Cocktail pairing @ Barbeque Nation

Most people in India tend to prefer beer or wine when they are dining, leaving cocktails for pre-dinner or partying occasions, pub-visits and well, every other time except when they are dining. Cocktails have traditionally been thought of as “standing alone” because of their strong spirits and flavors. Cocktails have been going solo. That restaurants around the country are now beginning to offer food–cocktail pairings is a testament to how far cocktails have come in recent years, an acknowledgment that thoughtful, carefully made cocktails are worthy of chefs' creations. The subject of finding cocktails and food that work particularly well together is rather interesting.

I was at Barbeque Nation Indiranagar for a Friday lunch to figure out what on their bar-menu might compliment the delicious barbequed flare that they serve. Restaurant Manager Gregory D`souza was only very kind to welcome me with Masala coke and spend a busy afternoon with me over their bar on the ground floor, explaining to me their bar-menu in detail; from their beautiful list of single malts, to range of international vodkas and the newly introduced Australian ale – Coopers they have almost everything you want to drink.

BBN has invested in Kishore Thapar – a prominent name in the Indian cocktail industry to design their cocktail menu. Kishore has divided the menu into 3 parts – fruit martinis, combos and grilled cocktails.

Greg explains to me that people mostly order one of the fruit martinis or caiproskas. Fruit martinis are gin, sugar & lime based drinks shaken with a combination of a fresh fruit juice and a fruit crush. For example “Watermelon and Kiwi” Martini is a mix of fresh watermelon juice and kiwi crush shaken on ice with Gin, sugar and lime. Another martini is Pomegranate & passion fruit Martini.

The real deal is at the Combos and the Grilled cocktails. Kishore has tried to incorporate an Indian touch in the Combo section very creatively. Every drink in here is a twist to a classic with an Indian ingredient. Sample these:

Jaljeera Mojito: The traditional Cuban drink served with the Indian twist of Jaljeera.
Mango Mania: Vodka shaken on ice with Ampanna
Masala Margarita
Kokum Breeze: Gin, Kokum, litchi & lime shaken and served
Spiced tropics: A spicy cocktail, its guava or pineapple Daiquiri made with Tabasco sauce and served in a chili powder rimmed margarita glass.
Lemongrass and curry leaf martini: Gin based drinks with muddled lemon grass and curry leaves fine strained with lime and sugar syrup.

The lemon grass and curry leaf martini stands out in this section. Reason: Gin, the one spirit that is emerging as a leader in cocktail revolution and seems to be enjoying the renaissance of interest outside India. It is yet to get its share of attention in India though. The major flavor characteristic of gin comes from the juniper berry. The spices in gin enhance a variety of food flavors, from sauces, meat and fish. It also adds its own layers of flavor and just a little bit goes a long way towards complementing whatever dish you’re pairing it with. In our barbequed context the Indian tinge of curry leaf and lemon grass work well balanced on Gin.

The Barbequed cocktails spawned a great level of curiosity in me. This section was added very recently and is just 6 months young. This section is a bunch of classic cocktails with a barbequed variation. No, they don’t put the drinks of the grill. They just add a barbequed fruit or herbs or veggie to the classic cocktail, giving it a smoky taste. Though not very highly creative, it still works. They have 6 drinks in this list:

Barbequed Mary: Grilled Tomato with Bloody Mary
Guava Rita: Traditional tequila margarita with a grilled spicy guava
Barbequed Caipiroska: Fresh mint muddled with grilled lemon chunks added to crushed ice and vodka
Orange Drool: Vodka with freshly peeled and grilled oranges
Spiced Fusion: Rum based drink with grilled pineapples
Coriander and Tamarind Martini: Gin and grilled lime

Bartender Shiva made me a Coriander and Tamarind martini. This does look the best of the lot to go with grilled prawns on the table. Again a gin base. Absolutely easy to make at home too. There is an Indian flavour here as well. Coriander and grilled lemon chunks muddled first in a shaker. 2 teaspoons of tamarind juice, a teaspoon of MDH chat masala and then an ounce of gin and sugar syrup shaken all together and served in a martini glass. The tangy flavour is really paired well against the barbequed mushrooms and cottage cheese. Don’t let the drink get to room temperature or it will taste like the water from your panipuri wala.

Often outside of India, bbq food is paired with smoky flavors of scotch or bourbon based drinks. But being an expensive affair and also because of the ordering frequency, Greg mentions they stuck to white alcohol for their cocktails. I feel this also avoids any potential overpowering of the barbequed food. So, no brandy or dark rum cocktails in these sections. BBN`s extensive use of herbs like mints, coriander, curry leaf, lemon grass is an excellent way to bond cocktails with their starters. Their garnishes to different drinks also have these herbs on them giving that aromatic touch where needed.

What I like about the cocktail menu of BBN is that they do not use many syrups in their specialty drinks. Most of them are from natural ingredients. For a price range of Rs175-200 plus taxes, they make hell of a sense to pair with your grilled fish. Though they serve all the classic cocktails, I would not spend my wallet on them. Its truly unique cocktail menu makes it definitely a “cocktail bar” that I at Cocktail Nirvana would recommend. Even if you are not in for their food, its quite a value to grab a bar-stool there just for a drink after work.

