The Cocktail Faceoff

Timeout Magazine Bangalore did a Bangalore bartender faceoff for their cover story this month. They went around bars in town putting them up with each other on who makes a better concoction. Mostly classic cocktails. All the A list cocktail gardens of Bangalore were up in the race. So was Take 5 and yours truly as well.

For our part we were to show how to make a Manhattan and here it is with the classic recipe. And the bonus - we were declared winner!!!!

Tangerini in Chaos Theory

I was watching this movie called Chaos Theory I and in a scene in there, this chick at the bar wants our leading man to try something different from his vodka tonic; orders this drink called Tangerini!!! Sexy name I say. Next shot I see them holding martini glasses with almost orange juice looking like drink in it.

I did some googling and this is what I came to understand a Tangerini Tini is :
30 ml Vodka,
30ml Cointreau
15ml Amaretto
60 ml orange juice
1 tsp Grenadine

Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shakers and serve in a martini glass on crushed ice.
Leave an orange peel for garnish.

Sweet stuff, this drink looks like a cross between a Vodka sunrise and a Cosmopolitan to me. And I think the recipe has come out super cool. I am gonnan cook it very soon!!!

Wished we knew our Caiproska

Seriously, I just want to hunt that one guy who taught Indians that a Capiroska is just a Vodka Mojito. I am confronted with this version of Cairposka ( mint muddled with sugar and lime , crused ice, vodka & soda splash) everywhere. Bars have menus written this wrong way and over the years have taught Indians to order and expect their Caiproska this way.

Caiproska is an improvisation on the Bazilian national cockatil - Caiprinhia and it has no mint in it. Allow me to differentiate these three drinks and for once clear the air around these 3 classic muddled drinks. These are classic recipes and there may be variations available around the world but the DNA wont change so much.

Mojito - Orginated in Cuba
Mint & Lime muddled with white sugar, load with ice, slop in White Rum & top it with a splash of soda. Served in a long glass

Caiprinhia - Orginated in Brazil
Lime muddled with castor sugar, load with crushed ice, add 60 ml Cachaca (Brazilian white rum made from Sugar cane juice - much sweeter than regular white rum). No soda, no mint please. Served in rocks glass or a small glass as there is no soda and mostly alcohol & ice.

Caiproska - Improvisation of Caiprinhia
Same as Caiprinhia except that Vodka replaces Cachaca. No mint, no soda again.

Fusion Confusion

It was one of the super busy Friday`s at the bar when I got this call from a friend of mine. He wanted to know if its safe to imbibe some Scottish malt after some Champagne. I am no authority at this subject but still, I do not like to let go of exploring the idea once it lands up in my radar.

For the moment, I told my friend it`s never safe to mix drinks unless you have a dehydration plan at hand. (Cocktails are another thing). Secondly it will also depend on how he defines the “some” champagne and the “some” single malt. Thirdly, what quality alcohol are we talking? Turns out he had no plan at hand, by “some” he meant half bottle of Champagne and 3-4 rounds of scotch. The brands of evil at question were “Moet & Chandon” and Glenfiddich 18 year old –undoubtedly great spirits both.

Not many people in India would have much experience with drinking Champagne. It`s not so much part of the drinking culture in India as in the west. Also known sweetly as “Bubbly”, I know of it to be devil. At many a parties that I have managed the bars, I have seen what it can do to people. It is easy to drink, hard to say no to, and can leave you with one hell of a hangover. I carry no statistics, but looks like its more favorite with women and also its perpetuates greater hangover to women than men. But again this is a general observation.

Champagne by category falls under sparkling wines and comes exclusively from the Champagne region in France. The fizz in champagne is like that in beer, caused by secondary fermentation induced in the bottle. This carbonation speeds up the body`s process of absorbing alcohol. If you plan to drink licquor I shudder to imagine what it can do to you.

I have not tested empirically in the field, but suffices to know from reading that the lesser the intake of other kinds of sugar while consuming champagne, the lesser is chances of being left with cotton mouth, head or body aches & nausea. This is because Champagne itself has very high levels of sugar.Once the cork is popped open, it’s always a good idea to stick to champagne for the rest of the evening. It should be the beginning and the ending of your drinking session.

Turns out next day, my friend did not graduate to the malt at all. The Champagne was enough on her own. Sugar crash I guess.


How manly is your drink ????

Midnight Muse

There are many times you run out of cold beer in the midst of a good drinking session at home. While this doesn`t happen too often with me, but it did last night. My bum chum pal was meeting me for dinner and drinks yesterday. After swishing through THULP burgers,we started our spiritual journey for the night with him on Rum & Cokes and me on Tuborgs. As ill-planning would have it, I ran out of beers in the middle of the night. But being a believer in the power of positive thinking, I felt its a good opportunity for me to pick up the mixing glass and help myself a chilled cocktail.

