Flambe at Ambrosia

Food is not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, this one time I had to make an exception as the food involved alcohol. Ambrosia, on 100 ft road, Kormangala is an international cuisine restaurant and is celebrating a 2-week flambé festival. If you have not heard the Ambrosia’s jingle on the radio yet, Flambé, is a French style of cooking where along with great culinary skills, there is certain importance given to the visual delights of cooking as well. Food is half-cooked in the kitchen and the final touches are given tableside on movable cooking stations. Generous amounts of alcohol, mostly wine or brandy are dashed out to set your food on fire along with delectable sauces, selected cheeses and an assortment of spices.


Winter chill in the air, a festive mood around, the flames from Chef Vinod’s working station near the neighboring table and I knew I had a perfect evening in the making. A menu created especially for Ambrosia’s Flambe festival with an impressive lineup of options made the choice difficult. Zeroing in on Beef Burgundy for the main course I left the choice of starters to the chef, to serve their best. And as we devoured the Bruchetta, Chicken Wings, Mutton Sheekh & Prawns Gamboroni, I couldn’t stop wondering how the kitchen at this restaurant was bringing forth different cuisines to such perfection. Known for its international cuisine the menu is the dream of any food lover with delicacies from France, Jamiaca, Spain and more countries across the globe. There is a lot of Indian in there as well. The small little country flags on the menu help you know where the food is from. The starters made me determined to go back for more over the next few weeks.

And finally came the part I was waiting for most, I could feel the juices flowing as the trolley was pushed next to my table. I watched Chef Vinod adding in the flavors and flambéing my beef with red wine. Only liquors and liqueurs with a high alcohol content can be used to flame foods, and those with a higher proof will ignite more readily. Beer, champagne, and most table wines will not work. Spirits with 40% alcohol are considered the best choices for flambé. If the spirit is pre heated a little before adding to the food, it works really well. Ambrosia uses brandy and dark rum for some dishes apart from using red or white wines in some dishes.



I knew why preparing food was an art when I saw my beef on fire. I think apart from the flavor flambe technique adds to your meal, the process also works on building your appetite, atleast it worked wonders on mine. Served with Herb rice the meat was tender, the flavor right and the aroma inviting. White wine is suggested with white meat and red wine with Red meat. Big Banyan has done well with pairing their wines for the flambé festival. A glass of wine is complimentary with the flambé menu.



As I did justice to the entire helping on my plate I planned to skip the dessert until my partner read to me about the Drunken Banana – a Jamaican desert. Cinnamon flavored strips of banana tossed with butter and brown sugar, flambed with dark rum. Caribbean to the core. Back was the trolley at our table, this time to churn up a rich in calories, but irresistible serving of this very unique dessert which makes you want to forget the damage it may cause to your waistline. Vowing a stricter workout session at the gym the next day, I pushed guilt aside to commit the sin.



Food for two during the festival or otherwise is priced very reasonably and is not likely to set you back by more 1000 to 1200 including a glass of wine.

Close Encounters with Mixology of another kind

I’d like to write about all the great gigs I have been doing this holiday season. The sheer number of events and distractions are the cause for me being away from the machine all these days. But to be honest, I am thinking of posting something different this time.

Cocktail Nirvana, as I like to believe, is less about alcohol and getting drunk and more about a certain passion. Its passion, that drives most of us to take alternate paths at various times of our life. Allow me to talk to you today about someone else’s passion; a passion for mixology of a different and rather popular sort.

The best company a good drink could always use is a nice chat. But then music is a good competitor to a nice chat too. I generally prefer tippling to Jazz and occasionally like to swear by Pink Floyd when I hold my drink. But Martin influenced me to listen to house & progressive trance with his sheer passion for that genre of music. Martin & Aniket, good friends of mine, are a DJ Duo, pursuing their thirst for playing good electronic dance music. And I write about them today only because I like their passion for what they want to do with music.

Professionally known as II Guys, they are an interesting blend of Delhi & Mumbai. They started talking together a year back only to discover that they have a lot of beats/second (bpm) in common when it had anything to do with music. When they got together, they spoke a lot about music, listened to a lot more and they decided they had to be making a lot more people jump to it. They happened to meet Ashim, resident DJ at fBar, New Delhi, through a friend and got him excited about doing something very different from the regular hip-hop & commercial music. What followed did a lot of good for them, few clubs in Delhi & a lot of good reviews, which sent their morale high up in the air.



Another reason I got rolling about them today is that I have been teaming up with them for lot of parties that I have been doing of late. Bangalore is an absolute Cosmo city and needs international music to go with its cosmopolitans. II Guys have been pumping the private party scenes in Bangalore, complimenting greatly the flashy drinks from the bars managed by Cocktail Nirvana. 2 CDJ CD players, 1 DJM mixer & some good speakers splashed in good measure, is all that II Guys need to start dropping the latest tracks from all around the globe and make people go bonkers over music they don’t get to hear everyday at a good party with the most delicious cocktails flowing till the wee hours !!

The II Guys are here to do something crazily electrifying, and I’m glad they are a part of the gigs I do. Aniket & Martin, with their CDs of course, are people I would definitely recommend, at any place where people know what exactly they want, be it top notch cocktails or unforgettable musical experience.

I will be back soon writing more about alcohol in general and about Mekhong, Bacardi O & Bacardi Gold in particular. But I intend to use this blogspace occasionally also as a platform to introduce to you, people with fabulous talent who are pursuing their passion with great zest and lot of lime!!!

Bacardi "O" Media release

Here is the media release of Bacardi`s latest orange flavoured rum into Indian market. Its called Bacardi "O".

"BACARDI ‘O’ joins the growing family of fabulous flavored Bacardi rums in India - allowing for a wider range of mix ability across its portfolio

Bangalore, Dec 09: Bacardi, the world’s most popular premium white rum, is proud to introduce to India, for the first time Bacardi ‘O’, the first orange flavored Rum ever to be seen in the market. The flavor has been introduced in the Karnataka region and is priced at Rs. 620 per 750 ml bottle. The power packed launch saw Bangalore’s young sensation, Rachel Byros, vouching for this crisp, intense, juicy bite.

At the launch, Mr. Krishnan spoke about the special focus that the Bacardi brands are giving to the markets in the South, and about Bacardi O being only launched in Karnataka for now, given the strong preference for flavored white spirits that the state has come to demonstrate in recent times. Mr. Krishnan also shared plans of the imminent launch of their premium golden rum, Bacardi Gold, that would be launched in India close on the heels of Bacardi O.

With Bacardi O, the Bacardi flavor portfolio now boasts of four exciting alternatives for consumers, with the Limon, Apple and Razz variant already present in the market. With citrus-based flavors already having been a proven success among consumers in India, especially down South, Bacardi O is bound to be a runaway hit with the consumers in Karnataka. Bacardi O’s refreshing taste, derived from the choicest of oranges and tangerines, is the perfect base for any cocktail and is expected to be a popular order at bars. The BACARDI ‘O’ bottle design is equally tempting, with a distinctive orange-coloured “O” on the label and a bright orange cap signaling the tart, tantalizing taste within.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Arvind Krishnan, Controller – Marketing, Bacardi Martini India Limited, said,

The Flavors category has been the fast moving one within the white spirits segment and the introduction of Bacardi ‘O’ perfectly fits into our growing portfolio of premium, international offerings to the experimental consumers of today. Its enormous popularity across international markets showcases its strength of quality, making it one of the most appealing flavor introductions so far.”

Bacardi O rum goes well with a surprisingly large variety of mixers and has several preferred ways of consumption, leading among which is over crushed ice with an orange peel garnish, or mixed with tonic and Sprite."

Winter Cocktails

I do not know how magical it used to get in winters in here in Bangalore.I hear in December, the city would almost always be buried under a fat coat of fog, but of late, seeing just a wee bit of it nowadays has become a dream. Nevertheless, its still better than some other cities in India.

