Bar hopping with a Mojito

Bangalore is a city of heavy drinkers and closet alcoholics. After a heavy week of work or studies or lectures or projects, we all like to loosen up a bit. Some of us might have the stamina to endure a whole night of drinking. I ususaly reserve it for special weekends for celebrations. And what I like to do those times is bar-hopping; spending the whole night going from one bar to another drinking with buddies and passing the night away. Fortunately its not dine every night or at every reason to celebrate.

And my bar-hopping is generally restricted to 3 or 4 same happy places everytime. My friendly neighbourhood - TGIF (old airport road), the spacious halls of Hard Rock Cafe (St Marks road), if allowed at that time - into the heights of 13th floor (Church Street) and then to call a night - Tavern (Museum Rd). And the drink I hop around with is always the same - the great Cuban elixir - Mojito!.

I have introduced you to Mojito earlier. This is the most refreshing drink of the world - "as per me". Let me take you through my observations during bar-hopping, of the variety of Mojito preparations that Bangalore bars offer. The classic way is to muddle mint and lime in a high ball glass with sugar. Add Ice and white rum and top with soda water. TGIF and hard rock prepare them almost exactly this way. Except both use sugar syrup instead of sugar. I observed couple of times that the bar-tender at Hard Rock Cafe shakes it before topping with soda water.

Let me explain to you two very innovative ways to making Mojito in couple of other places in Bangalore. First - Take 5, a jazz bar in Indiranagar. Here the good bar-man -Sam muddles mint leaves and lime along with the ice-cubes. He basically crushes the ice along. He adds couple of tea spoons of powdered brown sugar. Empties the cocncoction into a glass and pours some rum and then tops with soda. Different take, but the problem somtimes with this is that you might over muddle the mint and lime , bringing out the bitterness from their peel rather than their oils. One more remark - I frankly dont like the glass in which the Mojito is served there. It just doesn`t fall under any category, looks like a juice glass.

The best Mojito that I ever had is in 13th floor. The drink is built in an old fashioned glass. Mint and lime are muddled with granules of brown sugar unlike sugar syrup or powdered sugar. This muddling brings out the perfect balance of oils and flavours of the ingredients. Crushed ice is added. White rum poured over the ice, soda water topped. This way the drink stays chilled as long as we are at it. The barman`s special comes here. About 5 ml of dark rum is dropped on top of soda, giving a sweet aroma. Now the drink looks, smells and tastes heaven.

Sticking to just one kind of drink when you are hopping bars will avoid mixing of different varieties and keeps the taste in the mouth almost similar and because of its refreshing nature, Mojito does the job just perfectly.

Orders for your first cocktail

Our lives have a lot of firsts: The first time we ever rode a bicycle without training wheels, the first time we ever drove a car, the first this and that and may be the first drink. While we could use training wheels for cycling and a learner's permit to drive the car, the laws on drinking leave no room for education. These laws simply drop us right into the responsibility of alcohol without bothering to take the time to teach us how to actually drink responsibly.

And I took up to this great challenge with great vigor and excitement the day I thought I had become 18 and hence an “adult”. There was no one to help navigate me into the world of alcohol. But it dint seem so difficult either and I started my spiritual journey with a 650 ml “Golden Eagle” beer under the campus water tank with a bum chum, buddy, munching on raw Soya chunks. My first visit to a bar was a couple of years later when I started my training for my accounting degree. And in the last 10 years, I hardly seem to remember, when I graduated from Beer to whiskey, when I moved on with life and accepted rum to be elixir or life, least do I remember my first vodka shot. I wished today that I had chronicled my ordeals with alcohol.

I am right now at a stage in my alcoholic life where cocktails have taken my fancy and I wished that I had always been drinking them. I wished I had ordered a Mojito the first time I visited a bar and not just rum and coke. Alas, no one had told me when I began drinking, about the exotic and delightfully illusionary world of cocktails.

I wish to spread my love for cocktails now. Today, I shall introduce you to this grand world of liquid cuisine and help you choose your first cocktail when you go to the bar next. Let my blog be your training wheels with which you can have extensive experience and then gradually get used to this form of Nirvana.

Here are a few recommendations for trying your first cocktail upon reaching the legal age or knowledge of drinking which ever comes later:

Mojito: Rum based. The most popular “in” cocktail of our times. Originally created in Cuba. Acts as a great thirst quencher. Lime chunks muddled along with mint leaves and sugar and then rum and soda water added.