And since it was in the middle of the night, I chose this aptly named cocktail - Midnight Muse (MM).

45 ml whiskey of your choice
15 ml Midori
Pour ingredients over ice in mixing glass and stir. Serve it straight up in a pre chilled martini glass.

This is a typical American contemporary martini drink. The base for MM is whiskey and generally Bourbon. In la martini style - whiskey is stirred along with Midori, in a mixing glass half filled with ice and fine strained into a chilled martini glass with lime peel as garnish. Midori is a sweet, honeydew melon-flavored liqueur that is a vivid green color and comes in a distinctively-shaped textured bottle. Midori lends its deep green colour to MM without overpowering the taste of the whiskey.

Being a Martini drink, MM is a tad strong drink. So make sure you get your proportions right. I prefer 45 ml of scotch (instead of Bourbon, just cause I was in a that mood). 15 ml of Midori is good enough. The best ratio is the one which will make you love your drink. Be bold enough and experiment with the ratios although beware that Midori is crushingly sweet. Have enough ice in your mixer and stir the drink long enough (20-30 secs at least) to aerate & dilute the drink to suit your palate. This is an important step. If neglected, you will end up having either a very strong drink due to lack of enough water content or over diluted drink tasting very watery with none of the characteristics of either whiskey or Midori.

I have not seen to many bars stocking Midori in Bangalore. But my guess is Hard Rock and Shiro must be having it. So next time you are in a mood for a martini and you like you dram of whiskey too, ask for a Midnight Muse. Do not discard it as a sweet green drink, for it has a delectable taste.

Schumacher doesn`t mix drink and driving

Last night I bumped into an aquaintance at the launch party of B52 a new bar in town. Only when he mentioned that he is off to the middle east for a 10day holiday from this morning and that includes the Bahrin Grand Prix, I realised that the F1 racing season has begun.

Schumacher is racing this time and I am sure every racing fan is eager to see what he`s got. Apparently Schumi doesn`t like to mix drinking with driving. You would remember my post on driving under influence, won`t you? Bacardi came up with this sooper cool advertisement against Drink and Driving, bringing together stalwarts of both sports and alcohol. Ace bartender Salvatore Calabrese tried mixing a drink in a Maserati, while Schumi was charming the steering wheel. Can he mix a good one...check it out.......

Of Whiskey Cocktails

Last night was one of the most packed I ever saw at Take 5. And there is no fun to match such occasions for a man behind the bar. More so if he has to churn cocktails and more cocktails. However there was a small detail that was a bit different about last night compared to most packed cocktail nights.

At the backdrop of live texas blues music that "Ministry of Blues" was drumming out, I was super busy manufacturing the regular stuff - pitchers of Margaritas, some Cosmos, a Martini here, a Mai Tai there. What made the night different was two things.

1) Good friend of mine came to the bar with a drink in her hand asking me to desperately fix her wrongly done Manhattan and later for asked for an Old Fashioned as well.
2) A regular patron at the bar wanted to do something unusual and I suggested a Boilermaker.

Now Whiskey cocktails are not quite regular at any bar in India. You would very rarely find people in India wanting to drink a Manhattan, forget an Old Fashioned which most wouldn`t even know. At best - a Whiskey sour. The fact that these are classic cocktails and probably quaffed in quite abundancy anywhere abroad has got no relevance here. Similarly Boilermaker - a whiskey shot with a beer chase is unheard of in these parts of the world. Shots in India are mostly Tequila or sweet/sour vodka shots with lots of fruit syrups. So I am on a rampage to do my bit of teaching people who come to the bar on "how to drink"!! In this blogpost I will give you the recipes ofBoilermaker, Manhattan & Old Fashioned.

Boilermaker (A whisky shot and a beer chase)
Officialy called a Boilermaker,choose whiskey of you choice - bourbon, blended scotch, single malt, rye or whatever. Shoot it, gulp it. Pick up a pint of your favourite beer and down some of it immedietly. Some popular combinations are

1) Jameson & Guiness
2) Jack Daniels & Budwiser
3) Yamazaki & Asahi
4) Tequila (Although not a whisky) & Coronoa

A classic martini drink, many bars serve it in a rocks glass, which I do not like much. The whiskey in the drink should be a Bourbon. If you change it to any other whisky as tennesse,rye or scotch, the taste will surly vary. Vermouth - the italian fortified wine - should be the sweet one , also called Rosso. The drink must not be shaken. Its a stir drink.

60 ml Bourbon (Jim Beam Black mostly available in India)
2o ml Sweet Vermouth (Rosso)

Pour Ingredients into a shaker with Ice. Stir and fine strain into a Martini glass with a marchino cherry dropped in as garnish. A dash of bitters while stirring into the shaker is optional. The taste is water diluted bourbon with a slight sweet hint.

