks like Piña Coladas, Mai Tais, Rum Old Fashioned-s and Manhattans; some aperitifs, like Campari or Aperol for cocktails and some flavoured liqueurs.

Ways to elevate the drinking experience at home

Hire a bartender! Jokes apart, along with the flavoured syrups available, simple things like orange peels can do wonders: Peel the orange without the pith, infuse the peels with sugar in an airtight container, leave it for a day. You will get an orange liquid called oleo saccharum. Filter the peels, store the liquid in a bottle and use a few drops in cocktails. Lemon or grapefruit peels can be infused in a similar way.

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What’s on your playlist while you make cocktails?

Afro house, Adana Twins, and music from Cercle.

RECIPE

Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini
Espresso Martini

Ingredients

60ml vodka, whisky or dark rum

40ml freshly brewed espresso (at a pinch, you can use instant coffee powder, 1 tbsp mixed in 100ml water. Use exactly 40ml of this)

20ml sweetener, like sugar syrup/ hazelnut syrup/ vanilla syrup.

Glass: Martini

Method

Shake well with ice in a closed jar or a cocktail shaker. You will get a crème layer on top when you shake the drink hard for a minimum of 12 seconds. Strain it into a glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of coffee or cocoa powder on top of the crème.

Bonus tip: To make vanilla syrup at home, boil 500ml water in a pan, remove from heat, add any sugar, stir and dissolve the sugar. Slit 2 vanilla beans, separate the pods, and add the pods and stalks to the sugar syrup pan. Let it sit for an hour. Stir well, strain and store the syrup. in a bottle.

DEVI SINGH, BAR CUSTODIAN AT ANTARES, GOA

Devi Singh
Devi Singh

Five must-have spirits at home

Vodka; Whisky; Rum (dark and white); Gin; Wine and beer

Ways to elevate the drinking experience at home.

Improve your ice-making skills and ice storage. You will need more ice trays, maybe an additional freezer. Cocktails need a lot of ice and that’s usually what people have an issue with at home. Play around with textures of ice, such as shaved and crushed. Blending the entire cocktail with ice can give you a slushy texture and make a few frozen cocktails, which is a great way to consume cocktails in summer. Always use good-quality water to make ice. When trying to demould the ice from the tray, keep it out of the freezer for a few minutes. This will allow the ice to slide out of the tray without breaking.

What’s on your playlist while you make cocktails?

Karsh Kale, Tech Panda, Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, Imagine Dragons

RECIPE

Orange You Glad

Orange You Glad
Orange You Glad

Ingredients

50ml gin, preferably Greater Than

20ml orange juice, preferably fresh

15ml honey

10ml lime juice

5-6 basil leaves, tapped and dropped

Glass: Rocks glass

Method

Take a shaker, add ice, gin, orange juice and honey. Stir the honey well in the shaker, else it will stick to the sides and not incorporate well with the drink. Add tapped basil leaves and give it a good shake. Strain over ice and garnish with fresh basil leaves and a slice of orange.

SOURAV SINGH: CONSULTANT MIXOLOGIST AND FOUNDER, COCKTAIL PUNDIT, KOLKATA

Five must-have spirits at home

Absolut Vodka; Greater Than gin; Jim Beam bourbon; Bacardi rum; Tequila La Chika

Ways to elevate the drinking experience at home.

Experiment with fruits, tonics and syrups. Store a few bottles of aromatic bitters, flavoured tonic water, some low-sugar flavoured syrups like elderflower and passion fruit. Just adding a few easily available ingredients to your normal gin and tonic or your vodka soda, like slit green chillies or a grapefruit, will elevate the taste. Make your ice game strong—the more chilled your cocktail, the more you will enjoy it. Freeze fruits like strawberry, melon, watermelon, blueberries in ice trays and add them to your drink. Fix Zoom meetings with friends and family, share your favourite cocktail recipes.

What’s on your playlist while you make cocktails?

Slow, relaxing Arabic tracks, James Brown, Alan Walker, Thom Yorke.

RECIPE

Axiomatic

Axiomatic
Axiomatic

Inspired by everyday cocktail-making and the appreciation for “spirit forward” drinks, this cocktail focuses on my signature twist with Jack Daniel’s, Vermouth Bianco and Hazelnut Reduction. To finish, a drop of Pinenut and Hazelnut Bitters that balance the stiffness of the cocktail and sweetness of the reduction.

Ingredients

50ml Jack Daniel’s Old No.7

10ml Vermouth Bianco

Half tsp hazelnut syrup

3 drops pinenut or hazelnut bitters

Glass: Coupe

Method

In a mixing glass, add all the ingredients. Give them a good stir. Garnish with grated hazelnut and serve in a coupe glass.

CINDY LALRAMNGAIHZUALI: BARTENDER, HOOTS’ AND PERCH, DELHI

Cindy Lalramngaihzuali
Cindy Lalramngaihzuali

Five must-have spirits at home

Your favourite spirit—be it gin or whisky or rum; Vermouth; Orange liqueur; an aperitif like Campari or Aperol; Mezcal or Cognac for special occasions

Ways to elevate the drinking experience at home.

Grow your herbs. I am also trying to grow my own herbs at home—basil and mint. New enthusiasts could start by watching cocktail videos on YouTube and experiment with different styles, like shaking a cocktail in a jam jar, stirring with chopsticks or other DIY methods. Also read about flavour pairings and how unique ingredients will match with each other. Everyone has heard about apple and cinnamon but did you know that smoke and salt go well with chocolate? Check out YouTube channels like Truffle on the Rocks, Three Barstools and Epicurious. For flavour pairings, refer to books like The Flavour Thesaurus and The Flavour Bible. Also, smell and taste the ingredients while making the cocktail, like you would while cooking.

What’s on your playlist while you make cocktails?

Lafayette Harris, Frank Sinatra, Avicii , David Guetta.

RECIPE

Summer Lounge

Summer Lounge
Summer Lounge

Ingredients

60ml white rum

20-25ml lime juice

15ml celery saccharum

3-4 basil leaves

Soda to top up

Glass: Collins

Method

Place the rum, lime juice and celery saccharum in a cocktail mixer and give it a good shake. Then pour it in a tall glass and add ice. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

Also read | How cocktail mixers came of age in India


Also read | The science of wines, beers and spirits

  • LAST UPDATED
    21.06.2021 | 01:14 PM IST

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