Cosmopolitan: The famous TV series Sex and the City popularized this one like no one else. The girls in this series are always yakking about their lives in the bars of Manhattan with this drink in their hand. Largely associated as a ladies drink, is vodka based with suttle lime, orange bitters and cranberry flavors. Served in a martini glass, the pink color is a delight to the eyes.

Caprioska: The original version is called Capirinha and is based on Brazilian rum called cachaca. But since that rum is not so widely available, there is an alternative version, which is based on Vodka & rest of the ingredients being the same – lime and sugar. If you observe it’s almost same as Mojito except there are no mint leaves in here.

Margarita: As Mexican as it can get. If you knew that tequila is drank only as shots, here is some surprise. Margarita is the most popular Mexican cocktail. Generally served in a salt rimmed “Margarita “ glass, its is a greatly refreshing drink. Silver Tequila mixed with triple sec (orange liquer) and limejuice. The bartender should not go wrong with this.

Cocktail Nirvana believes in experience and not hangover. Drink responsibly

Someone teach me how to drink

Who gave you "your first alcholic dose" ? Did you know what you were ordering and why? Were you being forced to taste alcohol by a bunch of college bullies or at an office party? Did you know what would happen if you drink gin instead or rum or whisky? Did you want to know how much to consume and when?

You must have admired, and worshiped those amongst us that we know as "adults". They seem to have all of the answers. They are infallible. Some day, we too will be an "adult", and will also be a fountain of wisdom and advice. Reaching 21 is essentially that imaginary cross-over; it is when we suddenly turn into an "adult". We have most likely been driving for several years by now. We are probably living on our own, have a job, and have to shave regularly. We have arrived. We are an adult. Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about alcohol, and drinking beverages that contain it. In this subject, we are mere infants, and like infants we need long and slow training in order to acquire the necessary skills to navigate its shores. But, at the same time, we are adults. All of our past experiences have instilled upon us the need to now present ourselves with the bravado of confidence. To convince ourselves and those around us that we do in fact know it all. I expect that it is from this, that many of our drinking problems spring.

Furthermore, while parents and teachers are greatly involved with educating us about how to safely drive a car, the only drinking education we receive is informally given to us by friends and older siblings. In fact, the only formal education I ever received in school about alcohol was that it was bad. I was never really taught about different types of alcohol and their practical effects on the body until I started drinking myself. And where did this leave me?

It left me several times surrounded by people in parties, wondering if a bottle of Malt Liquor was hard alcohol or not. It left my alcohol education not to parents and teachers, but to certain members of the accounting firm where I was training for my degree, who took me and my peers under their wing and showed us the way. It left me to learn how to binge drink at parties , but not how to drink at dinners and events.

We need a system that allows us to progressively learn from our elders how to responsibly enjoy alcohol. Much like the year that we have a learner's permit, I believe that we need to have a year's worth of alcohol education. This would essentially involve granting young adults who are 18 the right to legally drink, but not the right to legally purchase alcohol and not the right to legally enter bars. During this time, 18-year-olds would be forced to drink with people who are older, and wiser, and would inevitably gain from it.

Instead we have a system in place where young adults learn about alcohol not from their parents and relatives but from their friends and siblings.

The Importance of Cocktails

To begin with, despite everything that your peers might be telling you, the purpose of drinking is not to get drunk. Yes, technically alcohol is a chemical substance that induces drunkenness, and yes, cocktails wouldn't really be cocktails without alcohol. But a properly made cocktail is so much more then just being defined by the amount of alcohol it contains. The cocktail is a form of cuisine, with interesting, exciting, and even enlightening flavor potentials.

The cocktail (and its alcohol), when taken in moderation, also has a socially relaxing effect. It comforts you, and allows you to let your guard down just a little. When you are out with friends, it adds a little bit to the fellowship of the evening. However, if you go too far, and get "ripped", then it just makes a mess of things.

An old adage goes : "Drinking just to get drunk, is like having sex just to get pregnant."

Yes, technically both are the biological intents, but if that's all you are focusing on, then you are missing out on the real enjoyment that can be had when you truly embrace the experience properly. Frankly, when you go out drinking, you should probably get "drunk" about as often as you'd like to get pregnant.

