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.


4 Responses to "Cocktail pairing @ Barbeque Nation"

ME ON WEDDING said... January 28, 2009 at 1:36 AM
This comment has been removed by the author.
SUBHRAJITS said... January 28, 2009 at 1:43 AM


rupesh said... January 31, 2009 at 12:07 PM

i know ........ it is for sure, though Barbeque Nation is a foodie outlet but the array of drinks in their cellar is none-the-less than any good specialized bar. after being associated with brand BN i can vouch for that.

bhim sen said... January 30, 2011 at 8:40 AM

well done for making BHAJI in bar.but super combination

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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.

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