The bright sun shine this morning made me feel like singing Annie`s song and I took my motorcycle for quick ride on the beautiful sarjapur road. And its while riding I was thinking , if drinking enthusiasts around know of good cocktails to sip on cosy cold winter evenings. Here are a few recommendations from cocktail nirvana :

1) Hot Toddy: Its a classic and almost all of us might know of this. Choose your base - whiskey or brandy. I prefer Brandy. 150 ml Hot water, dash of lime, a tea spoon of honey and a nice large measure of brandy, all stirred together and served in an old fashioned glass. Adding cinnamon and cloves is also a good way of spicing up the drink. You will love the warm drip in your chest with every sip. Serves as a good alternative to medicine if you are having a running nose or a soar throat.



2) Hot Buttered Rum: For all your folks who are not very conscious of your calorie intake, this one is for you. Choose a good dark rum. Melt a teaspoon of butter along with a teaspoon of brown sugar in about 150 ml of hot water. To this potion add dark rum as much as your guts prefer.

3) Irish Coffee: Quite common as a post dinner drink, this one is likely to fancy you if you are a coffee lover as well. A shot of good whikey (although Irish whiskey would be nicer), in about 100 to 150 ml of black coffee topped with freshly whipped cream served in a sugar rimmed Irish Coffee glass makes this a fabulous choice for winter.




The above three are the most commonly preferred ones. There are many fancy drinks all over the world that people take on in winters. In Istanbul, Turkey, they have a drink called Boza. Never having travelled there or having any friend from there, I obviously stumbled upon this one on the Internet. Its a fermented drink made from a species of wheat. Supposed to be very tart in taste and thick in consistency, it was served in the ottoman empire to the armies in winters because of its warming qualities.

I am eager to hear from people if they know of any fancy winter cocktails. Of course, outside Old monk and hot water!!!!

Bols

Brandy as a liquor has not gained much popularity in the Indian liquor market, partly because of non-availability of enough options in the market. Looking at this opportunity, Lucas Bols – the Dutch liquor giant, launched its brandy into the Indian market earlier this year. Recognizing that South India is a huge market, Bols chose Bangalore to be the first city to taste this spirit. Here is my review.


Brandy has been around for quite a long time, but we push our arms around it only when we are nursing a bad cold or a sore throat. It is yet to be perceived in the larger spectrum of drinking community across India as a regular drink and not just for its medicinal value. Amongst other reasons like no great branding as such for this 12th century spirit, we can hardly ignore the scarcity of good brandy in the market as a logical reason. We only have entry level Brandy`s around Rs.300 or premium range Cognacs at Rs.1500 to 1800 price points.

Enter Bols Brandy. Priced at Rs 525 for a 750 ml bottle, it’s quite a relief for people in Karnataka looking for some change from Mansion House. This is a good mid market price range between base brandy’s and premium Cognacs. Do not confuse your wits between Brandy and Cognac. Both are essentially the same, made with grapes, but Cognac comes only from the Cognac region in France, but brandy can come from any winemaking region of the world.


The base for brandy traditionally is wine or you could very well say fermented grapes. Bols ferments genuine grapes into wine and then distills it in pot stills to produce its brandy. The golden brown glow of the drink is very close to caramel colour. It is much smoother in taste as well. This is because of the three-year aging that Bols does to its distilled spirit in matured oak casks. The fruity aroma and sweeter tones to the spirit come from the other fruits that go in at the fermenting stage. Piet van Leijenhorst, the master distiller from the House of Bols, Amsterdam is said to have made the recipe and personally supervises the production of the brandy.


Bols Brandy contains 42% alcohol by volume. Though fashionable as an after dinner drink, it also makes a great aperitif. Lot of people in India prefer their Brandy with something tangy like a Limca. Bols with tonic water is a great combination too. My personal suggestion is to try 60 ml of Bols with equal parts of Tonic water and Ginger ale with lot of ice and a few mint springs. If you are a classic cocktails sucker, try the Sidecars with Bols Brandy. Shake 45 ml of Bols, 15 ml limejuice and 15 ml sugar syrup on ice and serve straight up in a Martini glass. Great for a hot afternoon.

This brandy has not done major promotional work as yet. Mostly soft launches and soft promotions. They are at the stage of promoting the spirit itself right now by educating customers at various drinking establishments about a good genuine brandy. Eventually they intend to do image building though signature cocktails and other ways.

This brandy into India is courtesy a Joint Venture between Lucas Bols and Kyndal India Pvt ltd, a spirits importer and distributer Company based in Delhi. This venture bottles bulk brandy imported from the Amsterdam at their Konigal Distillery in Karnataka. In this sense it is almost an imported product available at domestic prices. Yet another bottling unit will start churning out more brandy from Tamil Nadu soon. In addition to distribution and marketing of these brands is also done by this joint venture. Lucas Bols will lend its expertise of blending, distilling and their 400 years of heritage in the brandy business and Kyndal will head the marketing exercise to ensure Bols Brandy is a success in India.

Back to the Dashboard!!

Bad Blogger, that`s what I have been. Two months and no posts. But hasn`t this happened to most bloggers before??? No, not about any writer`s block, but just too busy to open your dashboard and spill some sensible black and white beans. Neverthless, most of my regular readers would understand why I have been out of sorts with alcohol for this while. I have been regularly writing at mybangalore.com although missing one week`s story would hardly be called irregular. He He!!

Anyways, now that I am back I hope to write more often.Although, there is loads that I have missed telling the world about:

1) Some good liquers friends brought from Goa (Chochlate, cherry brandy, coffee)



2) Addition of Russian Standard Vodka to my cabinet



3) Visit to my favourite drinking couple in Hyd and their fabulous collection of alcohol and barware



4) Bars I visited recently in northern India

5) My first cocktail book - ultra latest edition of DiffordsGuide #8 imported straight from United Kigdom, thanks to a dear patron at Take 5.



Well those are some stories I am too lazy to write about now. But a fabulous alcohol filled month is ahead of me. For starters I am reviewing Bols Brandy for myBangalore. I am meeting Lokesh, founder of Madhuloka, Bangalore`s biggest liquor boutique and might also chat up with fabulous bartender from London Academy of Bartenders - Valentine, who is in town training folks at Taj Vivanta.

That besides, I am going to very seriously rack my mixology skills this week to come up with an orginal brandy cocktail to be submitted for an International bartending competition called Shaking Twenties. Only one guy will be selected from each of the 6 continents. I do not know if I stand a chance, but doesn`t harm to give it a shot!! So wish me good luck on that.



More bartending, for I am also doing a bash for an expat from New Zealand for his wife`s 40th birthday party at end of this month. Designing menu for that sinful night right now. Some action packed month this one!!

Now, if I may be excused, it`s about time I open my pint of beer ! Oh yes, I have been drinking a lot of beer. Blame it on increasingly hot Bangalore. I am sure Beer companies are pro-Global Warming!!!

Notorious Bartender T-Shirt


Spotted on LAB trainer (London Academy of Bartenders) - Valentine in a recent bar tending event.



Andhra Martini

Hahaha! Of all the places , Bhagini, one of Banglores`s famous Andhra Restaurant chains, would have been the last place I would expect a Martini being spoken about, forget being served. I was zapped by the group`s thought process of stamping a Martini with an Andhra sign. Yes, Check out this snap below. Bhagini, has gone one step ahead spicing your Martini.

Martini is a very popular drink outside India, yet to be liked here for its temparate weather. Also it is most complicated drink to make besides being world`s most debated one as well on the rmethodology of making it. Sounds easy but is not. It will need me a separate full discussion some other day on Martini, but for now back to Bhagini Martini.

I asked the manager , what is this Spicy Homemade Vodkatini (I wished they had named it better). He explained to me that its a regular Vodkatini (Vodka & Vermouth) stiired with a lot of ice and believe it or not - freshly stripped green chillies. Andhra enuf I guess!! Spicy drinks are not something new, but this way of mixing ...... hoof!!!I am not a "spice person" and excused myself the terror but all ye spice lovers, do try this out !!!
PS: IF you are still zapped abt a Martini at Bhagini, lemme tell you, so am I!!!!

Bacardi Martini Grand Prix

The much awaited bartending competition of the town is here. Continuing their tradition of hunting down the best barmen & maids, locking them up in a fine hotel and putting them up against each other, Bacardi this year hosts the South India rounds today at Zaman Bar at Ista, Bangalore.