An improvisation of the drink is Dry Manhattan (Bourbon & Dry Vermouth), Perfect Manhattan (Bourbon, Dry Vermouth & Sweet vermouth).

My friend found the drink very bitter (wonder what happ!!) and asked me to do something to it. I added a dash of triple sec and shook it on ice again and gave it back to her. And she loved it. I guess the pure taste of a Manhattan needs repeated drinking to develop a taste for it.

Old Fashioned
Also supposed to be the world`s first cocktail. Simple to make but easy to goof. Whiskey of your choice can be used. Place a cube of sugar in a rocks glass and muddle it in a dash of bitters. Fill the glass with ice cubes and pour whiskey over. Splash of soda ll do great help. An orange slice with a lime twist and a couple of maraschino cherries is a garnish. I wonder why maraschino cherries are a garnish in most whiskey based drinks. Anyways.....

My goof last nite with this drink - did not use soda, did not use garnish. Criminal,I know.....I blame it on the packed nite.

So next time you ignore all advice about never drinking whiskey cocktails, I suggest you try one of the above. A boiler maker is a good party starter, a Manhattan a nice drink to hold through an evening and an Old Fashioned a perfect nightcap!!

Blue Bar, Delhi

Its been quite sometime since I have returned from Delhi. I have been wanting to scrape a few lines about what I considered the highlight of this January trip, apart from the incorrigable Delhi fog , - the mecca of cocktails, The Blue Bar at Taj Palace Hotel, Chanakyapuri.

The purpose of visiting the bar was not to have drinks or do a review of the place. Good friend and master mixologist -
Nick Hawkins mans this bar and I just wanted to meet him, since I was in this part of the country. And I got a bonus and a shot of jealousy when I checked out his daily space of work. Blue Bar, Delhi is not just another bar in a 5 star hotel. It is a mosh pit of the most plushest things your could lay your eyes on. Everything at this bar is unique and shows the kind of attention to detail that has been given.

Blue bar has a fabulous alfresco section by the pool besides its great art deco interiors. The interiors have been done by Pool Associates, Singapore who have done some of the best bars of the world. The bar top alone is worth USD 30K - imported metal blocks that shine their golden strips under the lights. The super high ceiling and tall wave curtains give an illusion of space. This bar is no joke as all the glassware comes from UK. Each and every peice of glass is imported. Taj group has spent a whoppinig 8 crores on this bar.

Nick has written the cocktail menu. He has clearly demonstrated what a master mixologist can do if you give him the correct space. Nick`s menu has three sections: Signatures, Revivals and Topshelf.

The Signatures is a section which clearly brings out the creativity and experience that bartenders like Nick can boast of. Drinks like Matahari and Belgravia are hallmark to this section. Nick has been given the freedom to experiment and he is not afraid to do that. Bacon infused bourbon and cigar infused vodkas are used in his signatures. The Revivals section truly bring to life an era of cocktails that are long gone or even possibly unknown in India. Corpse Reviver, Blood and Sand, New York Flip - I am doubtful if you will ever find these on any cocktail menus in India. Its as it is difficult to lay hands on the sinful ingredients that some of these need and hence imported. Topshelf cocktails are popular cocktails made with ultra premium spirits - Mojito made with Rum Agricole (Sugarcane based rum) , Margaritas made with Petron Tequila etc.

Guzzle - dark rum (not Old Monk - Bacardi Black), bitters, pineapple juice and lemon charged with Ginger beer is what Nick made for me while talking about the place.Blue bar uses only premiun brands, be it straight drinks or cocktails. The pouring vodka is Absolut, pouring rum is Havana Club, pouring gin is Tanquery.

This apart the collection of single malts, liquers and premium spirits is just unbelievable. I have been previliged to see and taste a designer vodka on the shelves of Blue Bar.
"ROBERTO CAVALI" vodlka - can you imagine. Has a very short after taste, doesnot burn at all and is sooper smooth. "Silk on the bum" - Nicks words.

Music at Blue Bar comes straight from the record case of
Blue Frog. You can imagine the quality and kind yourself.

I did not have time to look at the food menu and apologise not being able to comment on that. That is not my forte anyway. One round of cocktails for two would burn 12-1500 bucks. So next time you are in Delhi and you feel like a real make your way to The Blue Bar!!!

Driving Under Influence

How many of us have been holed at least once for drink and driving? And how many of us have been holed in for having just one beer or 30ml of our favorite whiskey before getting behind the steering wheel?

I have personally been caught ONCE in my active drinking life thus far and unfortunately for only one pint of my favorite lager. I ended up paying 2000 Rs after a bit of nagging and looking like an ass at a traffic police mosh pit at 1 in the morning. And I was duly pissed off when I got home and switched on my idiot box to see a liquor company advertising responsible drinking.