PS :
Barbeque Nation rolled out its first outlet in 2006 in Mumbai and currently has 14 outlets spread across the country. This is the first venture in the country which has live charcoal grill on the dining table. Each table has a sunken pit in the centre where a table grill with hot coal is placed with the skewers & unlimited starters flowing in from there. The choice of barbeques is drawn from PanAsian, Oriental, Mediterranean and Continental cuisines and perfected for the Indian palate. The barbeques are 90 per cent cooked and the final touches are given by the customer according to their taste.

Cocktails in Recession

According to a Reuter’s story on, bar-tenders and alcohol companies around the world are devising new recipes and reviving "heritage cocktails” to keep the spirits alive in recessionary times. As the world is steeping into recession the mood is transitioning from dull to gloomy.

Something needs to be done to at least palliate (if not to cure) the mood about town. Doing my bit, I am taking some inspiration from the skidding times and mixing some cheer into your glass of vodka. Here are a few recession themed cocktails, easy to make and drink at home or serve at home parties, not burning holes in your pockets.

So lets shout aloud “Recession be damned” and hoot those big loud cheers!!!!

Market Crash:
Reckless deregulation and greed caused the realty market crashing in US. Whatz a bit or rum and Irish cream?

15 ml dark rum in a shot glass with 15 ml of bailey’s Irish cream layering – consumed as a shooter!!

No Bonus
December usually brings year-end bonuses, but last year's tough economic climate has forced many businesses to rethink bonuses or perks. Oh yes, you are not alone in the down turn that has taken that bonus cut.

Build in a Collins glass full of ice - 30 ml rum of your choice, 15 ml Archer’s peach schnapps, fill the balance of the glass with Manama lemon flavored ice tea (ice tea syrup mixed with water). Stir and Garnish with a lime wheel and a long straw.

Pink Slip:
No bonus follows pink slips eventually

45 ml Gin, dash of lime juice, dash of orange juice and 15 ml grenadine syrup shaken on ice and then served in Collins glass full of ice with ginger ale.

Is the aspirin working for the economy? This bailout might work for you!!

Whiskey, brandy and dark rum 10 ml each shaken on ice with 10 ml lime cordial and 2 teaspoons orange marmalade and then served on crushed ice in an old fashioned glass. Top with orange juice if you care!

Rescue Package:
There has to be something to trigger optimism. Who knows what it is? May be this rescue package!

Blend 15 ml each of vodka, white rum and gin with watermelon chunks and 5-6 strawberries and a good scoop cracked ice. Empty into a hurricane glass full of ice and top with cranberry juice. Garnish the drink with a black straw and dark grapes on the rim.

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

Thank god, I am a man!!

Hard Rock Cafe

Its no exaggeration, that Hard Rock CafĂ© is one of the premier watering holes of Bangalore. This weekend when a good friend visited us from Hyderabad, we decided to catch up there. This was going to be my nth visit to the place since it opened. However, it’s a bit difficult for me to remember when I went there last as I mellowed down on my bar visits since the great Indian public smoking ban coupled with recessionary waves. There are a few things that caught my attention this time. Few, I probably did not notice earlier and some definite changes.

Valet: As I gave my car keys, the valet was polite & informed me that I need to give a 10-minute notice while asking for the car back. I guess, they are parking the car, way away from the bar.

No barstools: As I chalked my way to the bar, I realized, they have taken off the entire set of bar stools (rather bar-chairs). I always found the bar counter of HRC a bit uncomfortable. I do not like low seating bar chairs for a thing and secondly they did not have enough leg space. On house pack days, it’s a bit difficult to sit there and have a conversation with people jumping from all sides for their drinks. Looked a good sign to me. I was happy to order and hold my drink right there, though the height of the counter is still a negative.

Less crowded: HRC seemed to be unusually less crowded for Saturday evening. I guessed 8.30 was still early. We stayed there till about 9.30 and then moved over to the backyard section to satisfy my smoking urges. I realized, people had been walking from behind me all this while straight into this section. The crowd was buzzing in this side and the non-smoking section was holding a just a few people. This side was packed. Personally, that’s how I like weekend bars to be - crowded. Besides, the level of music is just right this side.

Second bar: Since people were flocking to the alfresco section, it seemed wise for the HRC to open a second bar in there. Not so attractive, but still serves as an immediate bar for the overflowing side of HRC. No bar stools here either. I guess space constraint. I like this section though, now.

No Dheeraj: My wife`s bum-chum buddy and HRC`s operations manager - Dheeraj has quit the place. Dheeraj is managing Ruby Tuesdays now and there is a new face here at HRC.

Service Charge: I might not have noticed this before, but HRC joins the club of the TGIFs and others of the world, mentioning a 10% service charge on the bill. Worst, your vat gets levied on service charge as well. Your beer got expensive by so much now. Rethink tipping??

Music still remains to be something to be worked at HRC, with irregular variations in genre and deafeningly loud decibels inside towards the end. Anyways, who cares, after you get your high? Food was okay. I liked my onion rings with the beer and I liked their service well. They have some competition on the same road with the F-bar coming up now. Needs to be watched how well they hold to their love all, serve all belief.

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 also allow him to take up valuable space on their portal with his words & pictures.

Away from Nirvana