Participants are bartenders of various bars from Bangalore, Pune, Chennai & Cochin. They compete all through the day in two categories - Flair & Mixology. Winners from here join the India finals at Delhi, end of September 2009. Two winners from there will be flown to Italy for the international finals. Now that is a great platform for Indian bartenders - atleast a great experience. Last year Indian finalists ranked 4th and 9th in the international mixology & flair finals.


As always, Mr Y Lama of the famous Cocktails & Dreams bartending school from Delhi is one of the panel judges for the event. I will be covering more about the event at myBangalore very soon. Also hope to get an interview with Mr Lama, India`s first celebrity bartender!!.


In the meantime, I would urge you all to show up at 7.30 pm to see the grand finals of the South India event at Zaman, Ista (Mg Road) tonite. Nauhed Cyrusi is supposed to add glamour to the event!!

More info at
http://www.bmgpindia.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bacardi-Martini-Grand-Prix-India-2009/111381997150#/pages/Bacardi-Martini-Grand-Prix-India-2009/111381997150?v=wall&viewas=1485035840

Taking a break

People, I am taking a very short break (2 weeks) away from the bar at Take 5 starting this week. With the whole scare of swine flu in the air , as a precaution to avoid public places as much possible, I am having to take this extreme step. Being at the bar, I constantly have to have close interaction with great many number of people, which is really not recommended. Ya I am mean & selfish, but then I am not saving the world either, so I guess its fine. hehe!!

While I will be away from the bar, knowing "your truly", I won`t be away from much action either. I am in the process of starting to write for two great Bangalore based portals very soon. This aside, though there is the flu scare , I can`t help but having to do a small Indian expedition on account of work during next week. I will be covering a few cities - Hyderabad, Kolkutta, Jamshedpur, West Bokaro, Ranchi & New Delhi. Some of them might present with watering hole prospects. Though I am tempted, again due to the flu scare I might not really venture out so much.

But I still do hope to come back with some booze stories or another from the trip. So till I drink something nice next & come back to write, stay nice!!!

Reviewing Cointreaupolitan

I negotiated my way into a packed house at TGI Fridays last Friday (unfortunately could not walk in before happy hours), Arpan & Vinay, partners of a Bangalore based PR/Events company, introduced me to a Kyndall India`s Brand Manager, Pushpanjali Banerjee. While she was very passionate about the Bols brand in general, she was only too happy to talk to me about Cointreau and the drink they were promoting.

The recipe:

50 ml Cointreau
30 ml Cranberry juice
20 ml lime juice

All shaken together on ice and served straight up with a lemon twist in a martini glass.

Standing in the "moisted by drizzle" chilly Bangalorean air in the alfresco section of TGIF, Pushpanjali explained to me that the Cointreaupolitan (Cp) was invented by the in house bartenders at Cointreau. I was told then that Cp is essentially a Cointreau base drink and has no other alcoholic ingredients. It is targeted only at women drinkers and purported to be very sweet in nature.

As the "politan" part of the name suggests, I was assuming right from the time I heard of Cp it must be a version, derivation or improvisation of the great American - Cosmopolitan. I was lead into the bar of TGIF, and into their cocktail manufacturing section to show how the drink is made. Bartender Suman took out a tiny pink plastic shaker and added all ingredients in their respective measures. On my insistence he added little more ice to the shaker. Although the tiny pink shaker in Suman`s hand looked like a ping pong ball in Magic Johnson`s hands, he did give it a passionate shake and poured the mix into a martini glass. He gave it a lemon twist garnish (Cointreau website suggests an orange zest & you would know why). The Cp was ready for a photo shoot!!!




The look and smell of a Cp are no different from a Cosmo.I took the first sip and boy it tasted nice. The basic nature as it was intended, was SWEET. Mathematically, Cp = Cosmo - Vodka. But then Cosmo is generally equal amounts of all ingredients while a Cp is 50/30/20. Also in a Cosmo, the drink is generally flambayed with an orange zest to release some essential oils on to the drink and then the zest is rubbed around the rim of the glass. Nothing like that is done in a Cp.


As Pushpanjali mentioned to me later and I can`t disagree, Cp is less alcoholic in nature and also being slightly on a sweeter side, women can drink more of it on a single night without spoiling the taste in their mouth. One more advantage of a Cp is that you can be assured of almost NO HANGOVER if you do one too many. Cointreau ,the base of the drink,is a liqueur and not a spirit. Liqueurs generally have much lesser ABV (Alcohol By Volume) compared to spirits like Whiskey, Rum or Vodka. Also liqueurs are made with a number of herbs and botanicals and the distillation process is much finer.


Men's cocktails look and taste like they contain alcohol.Women's cocktails try to disguise the alcohol in them with bright colours, fruit juices and sugar. My conclusion on this drink : Yes, it is a definite ladies drink. Ladies who do not like the strength of alcohol in their drink. Besides it is less complicated to make. Not for sunny times. Being eye-watering, it would be a great accessory in a cocktail lounge or a night club.


Will it kill the Cosmo?? While Cp has its own charm, I don`t think it can kill the Cosmo.

Cointreau killed the Cosmo star!!!

Ladies!!! Move over cosmopolitans. Its a passe now. Get ready to welcome Contreaupolitan which is all set to kill the Cosmopolitan. How, & will it actually achieve that , lets see.

Kyndall India presents "Contreaupolitan Nights" tonite at TGIF, Airport road. Cointreaupolitan Nights is a celebration of women everywhere, and an introduction to the Cointreaupolitan Cocktail. The Cointreaupolitan Cocktail has a unique serving ritual. Upon ordering, you get to shake and make your Cointreaupolitan yourself in a special pink Cointreau shaker. After all that hard work, you get the next Cointreaupolitan absolutely free of cost!


Traditionally a Cosmopolitan is a citrus vodka based drink shaken on ice with lime, triple sec (an orange liquer) and a dash of cranbery juice. In many occasions and I regularly insist that where ever you need to make a triple sec based drink - use Cointreau. It is a superior quality triple sec that give suttle hints of orange and is very flavourful. So I use it in my margaritas as well.

Cointreau has been pretty well accepted in India but there seems to be a special drive to make "IT" the cocktail base instead of the vodkas of the day and hence the special promotion of the drink Cointreapolitan. I have been invited to do a special preview tasting of the cocktail at TGIF tonite before the doors actually open to the happy hours crowd. What the recipe is and how it tastes, I will keep you posted !!!

In any case, if you are around the area, drop in to taste the Cointreaupolitan blend that is a perfect introduction to whole new world of sensations, loved by women worldwide.

7th August: TGIF# 1, Carlton Towers, Airport Road, Domlur, Bangalore - 080 25210570

PS: Cointreau, the world famous orange liqueur brand has a history of over 150 years and has its origins in the suburbs of Angers, France. Ever since its inception in 1849 the recipe has remained unchanged. This crystal clear liqueur is distilled from sweet and bitter orange peels of supreme quality. Cointreau is a product of Remy Cointreau S.A. France. Cointreau is imported and marketed by Kyndal India Private Limited.

Canned!!

Your Whiskey Soda & Vodka Tonic just got canned. Sensing that people might be getting lazy mixing their own drinks or that they might not find time & space to mix when they are in a rush and yet want to gulp something down (may be at outside a train station or a bus stand ) or people get tired waiting for their drinks by a busy bar, someone thought of brining the pre-mixes concept to India finally.


Blue Water Alcobev Pvt., ltd, aMumbai-based distillery, has launched two of its ready-to-drink alcoholic pre-mixed drinks in Bangalore : "TOSS" a vodka premix, a blend of premium quality triple distilled grain based vodka with tonic water and CZZLE, a whisky premix, also a blend of Indian-grain-based whiskyand eight-year-old scotch mixed with soda, will be available in cans in the city. The 250 ml aluminium slim can, containing about 46 ml of alcohol, priced at Rs 69 cannot be spiked.The brands would also be launched in other parts ofthe state including in Mysore and Mangalore shortly.