Train

There are many aspects of the cocktail which are so far outside of your existing experiences that the only real way to deal with them is to rely on some form of training.
Gin, tequila, and whiskey can be very difficult for the budding cocktail palate to understand, much less appreciate. Brandy and rum can be a little more approachable, but still distinctly unusual. The best drinks to use as training wheels, will be those that bare a close approximation to the same flavor profiles of the drinks of your youth. Drinks flavored heavily with juices, or which are almost a soda pop, will be the easiest to accept. In fact, you can essentially take anything non-alcoholic that you might like, and simply add a shot (45 ml) of vodka to it, in order to turn it into an "adult" drink. This is essentially all that a Screwdriver is; orange juice, with a shot of vodka.

In my next blog, I will give you some cocktail recommendations to try on your first experiences with alcohol. Let`s learn how to drink.

Cocktail Nirvana believes in an experience and not a hang over. Drink responsibly.

The Beginning

This blog is something I've been thinking for quite a while, and I've finally taken the leap to turn it into reality. It has just taken birth, it still isn't complete but it is far enough along for it to finally see its official unveiling on the www. Not only will the content solidify eventually, but I expect the blog itself will probably go through a few visual and organizational changes as I fine-tune my approach to presenting this information in a reasonable fashion.
This will not be one of those million Cocktail web sites. Instead I want to share with you my experiences as I explore the true art of making cocktails.
The cocktails I present here will all be ones that I have personally tested, and over time, many of these will be expanded to include my own observations, insights and versions. I'll also intend to talk with you, my ideas and experiences on home bartending, and how you can begin to put together your own collection of ingredients and tools so that you can enjoy or treat your guests a great cocktails at home yourself.

How I came to like cocktails?

My discovery and enjoyment of cocktails doesnt go way too back. As a child, and at times far too young to even understand what alcohol really was, I don`t remeber being fascinated by the concept of cocktails and bartending. But as the years in my adventures with spirits progressed, I kept thinking how much fun it would be to go through bartending school and learn how to master the art of cocktail alchemy.

Back in time, I found myself old enough to go into cocktail bars. Having had a well rounded wallet with me,during my training days for my accounting degree, I knew a few names as "Sex On The Beach", "Screwdriver", Long Island, and there was also this drink called a Martini that nobody really ever ordered. Cocktails in general are not ordered at bars in India as beers or whiskey sodas are. I always found myself at a loss when it came time to order myself. This is because I didn't truly understand what a cocktail was, or grasp the importance of the ingredients that they were made of.

Living in Bangalore and traveling our little globe, my tastes developed and evolved an appreciation for the multitude of cocktails. I started brining home a variety if liquers and started trying combinations. Over last three years, I never knew when my combining skills turned me into a mixologist. I have been mixing drinks at different parties for quite some time.

Cocktail Funda
Humbling myself, I call myself a Mixologist rather than a cocktail connoisseur. Cocktails are different from Wine,Beer, Coffee or Tea. With the laters it's like being able to go into a fine restaurant, and know how to read the menu and order just the right items. But with Cocktails, your role is much closer. Anybody can slop some gin into a glass, drop in an olive, and call it a Martini, but there is more to it then that. Shaken, stirred, gin, vodka, vermouth, olive, twist, orange bitters… there are lots of things to consider and understand if you are to provide your guests with a Martini that they will remember.
This is the path I am on, to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the cocktail. This blog will be my vehicle for sharing my adventures with you, and hopefully helping you to learn along with me.

Cocktail Nirvana believes in experience and not hangover. Drink responsibly.

About Shank

Shank is a cocktail enthusiast & a self-proclaimed mixologist. He likes to experiment with spirits. He has traveled around a bit visiting hundreds of bars and tasting the buzziest of alcohols, cocktails and shooters.



Shank spent early years of his dizziness in Mumbai. He has lived in Hyderabad for long and for the past few years is chilling his glass in Bangalore.



He is currently busy spreading his love for spirits through this blog - Cocktail Nirvana.


This blog is part of his ongoing quest for fine spirits, creative cocktails and classic mixology. These online journals will capture his cocktail inventions, adventures with alcohol, trips to bars, meeting with ace mixologists, lessons in the art of drinking and much more.

This apart, ignoring good judgment, the fine folks at www.mybangalore.com also allow him to take up valuable space on their portal with his words & pictures.

Away from Nirvana

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