But how much is responsible drinking? What is the permissible limit to drink and drive? And what are our rights when we are faced with a cop in the middle of the road asking us to test on his breath analyzer? I am not trying to advocate drink and driving today, but there seems to be quite some ignorance and illiteracy about “driving under influence” DUI laws in India. This note will try to give basic info on this subject with my jaundiced opinion as well.

So, do you know why I paid 2000 quid for just a pint of beer before driving? My research shows that anywhere in the world except India I would be within permissible limits of driving under influence because the limit under the Indian law is, unfortunately, the lowest in the world.

The Indian Law: Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 Sec 185:

Driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs.
Whoever, while driving, or attempting to drive, a motor vehicle,-

  1. has, in his blood, alcohol exceeding 30 mg. per 100 ml. of blood detected in a test by a breathanalyser, or
  2. is under this influence of a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of exercising proper control over the vehicle,

shall be punishable for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months, or with fine which may extend to 2000 Rs, or with both; and for a second or subsequent offence, if committed within 3 years of the commission of the previous similar offence, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine which may extend to 3000 Rs, or with both.

(You only get a receipt of being caught and will not be allowed to drive the vehicle. You would be required to face the traffic court as early as 730 or 8 the next morning and pay fine as the judge may deem appropriate. )

The level of alcohol in blood is referred to as Blood Alcohol Content/Concentration or Breath Alcohol Content (BAC). It is measured either as a percentage by mass, by mass per volume, or a combination. BAC is a combination of 4 important aspects

  • Quantity of beverage consumed
  • Percentage of Alcohol in the beverage consumed
  • Your weight
  • Hours of consuming the beverage.

So, if you consumed a 330 ml can of beer with 5% Alcohol in about an hour and your weight is 90 kgs, your BAC would be about 0.0308%. A BAC of 0.03% can mean 0.3 gram of alcohol per 1000 gram of an individual's blood, or it can mean 0.3 gram of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Per Indian law, you are screwed if you are caught driving at this stage.

World over the average limit is 0.08% which means you can have 2 more beers for sure. There is no logical rationale for Indian law to take such a hard stance when in many other cities of the developed world it is considered safe to drive with levels as high as 80 mg. There is a dire need to revisit the permissible limit for driving under influence in India. But there is absolutely no hope for such trivial amendments when much larger social and relevant laws like child labor, divorce etc are still lingering in their pre historic days.

One more aspect that can screw your happy ride is that breath analyzer tests are not perfect. The analysers are highly prone to errors, malfunctioning due to maintenance issues and you could end up shown as drunk just because the normal mouth alcohol content screwed up the analyzer or its settings are effed. All analysers make certain assumptions about the people being tested which may or may not be true. Besides, breath analyzer tests are based only on your alcohol content without any respect to whether or not you are feeling the effects of drinking. Rumour has it that sometimes to make an extra buck the straw in which you are asked to breathe through to the analyzer is pre-dipped in alcohol and then you are unnecessarily harassed.

Your Rights :

World over the cops are supposed to mention to you in advance that breathing into the analyzer in optional and you may choose to go to the station and give an actual blood test. I do not know if it’s practiced diligently. In India, there is no such provision. You are almost at the mercy of the cop. If you refuse to breathe into the analyzer, he has rights to arrest you quoting reasons to believe that you may have been driving under influence without any regard whatsoever to the fact that your driving skills are impaired or not..

So guys, the govt has decided that thou shall not drink responsibly and drive like they do not allow alcohol to be served beyond 1130 in Bangalore and like they decided that you shall not shake a leg at your favorite disco for having good time and fun is crime.

Till such time as the perception of responsible drinking changes in our social ethos, here are a few tips that I gathered over my discussions with various groups, on how to counter cops in namma Bengaluru while driving under no influence:

  1. The IT professional try: Always wear your company id card on you with your laptop next to you posing you are a late night worker from one of the IT companies. Chances are you won’t be stopped.
  2. Get aggressive: What the F? When I am going back home from a hard day’s work, you stop me and ask these silly questions???
  3. Army trump card: Kya Sir, Aaj kal army walon ko bhi rokne lag gaye kya?
  4. Avoid them: Avoid any streets or roads where there is a traffic police station as all barricading and testing is done right outside the station for its convenient for the cops to compound vehicles if required.

Some better tips:

  • Designate a person in the group as the driver for later and he shall not drink
  • Do not drink and drive :) hahahaha. I am practicing this on Wednesday, Friday & Satday.
  • Use party driver services. Spot Drivers - +(91)-(80)-66498863. They send drivers to wherever you are to drive you in your own vehicle after you night at the bar. Charges Rs250 for 4 hrs plus rick fare for the driver to get back. You have to book these guys in advance though.
  • Use Easy Cabs or Meru Taxi services


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