Toss & Czzle have been available in Mumbai & Goa since August last year and now in Bangalore. A lesser alcohol content version Toss Mild is available in Mumbai, but not yet introduced in Bangalore. The product seems to have achieved considerable success in Mumbai, Pune,Goa, Daman.


Premixes are new to India but they have been prelavant very widely outside. These are popularly called as alcopops abroad. They are generally bottled or canned fizzy drinks mixed with mostly with rum or vodka. I personally know some of the popular premixes to be "Jack & coke" (Jack Daniels) and "Red & cola" (Johnny Walker Red Label) & "Johnny be good" (JW Blck & Coke).


Alcopops are generally priced at a very basic price level and like elsewhere, we can expect it to be a hot cake with college student community. Although without knowing what whiskey or vodka is being used, the success or failure of Toss & Czzle will much depend upon the acceptance of their taste. This apart their success at bars & pubs also remains to be seen as bar owners might be reluctant to sell premixes when they can sell alcohol & a mixer separately and make more money.


Anyways, next time wether you are tired or lazy or just want that drink to carry on a bus ride, there is something you can think of. May be you can consider them for your home party as well, spares you some trouble . Would you consider an alcopop? Let me know your views.

Alconomics

If you have read Freakonomics, you will understand what is Alconomics. Freakonomics is a collection of articles by Levit & Dubner published as a book. The stories apply economic theories to diverse subjects not usually covered by traditional economists. (Courtesy - Wiki).For example in one of the articles, the authors state that the reason for rise in crime rate in US was not the liberal gun licensing policy as all assumed. The real reason was the rise in teenage pregnancies. Teen moms were abandoning their new borns. These babies were growing up in not so good neighbourhoods and eventually took up crime in life. The authors in fact establish their theory with statistics of correlation.



I read this book about 4 years back but a random TOI blog that I read a few days back on prohibition in Gujarat lead me to think of the concept of Alconomics. Gujarat has been a prohibition state for last 50 years. The statesmen have given the following reason for not lifting the ban in the state:

"The Gandhians in Gujarat however oppose lifting of prohibition tooth and nail. Many others think that there are no "other crimes" in Gujarat because the police is happy from the income generated from prohibition. Moreover criminals can also earn enough from this business: so there is no need for them to indulge in other, deadlier crimes. There are some who think that the streets of Gujarat are immune from the sort of crime seen in other places because of prohibition. Lifting prohibition will be akin to opening the gates of a dam, they argue. "



Very alconomics - ain't it? Read the complete post here!!

Bangalore`s Oldest Bar

Some one told me that there are apparently 2800 licquor licenses in this town and you will wonder how many of them are the new age pubs and lounge bars. Good friend Atul`s tweet took me to this article. In these times, in India`s fast-rising high-tech capital - Bangalore, whose abundance of bars and clubs have earned it the moniker Pub City, still hanging to its heritage and glory is Dewars, a bar in older parts of the town.

Click HERE to read on about this place.

Bartender Interview : Nick Hawkins

Having mixed at quite a few big places like Taj, Olive & Red Light, Mumbai, working as a consultant for Taj - Chennai, owning a bar in Goa, & now handling Zara`s bar in Pune, Nick has come quite a long way is his bartening career of over 12 years.

Why did you decide to get into bartending?
Actually I didn’t make a conscious decision to get into bartending. I was 16 and wanted money. So decided to take up part-time work at a bar in UK – Melonis. I started cleaning tables and collecting glasses to begin with. After spending some time at the bar, I started liking the whole night life, enjoying the crowd at the bar, and also realizing that I am not so good at academics, moved over as a full time bar back. Melonis had 287 cocktails on its menu and it took me 6 months of rigorous hard work to be a bar back to begin with. It included working late and going home & staying up late to read the cocktail list and knowing what goes in what. One thing lead to another and I did a sponsored flair course as well with them and in 12 years, I am where I am.

How did you go about getting your first bartending gig? Was it tough to land your first one?
I was sitting with my sister and her boyfriend at the bar quaffing a beer (I was underage, but what can you do about it now?? Hehe). On my sister’s suggestion I walked up to the manager of the place to enquire about any jobs. Looks like I was successful in working my charm with the owner’s wife (the manager) and landed myself with the job. So no, it was not too tough!!


What is your favorite drink ?
To drink: Beer
To make : (After much mulling) – An Old Fashioned. It takes about 12 minutes to make an old fashioned properly.

What is your least favorite drink to make?
Anything blue in colour. There is no fruit that is blue in colour. I dun understand why we should use Blue Curacao at all!!! Blue berries don’t count – Sorry.

What is your bartender pet peeve?
Rude customers or customers who interrupt when you are busy with another customer.
Dirty Bars and stinky bars.

What’s the most interesting/scandalous thing that’s happened to you on the job?
No comments – involves a lot of girls!

What’s the most memorable pickup line you’ve heard?
Just 24 hours back there were a bunch of women who went wild and started dancing on top of the bar. One of them asked me out – not once – twice.

Who would YOU want to have a drink with and why?
Nicholas Cage from Leaving Las Vegas cause I think he comes around as a hilarious chap to me.

Tell us one thing about tending bar that we might not know?
There are two things:
1) There are at least 2 or 3 hours of cleaning and other dirty work after closing the bar. So customers should really understand and respect that the bartender’s job is not over. They must stop harassing him for that one last drink.
2) Bartending is a full time job and it can be dangerous for your personal life. Relationships can go through a lot of stress due to lack of time being spent with each other.




Hard Rock Cafe - New Delhi

Guest writer - I must say I’m sooper excited to introduce Mr.Martin as the first guest writer on my blog. Martin has been part of Cocktail Nirvana`s family doing private gigs before and a great bartender (he pours amazing beer). In that context he is not a full time guest either. Today Martin gives us a hands on review of Hard Rock Cafe`s latest joint in New Delhi. Read on.
“Take time to be kind”, “All is one” and “Love all, serve all”. These are the three bold statements which catch your eye as soon as you’re ushered in by a very welcoming crew at the Hard Rock Café, New Delhi, which is located inside the 1 month old mall, called the DLF Place, Saket. The place has a very ‘woody’ architecture and has a lot of design cues from the 70s and the 80s, with things like a huge hologram of Mick Jagger and David Bowie behind the bar, which make the place, look very retro and classy. Hard Rock is known for its trademark bands memorabilia, given to Hard Rock personally by the members which ranges from guitars to costumes used by them in various gigs over time. This definitely would take the guests on a beautiful time warp for hours, or maybe more!

We found place at the bar and it didn’t take more than a few seconds to jump onto the stools and start flipping through the menu. We were being served by Surya, again a very energetic and ‘ready to try anything new with alcohol’ bartender. He has been doing this for the past 9 years, having worked in places like Saudi Arabia as well, and loves mixing alcohol for his girlfriend.



Having been to Hard Rock Café a zillion times in Bangalore, I love being served draught beer in the pint glasses, which has its own pleasure. So, I expected the same in Delhi. But it wasn’t to be. Draught beer is not served at Hard Rock Café, Delhi. No big deal, happens all the time, is what I say to myself and carry on with the experience which was to go on till 1 AM. This made me try Tuborg, which is being spoken about by a lot of people around, and I liked it quite a lot. Beer is priced at Rs. 250. We ordered some onion rings, which also is a habit which I developed in Bangalore. After a few rounds of beer, we decided to try a few cocktails, mixed at Hard Rock. We ordered a round of Whiskey Sour, which turned into 3 in sometime. Oh yes, there were no eggs around, so we had to do with Whiskey Sour, sans eggs in them. Cocktails are priced at Rs. 345 a piece. The price difference in beer and cocktails is not much, which would encourage people to try the various cocktails available.

Since I am not a big on any form of rock, which is usually played at Hard Rock, I wouldn’t comment on the music. But a friend, who was with me, and who loves rock, was very happy with the guy at the console, and so were others. And yes, the traditional YMCA was carried out with a lot of readiness, aplomb and let’s not forget, the heightened energy levels, by the crew members at the Hard Rock.

Beer and Whiskey present in our system at good levels, we decided to go for a round of B-52s. But Surya wanted us to go for something different. Enter, the Sambooka! And before we knew what was happening, he was on top of the bar with a bottle full of spirit, asking us to turn around one by one. And we did. He filled our mouths with the certain spirit and lit it, and we swallowed it down, which did send us on a crazy trip moments later. Priced at Rs. 700, a mouthful, if I may call it that, I would say, it was worth it.

A shot like that, and most smokers would scurry for a smoke, which, according to us, makes it feel “better”. And so we did. Usually, there is a separate section for people to smoke, at any place, which is super small and has no proper ventilation. But not this one. The smoking area at Hard Rock has a big window to let the smoke out and has enough space for at least 10 people smoking inside without having the next person eavesdropping on your conversation. Also the place is cleaned periodically and has the whole memorabilia thing extending inside as well.

Wrapping up on this, I would ask everyone who stays in Delhi or visiting Delhi for sometime, to give this place a definite try. And while you’re at it, you would also want to check the Hard Rock memorabilia store right at the entrance, which has Tee shirts, glasses and other collectives.
Hard Rock Café, New Delhi, Cocktail Nirvana recommends!




Nick Hawkins @ Zara

If you listen to Radio Indigo in Bangalore, you must have heard the promos of this event. I was driving through the MG Road when this huge hoarding that caught my attention:



The last celebrity bartending event that touched the town was Prasad Biddappa mixing drinks at Caperberry bar. But this Brit who has made India his home for quite a few years - Nick Hawkins - is not a celebrity who is mixing drinks; but a bartender who is a celebrity. He is the latest coup at Zara, Bangalore. After successfully turning around Zara Chennai & Calcutta, Nick is on a month long mission in our town to promote the Bangalore version.


I have personally visited Zara, Chennai about 3 years back and loved their libations ; not sure if Nick was around at that time. Nick used to couple with Giancarlo Mancino - another Italian mixologist (now he owns a fabulous place - Giancarlos on Lavele road), at Taj , Mumbai to mix drinks. Flair is surly going to be part of his style & why not since he is also a national level flair championship winner a few years back. Now having mixed at quite a few big places like Taj, Olive & Red Light, Mumbai, working as a consultant for Taj - Chennai, handling Zara`s bar, owning a bar in Goa, Nick has come quite a long way is his bartening career of over 12 years. Read Nick Hawkins story here.


If you are a lover of the art of flair bartending and classic mixology Nick will be a great barman to see. I hope to see him in person very soon and would love if any of you would like to join me when I hit Zara this July!!


The day of the Gay

The biggest victory for gay rights in India has arrived at our doorstep with Delhi High Court’s landmark decision of decriminalizing homosexuality today. A 149-year-old law has been muddled to achieve a major milestone in the country’s social evolution. Whether this ruling will hold good outside Delhi, we have to wait and watch, but a giant step has been taken.

Elsewhere - In the United States of America, THIS is how a few bars joined the fight for equality for gays recently. Hence the arrival of EQUALITINI. While there will be quite a few interpretations for this cocktail, I will be trying my own version tonite at Take 5.


Here is the recipe:
30 ml Chivas Regal Scotch
30 ml Grey Goose Vodka
30 ml ginger and honey syrup
Dash of bitters, lime juice and splash of orange juice

Stir all ingredients together in shaker with lots of ice and fine strain into a chilled martini glass. Serve along with a chaser shot of Cosmo.


If you are around, do ask for it and show your support to the gay community, for the law might have freed the gays, but the society still has to.

While we are at the foothills of the gay rights mountain, one of the best ways to take the temperature of the community is to see what they are drinking. Before the arrival of Cosmo, gays were surly getting drunk but they rarely held allegiance to any one drink, un aware that just beyond the horizon a new sunset beckoned. And in `97, Carrie Bradshaw and Stanford Blatch in the famous TV series “Sex & The City”, popularized the Cosmopolitan into mainstream drinking. Much to the colour of cranberry juice, the gay world immediately took delight in sipping Cosmos all the time. Eventually, every one you knew drank Cosmos & the gay world started hunting for the next cosmo.

Has the gay world found it ? No drink could ever hope to be the true heir of the mighty Cosmo, but the Mojito came pretty damn close in the early 00-03. But mojito suffered the same fate as the Cosmo. Even James Bond was drinking it in Die Another Day. For a brief shining moment, the Pomegranate Martini restored order and harmony.

After enough pursuit and tired of choosing allegiance to a specific drink, Margaritas, Old-Fashioneds and Juleps; the classic drinks, are being rediscovered by a new generation. I have guests who ask me specifically not to make drinks that are bold in colour like pink, blue or green. My guess is they are scared of being perceived as gays. On another hand a very close friend of mine who I know is super straight (right now J, pun intended), does enjoy his Melon Martini very much despite its pink color and sweet taste. Bottom line , people are now ordering based on their own personal preference, meaning that perhaps the days of the gay solidarity cocktail are at long last, numbered. What do you think?

No more Night Watchman

Come July 1, 2009 & the Night Watchman will not be awake anymore. I am referring to one of the first English pubs of Bangalore city that was launched at the peak of the pub -boom in the early nineties. This one is part of the bunch of first few pubs in Bangalore that gave the town its alter ego - "The pub city". I was prowling in the Church Street neighbourhood for a mug of beer before lunch and decided to walk into "The Night Watchman" - standing opposite the famous Empire restaurant.

The pub wore an empty and dull look. No air conditioner, no customer. What do you expect at 12 noon on a Monday? Anyways, I took position over a bar stool and asked for a mug of tap. Devendran the bartender started chatting up when I referred to him about Take 5 & me. Eventually he mentioned that June 30 would be the last day that the pub would be awake. The lease is getting over.

Over the years, Devendran says, NW acquired a fiercely loyal clientele by virtue of its unmatched personalised, courteous service under the guidance of Suresh Mehrotri, the proprietor. Suresh was incidentally around and I introduced myself to him. He was a very disappointed man. He said, its not the lease. He has been asked to close down the place. The building in which NW is housed needs major repair and renovation as it is more than 20 years old and the landlord has got most occupants vacated. The renovation will take at least 1 year and he cant carry his staff around till that time.

After 16 years of feeding beer and other alcohols to Bangloreans, most of its staff, who have been working for equal number of years with NW are now faced with sudden loss of livelihood.Suresh says a couple of them were literally in tears last evening as the date of closure came nearer. In 2001 NW moved away from the cricket based interiors to a cool & dreamy look, with subdued lighting and the black-and-steel-grey decor. Over two mugs that I had at NW, I noticed a few things I liked about the place.

1. Brass Beer Mugs : Amongst hoards of beer mugs are a few brass mugs. Very antique looking and apparently 15 year old. Quite Fancy. I ll upload the picture soon.

2. Old Fashioned : Almost the oldest classic cocktail known to mankind - a whiskey base drink this one finds a mention in their menu. I have never seen "Old Fashioned" on a cocktail menu in India. This was quite fascinating to me. Sadly as in most parts of the world, the recipe explained by Devendran to me, seemed bastardised. An OF is best had by muddling a cube of sugar with bitters and then adding ice and topping with Rye whiskey. NW uses Indian whiskey (cant complain) & sweet vermouth????? instead of bitters. Isn`t that almost a sweet "Manhattan". Anyways.

3.Scandal : Their best cocktail. Whiskey, Brandy, Rum, Vodka & Gin - 30 ml each mixed with equal parts of orange & pine apple juice & topped with 10 ml of red wine. An improvisation of LIIT, I would say.

Finishing my dose of beer, I went up to Suresh, thanked him. For , though I might be totally forgettable, I feel part of the bar`s history and wished him good luck with his endeavours in future ; gave the bar staff the number of a F&B industry placement consultant. If you are in this industry & need resources, please do contact me and I can put you onto these blokes. Are there any bars you know, that have long been part of your neighbourhood landscape and got closed. Do you miss them. Drop in your memories.

Reclaiming Elephants

OH Ya, I am alive. Apologies for my laziness and no updates. This thing, I am sure, happens to most bloggers, the ups and downs in the blogging tempo.


While I am back, allow me to announce a musical excuse for you to see me and imbibe some poison potions that I will be concocting at the bar. Do drop by at Take 5 on Thursday, 25th June, 2009 from 7.30 pm onwards, for some lovely adult beverages (read cocktails) in a late June musical soiree, as Reclaiming Elephants - American rock band on their India tour 2009 will be jangling in the main lounge.


Now, a live band in a livly bar : not too often spotted in our city. So for your money this Thursday evening,Take 5 will be quite a find in the cornucopia of "100 ft Road" bars. See ya there!!




Jimmi`s

Pecos, Mojos,Le Rock (Downtown), Stones (Indiranagar), B11 (Jayanagar), Legends of Rock,PurpleHaze (Koramangala, Downtown, Marathahalli) , R&B (New BEL Road). Small little neighbourhood rock pubs are everywhere in Bangalore and fast becoming the hallmark of the young beer guzzlers destinations of the city. One more addition to this genre of pubs is Jimmi`s Beer Cafe, bang on 80 feet Road, Koramangala.

Three of us chose this place to start our belting session for last evening, occasion : to bid farewell to a dear friend leaving for Portugal on an assignment. Drinkers at Jimmi`s looked mostly like locals from around and as in case of most of these places - quite some student crowd as well. Plain interiors with occasional Frank Zappa & Pink Floyd posters sprinkled around, the music played is predictably rock & really loud. Again a common feature in most of these places - low bench seating gives a very casual and informal ambience. Spangling over two floors, Jimmi`s has a smoking section to hold your fag and drink as well. All tables taken here!! Oh yes, they do serve seesha`s too.

Originally, a coffee shop - Qwiky`s, now a major part of it converted into a beer station, Jimmi`s serves only draught beers of Kingfisher and Fosters. They have a very short list of beer cocktails. Since they have license only for draught beer , they can add only non alcoholic ingredients to beer and make their drinks. Red Bird is first on the list - Beer with Tomato Juice. This is a torn down version of a very popular international beer mix - Red Eye - Beer, Vodka, Tomato juice and raw egg . Couple of other interesting mixes are Beer & Ice tea, Beer with Straberry ice cream.

We ordered couple of pitchers and ordered a veg cesar salad and some devlish chicken hariyali kebabs to hog. It took quite some time for the food to come. I would expect it to be a bit more faster. The chicken tasted very well but I would not rate it as lip-smacking. The salad was not cold as you would expect generally. Staff are friendly, laid back and pretty attentive. Owner - Rajiv Ramane was very nice and kind to speak to us about the place

Wallet rating - value for money. Pitcher - Rs 250, pint - Rs 100, beer cocktails - Rs 100 - Rs 150. Could very well be extention of your living room if you are living near by!!

Nocturnal Sunshine

At last, a party that stays loyal to the name on the sign. Last Thursday, I was mixing drinks at this bday party of a friend & got people drinking till little before sunshine. Very cooly the event was called Nocturnal Sunshine. Turning old might not have been more fun. Against the uber neat backdrop of a pent house overlooking the lights of Bangalore, revelars whipped some dust off their partying hats and kicked great legs to DJ Su-G`s minimal and occasional hip-hop.

I on my part made sure alcohol flows for so long as there is some in the bottle left. Nicely set bar counter and creativly designed drinks menu for the night kept people asking for more. Classic Whiskey Sours to modern Shiro inspired Fig Mojitos,bottle shots & Flaming Lamborghinis that drove a few to hell and back. Pick of the evening seemd to be Long Islands and quite a few were taken. Well worth the efforts of a few people to get special glasses for em!!

I know quite a few came to the party to greet the party host and leave but could not escape the gravitational pull of the bar and the hot party. Find below the hep bar menu!!


Did you cross the town and drop by at the party. Did you like the mixes. Feel free to comment. Hope guys had fun!!!!




SHIRO

Japanese, Chinese, Balinese these are the flavours in Bangalore` new talk of the town bar – SHIRO. It’s rare to find a bar as high ceilinged, gilded, spacious and gracious as the venerable SHIRO, a fixture on the Bangalore gastro bar scene. I tried SHIRO by chance last Wednesday while waiting for a table at a Rajasthani Restaurant in the UB city`s food court. My report – Excellent.

Shiro is the extension of Shiro Mumbai`s foot print into Bangalore. After Hard Rock Café, this is the newest welcome sign for Bangalore brought by JSM Corporation Pvt Ltd. If your expat friends came to visit and wanted to go to a nice bar, this would be where to take them.

Shiro welcomes you into their lounge cum restaurant with a giant statue of Buddha. Divided into several zones and rooms, the main attraction is the outdoor bar big enough to justify smoking seating. There is great feeling of luxury and opulence with eclectic objects, low seating, high quality furniture, a great mix of mature and young colours with magenta and purple overtones here. The vibe of the crowd if very different than your regular page 3 bars, though I am afraid it might turn into one soon. Just 4 months old after all.

For a Wednesday evening the place was totaly taken. There were two seats available though for un-announced guests like me and at a place I like the best – the bar stool. The bar has a few 100 small magenta smooth lights above it, giving a very bling look. The look and feel is a bit like as at HRC – long bar with only a few bottles placed at regular distances. This is what I do not like about a lot of bars. Hoards and hoards of bottles at the bar is what I like. That`s what makes it an embracing tap zone. Thankfully the stools are tall enough for me to grape for the floor.

Alcohol specialities here are named SHIRO Specials and the mixtures are named very Asian. Velvet Kimono ( more like Melon Martini), Balinese Beach (3 Rums with Guvava & Lychee juice), Oriental Spicy (Vodka with Guvava). Try the Fig Mojito – an Old Monk based Mojito with Figs crushed with mint. No soda, no sprite. Garnished with a sugarcane stick. Barman Siddesh was very nice mixing a Long Island for me. When I said , it was very cokish – he did not flinch to add a generous vodka shot.

Shooters section is also very delightful – Nan Ban & Spice (Iced vodka shot), Flame of Raymond (Vodka topped with Old Monk), Spicy Kamakaze etc.

Tried a sushi dish for starters, liked it very well. Unfortunately can`t comment about food as that is not my forte, yet. The staff was extremely polite, well mannered. Siddesh was very insightful about Shiro. Apparently it has already won the Lounge of the year award for Bangalore. Most of its crowd happens to be the Blue Bar crowd.

Prices – like most decent places. Beer – Rs.250 (650 ml), cocktails (Rs.275,325, 475). Straight drinks Rs.175 upwards for 30 ml. Music – Soft & Popular music, no DJ, no dance floor.

Then comes the zenith of man

This is a beautiful poem on the "Mint Julep" written by an American journalist in the Lexington times in the 19th century in the States. I heard it on a webcast by Chris McMillan, ace American mixologist from the Renaissance -New Orleans. Upon contacting him, he was kind enough to send me this poem , which I could not get on the internet after all the world`s searching. Here it goes:

“Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure.
Then comes the julep ­­– the mint julep.
Who has not tasted one has lived in vain.
The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul;
the nectar of the gods is tame beside it.
It is the very dream of drinks,
the vision of sweet quaffings.

The Bourbon and the mint are lovers.
In the same land they live,
on the same food are they fostered.
The mint dips its infant leaf
into the same stream
that makes the Bourbon what it is.
The corn grows in the level lands
through which small streams meander.
By the brook-side the mint grows.
As the little wavelets pass,
they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint,
and the mint bends to salute them.
Gracious and kind it is,
living only for the sake of others.
Like a woman’s heart
it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised.
Among the first to greet the spring, it comes.
Beside the gurgling brooks that make music in the fields,
it lives and thrives.
When the bluegrass begins to shoot its gentle sprays to sun,
mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook.
It is virgin then.
But soon it must be married to old Bourbon.
His great heart, his warmth of temperament,
and that affinity which no one understands,
demands the wedding.

How shall it be?


Take from the cold spring some water,
pure as angels are;
mix it with sugar till it seems like oil.
Then take a glass
and crush your mint within it with a spoon
– crush it around the borders of the glass
and leave no place untouched.
Then throw the mint away
– it is a sacrifice.
Fill with cracked ice the glass;
pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want.
It trickles slowly through the ice.
Let it have time to cool,
then pour your sugared water over it.
No spoon is needed;
no stirring allowed
– just let it stand a moment.
Then around the brim place sprigs of mint,
so that the one who drinks may find taste and odor at one draft.

“Then when it is made, sip it slowly.
August suns are shining,
the breath of the south wind is upon you.
It is fragrant, cold and sweet – it is seductive.
No maiden’s kiss is tenderer or more refreshing,
no maiden’s touch could be more passionate.
Sip it and dream – you cannot dream amiss.
Sip it and dream – it is a dream itself.
No other land can give so sweet solace for your cares;
no other liquor soothes you in melancholy days

Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul,
no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey.”

Julep Time

Oh what the hell !! This excruciating summer , selling mojitos to beer lovers, part of me itches for a cloyingly sweet, bourbon loaded drink that reminds me of an adult lemonade stand. Julep - Mint Julep. The Mojito is here to stay , but if you are a bit more experimemtal and adventurous, let me introduce you to the subtle complexity of a perfectly crafted potion with a hint of mint, the darkness of a fine bourbon, and only the faintest touch of sweetness.

Like many other classic cocktails, not so well known in these parts of the world where we imbibe our poison, Mint Julep is living in obsequity compared to many a glamourous sounding drinks. Mint Julep was orginally invented during american derby times in the southern states of America and because Kentucky whiskey is famous around, Bouborne was a natural choice. Here is the recipie:

6-8 leaves of fresh mint, the smaller and fresher, the better (if they’re really small, toss in a few more)
Loads of ice

1 teaspoon sugar or 2 tsp simple syrup
75 ml — good Bourbon (American Whiskey made from Corn) , emphasis on the good — Jim Beam is most accessible though Maker`s Mark is better

Gently, very gently muddle the mint in the bottom of a tall glass, taking care to swab the sides of the glass with the oil seeping from the lightly bruised mint leaves. Add the syrup or the sugar (with a few drops of water to help it dissolve), and a little of the bourbon. Gently stir, then fill the glass with well-crushed ice*. Add the rest of the bourbon, and a little more ice so the glass is completely full. Stir briskly until the glass frosts. Top with more ice if needed (if you want to get really decadent, sprinkle a little Jamaican rum over the top), and garnish with a few beautiful mint sprigs. Skewer with a straw, cut short enough so you have to get your face right down in the mint. You can sprinkle the top with powdered sugar if you like, but you think you might wind up getting it on the tip of my nose and looking like an idiot, skip it. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so before indulging.

Julep enthusiasts around the world have deabted to death the real construction methodology of the drink, but my personal favourite is as popularised by one of the greatest mixologists of our times - Chris McMillan. Chris has been a cockatil guru working for many a big glitzy 5-star bars in America and more recently in New Orleans. Thanks to internet I was able to trace him down to Marriot Reanissance - New Orleans and got to speak to him as well. He does away with the mint after muddling them in the glass, just leaving the essences of mint in the glass. Rest is same.Whatever is the preparation, enjoying it in more than one way is a good thing, even if one is eveil and wrong.

If you are a whiskey moghul, susbisting 51 weeks out of the year , mixing whiskey with soda, let me show you a new religion. Plant your feet at the bar counter of Take 5, and see what great degree of attention, humble respect and dedication is found in the Julep.

Watch out for a fabulous poem I will posting followng this on the MINT JULEP!!!

Lime in my beer!!

Bangalore is a treasure cove for Beer drinkers. I do not know about other cities but, in Bangalore we surly get the widest variety of beers possible - Belgian (Chimay, Chrisotphel,Orval & many more), Irish (Guiness) , Mexican (Corona) , Japanese (Asahi), Malaysian (Tiger), Thai (Malaysian), Australian (Cooopers) and many others. And each of these countries surly has its own quaff culture for their Beers.

I have been noticing in many bars across, people drinking Corona with a lime wedge at the mouth of the pint bottle. I assumed it to be a Mexican drinking culture thing. Not until I had a customer at Take 5 recently asking for a KF beer with a lime wedge, did my mind start thinking if its really a Mexican thing or does it do something different to the beer drinking itself.

Some Mexican research shows that the lime wedge in a beer pint was a marketing kick of a beer seller. So far, due to myth or shame, that individual has never come forward. Another says the lime’s acidity helps cut the slightly sweet corn flavor of the beers. Another says that the cans of beer would be stored in dusty conditions. Tourists naturally wanted to clean up the mouth of the can and they found a wedge of lime to be the perfect solution. Apparently this way of drinking is popular only with the tourists & Mexicans don`t drink that way. This explanation makes some sense.

Still another account says the wedge of lime could be laid on top of the opening to keep flies from getting into the beer. Then again, the most plausible story might be that early bottles of Mexican beer were reportedly sealed with linerless caps, resulting in a ring of rust on the bottle rim. A swipe of the lime and the bottle came clean.

I tried some KF at home with the lime wedge, and boy I liked a new limey flavour of the beer for sure. While in India its still starting up, I would say, beer lovers outside have come full circle, so much so that they wear T-shirts with NFL slogans - "No Freakin` Lime". They do not like lime in there. Some think its a hoax. Imagine the bottles going in for refilling and the bottlers trying to pull out the lime wedges from them!!

So what ever the story might be , looks like our very own KF is soon to get onto the band wagon of Corona. Would you like to drink it that way??

A dash of Bitters!

When was the last you took an anlogy question? Let me put you to one right now.

Salt is to food as ___ is to cocktails.

The answer if you have not guessed by now is Bitters. It is the defining ingredient of a cocktail. Having bitters in gives a cocktail that little bit of spice that brings out the flavor in the other ingredients. They take a drink from ordinary to extraordinary.
Over the last week, I met quite a few whiskey drinkers and a bunch of cocktail sippers on the bar-stools of Take 5. And I asked every one of them , if they ever tasted their drinks with Bitters. Most of them did not know what it is and a few of them claimed to be conservative drinkers who stick to whiskey and soda and do not experiment at all. One of them did give it a try after all, on my insistence and promise that it won`t cost him extra.

We all have our favorite drinks or cocktails, but what if your favorite could be better. Hard to believe, but it could be true. I am of the opinion that cocktails are better with bitters. Just like a little spice in my food, I like bitters in my cocktail. A cocktail without bitters seems bland and ordinary to me.

The name "Bitters" makes people think that it is something they don't want in their drink but the elixir is not necessarily bitter. Bitters is an alcoholic beverage prepared by infusion or distillation of herbs and citrus, dissolved in alcohol or gyucerine and having a bitter or bittersweet taste.

Take your favorite cocktail whether it be a Gin and Tonic, Black Russian, Martini, Cosmopolitan, or whatever and add a dash or two of bitters. Don't put so much it over powers the drink. Simply add just enough to spice it up and give it that unknown characteristic. To do this properly you really need to make your drink as normal, taste it, add the bitters, stir, and taste it again. Or if you want to compare side by side make two drinks. I think you will be surprised of the results.

Angostura

"Angostura Aromatic Bitters" is the most popular and most widely distributed bitters in the world. In India, its is almost the only one available. The bitters was actually named after the main port from which it was exported from out of the Caribbean. The only written recipe is hidden away in a vault in New York and the only confirmed ingredients are sugar and gentian. Its popular oversized label makes the spice instantly recognizable. How the oversized label came about is not exactly know, but a common story is that one person went shopping for the bottle and the other the label. After they had discovered the error and because the Caribbean is such a laid back place... they decided to just go with it and have another drink.

Where to buy?
If you want it but don`t know where to look for it, fear not. I am your friendly neighbourhood licquor savior. Look for Bitters in your nearest Nilgiris, Fabmall or any other departmental store. If you can`t find it there, Toms Store in Frazer town, Bangalore & Qmart in Banjara Hills , Hyderabad. A 100 ml bottle costs you around Rs400. You can also find at Metro sometimes, and obviously it costs a tad lesser there (Rs 350, I guess).
After you own a bottle of this, try tasting just a drop of its from your fingers. You will notice it is highly potent (alcoholic) and has a very pungent taste. This is the reason, most cocktails use just a drop or two of bitters and not more. A drop or two are not only enough to spike up the taste but it is simply not possible to consume anymore than that .

Once you come to realize "It's better with bitters!" don't just keep this knowledge to yourself. Go to your favorite bar and ask the bartender to make a new drink using bitters. Obviously don't just walk into any bar. This should be a liquid chef that you have gotten to know and have had conversations with concerning mixology. It should be someone you believe shares your passion about cocktails. (For ex: Yours Truly at Take 5 :) )

You might just get a drink named after you, you never know.


Barman Returns

Well its official and for those of you that haven’t heard, I am now at a bar called Take 5. I was there for a very short time about six months back, and hope to be a little longer than that this time. Over the next week or so, I will be working on creating an Essential Summer Kit - the cocktail menu for this season at Take 5 . For those of you that enjoyed the old menu, we’ll still be able to do all of them, and we have preserved a selection of those for the list as well.

Just to give you a teaser, Cukootini (Cucumber Martini), Melon Madness (Vodka, Watermelon & Grenadine), Mango Mojito, Golden Lagoon ( Whiskey, Ginger, Almond syrup, Orange marmalade) are a few of the things running on the top of my mind. Also what I am doing is partly re-engineering the cocktail manufacturing process there. Try the mojito there next time and you will notice how different it is from the earlier one.

If you haven`t been to Take 5 in a while and (and from those that I’ve asked, that’s a lot of you) please come by and check it out. I will be there 4 nites a week Thursday to Sunday operating the liquid kitchen. I am damn excited to make you a neat cocktail while behind a bar that has come to become the hallmark of cocktail lounges at Indiranagar, 100 ft road.

See ya around!!!

The con at the Long Island

Next time you are at an upscale nightclub, seemingly the kind of place you wouldn't expect a con at the bar to happen, well think again. It has more to do with the integrity of the owner than the geographic location. In lot of cases also the greedy barman.

Recently, I was with a bunch of my friends at Athena, the nightclub in Leela Palace for a Saturday night clubbing. The very 5 star hotel that is famous for signature martinis at its Library Bar.

The club was swarming with the hippest of Bangalore and alcohol was flowing at the bar. Like any other packed place, customers had to fight their way for their dose of beer or spirits for the night. People were happy with loud music and the apparent freedom to dance. One of our friends, struggled up to the bar and ordered for a LONG ISLAND ICE TEA.(LIIT)

Most of you would know what this cocktail is. But for the few of those who do not, I shall do the explaining bit. LIIT is almost the highest alcohol concentration cocktail. Popularised in America, this is a cocktail made with equal portions of 5 white spirits – Vodka, Gin, Rum, Triple Sec and Tequila. All spirits are mixed with sweet and sour mix and topped with cola in a High ball (tall) glass full of ice. On a normal day, one of this is good enough to put you out of your senses.

Back to the LIIT at Athena, that costs 600 bucks; my friend was served with the drink in a pilsner glass. (Pilsner is a much shorter glass than a high ball – basically a beer glass). As if it was not irritating enough, she could not taste any alcohol in the glass at all. The barman strummed in a lot of cola and no alcohol.

She asked me to taste the drink and I felt the same. No alcohol and a lot of cola. Mixing less and selling short is the most common cons at almost all bars. Especially with women ordering, the barmen take them easy and try to fool them of their money in busy clubs like that night. Sometimes this is done, so that the barman does not ring in the drink to the register at all and keeps the cash to himself. At other times, its done so that the barman can pour your share of alcohol into another guest for almost free and get a tip or serve a visiting friend at the bar for free.


When complained, a good bartender will take it back and give you something else, but, at Athena when we confront the creator of the drink, he confidently says, he made the drink and knows that he put in enough alcohol. When we insist, he adds a dash of tequila to it, making absolutely no difference to the drink. Our mistake - not paying attention to the drink when being made originally. It is such a pity to discover discovered that a majority of the bartenders have very poor knowledge about the art of blending liquor and on top of that they are conning around.

It makes my heart heavy to accuse people as such, but having seen it personally I cant help call a few of the bartenders – simply “thieves” who are determined to take advantage of every opportunity to steal. Sooner or later everyone becomes a victim of a greedy bar owner, but in case of Athena, I cannot blame management believing it to be a 5-star that wont try such cheap tricks..

The only defense at such times is question everything that doesn’t smell, taste, or looks good to you. Don't be afraid to speak up! If you don't have enough vodka in your drink, if you've been served in a "sly-ball" instead of a highball, COMPLAIN VERY LOUD! That’s what we should have done that night. May be next time. I mean loud, so everyone at the bar can hear you. You will get the service you deserve, and everybody will be looking at their glass wondering, then looking at the bartender suspiciously....

Awareness of what constitutes a good drink is the first step...


I met a couple of my friends for “drinks after work” last evening at TGIF & ordered their famous “Ultimate LIIT”. Aah, it was so bloody real LIIT. Except they replace Tequila with Brandy. Apparently, TGIF makes the best LIITs of the world. No wonder they are so popular at their happy hours. Ponder why it is so difficult for the rest of the world to mix 5 spirits honestly with coke and serve.

The arrival of the Wine Taverns

You go to a mall, buy yourself a nice trouser, give it for that length alteration and have about 20 minutes till you can take it back. What do you do in the mean time? Wander about more around the mall? Some weird supernatural alcoholic power just drew me towards the food court of Lifestyle, Oasis Park, Koramangla, this Monday while I was waiting for the tailor to give my trouser. I wanted to check out the beer lounge there, but discovered some thing nice and new. Bangalore`s first WINE Tavern - Chopine.

I have been hearing a lot about these taverns for sometime. While on one hand the great BJP govt in the state has decided not to encourage pub-culture, they seem to be quite enthusiastic to boost the wine industry and promote a new "Tavern" culture. Ranking second in wine production in India after , the Karnataka govt, has planned to clear 100 licenses soon allowing opening of taverns that serve wine in glasses in its bid to popularise the drink and also help the grape growers. Now anyone can take a license to open a tavern in public places like shopping malls or open independently by paying a meagre fee of Rs 1,000.

Some of the major wineries are already harbouring major plans to mushroom chains of taverns all around town and they already seem to be a potential threat to the happening pub scene in Bangalore. The Reliance group have apparently applied for 30 taverns while Future Group and Nandy Valley 14 each. I met Chopine`s director - Satish at their tavern counter in the food court who was very glad to talk to me about taverns and Chopine.

Chopine apparently means " a glass of wine" in french. And three friends from college days started this project about a month back and are already planning a second counter at in another popular mall. They have an impressive wine menu. They are serving Shiraz, Carbernet Sauvignon , Reserve Shiraz, Merlot, Madera Red, Manthan & Valentio wines in the Red section. The white wine menu boasts of Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Flora, Chardonnay and many more. They also have sections of Rose wines,Dessert wines & sparkling drinks. Regular wines are priced at Rs125 a glass and Premium wines at Rs 169 a glass. They stock both domestic & imported wines. Right now they have an offer of Rs99 per glass of wine.



What catches my fancy is their "wine based cocktails" section or what we may like to call here as Winetails. Priced in the range of Rs155 to Rs 225, they seem quite interesting. Satish tells me that Wine cooler (White wine & orange crush shaken together & then served on ice with soda top) and Little Eva (Red wine, ginger ale, lime juice and sprite stirred together on ice in a shaker & served in a chilled wine goblet) are the most ordered winetails. I would have liked to see Sangria (Spanish wine based cocktail popular all over the world) in their menu, but was disappointed not to see it there.

Though cocktails are still struggling to get attention in India, the arrival of Taverns and potential winetails in the bazaar is surly a welcome sign to all of us who like to ingest alcohol more as appreciation of fine drinking than just getting high and sloshed. Taverns are surly targeting that profile of customers that believe in good health drinking punch line and the age group of 18 to 35 years. Well they might not be able to convert beer guzzlers into wine drinkers but nevertheless are a great new concept of going out for that after work drink or weekend outing.

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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