Summer cocktails: Shaken, stirred and cooled
Delhites are still recovering from the onset of summers after the long and beautiful winter months that overstayed their welcome. At bars across the city, beer taps are working overtime and cans of chilled brews are crowding tables.
Mixologists are hard at work, armed with vodka, gin and white rum, brewing fresh, summery cocktails for a discerning set of food and drink lovers. While there are always the mojitos and cosmopolitans to fall back on, exotic fruits are finding way into the glasses for a drink with a twist.
THE SUMMER PUNCH
At one of the city's newest culinary cocktail bars from the Olive Group, Serai, the summer menu boasts of the Jamun Bellini. "From new twists on the most popular drinks to fun and refreshing fruit punches-summer is the best season to create interesting and refreshing cocktails," says Harish Chhimwal, head mixologist at Serai.
Presentation is very important too, feels Yangdup Lama, one of the country's bestknown mixologists. He says, "It's a lot about perception. The mention of a drink on a hot summer afternoon conjures images of a tall glass with a light-coloured fruity drink with cucumber or mint."
At Sidecar, his recently opened bar in GK II, a delicious summer drink is Aunt Emily which has gin or vodka mixed with dried cranberry puree and elderflower cordial. Here, every cocktail has a story, painstakingly explained in the menu. Just like the story of the birth of cocktails. "About 200 years ago, alcohol was not as fine as it is now so it needed some sort of mixers to make it smoother," says Lama.
"And the first such drink was documented in the 1820s in a magazine called Balance in America which said 'cocktail is something which has spirit, sugar, water and bitters. This would probably have been the classic cocktail, Old Fashioned," says Lama, adding, "This also shows that ice would have been a novelty those days." Which probably explains why apart from fresh fruits, Topesh Chatterjee, manager - Grappa Bar - Shangri-La's -Eros Hotel, New Delhi, swears by "good-quality fresh ice" for a nice summer cocktail.
Yes, nothing can still beat the comfort of mixing vodka in a tall glass of fresh lemon water but who can complain if it comes with hints of kaffir lime or lemongrass?
"While the most popular cooling ingredients in cocktails include mint, citrus (lemon/orange), in the past few years, Asian ingredients such as kafir lime, yuzu, ginger, etc have also become a regular feature adding a refreshing flavour to drinks," says Prakash Chandra, director of operations at Andaz Delhi.
At Juniper, the hotel's gin bar, the most popular summer drink is the Imli Fizz. Chandra adds, "Floral and refreshing scented herbs are a good way to refresh one's senses when sipping a cocktail. We also use various native Indian ingredients to infuse our gins, adding an additional spark of freshness. The type and flavour of tonic water being served with the gin is also important as it must complement the flavours of the botanicals." The mixologists at The Imperial Hotel's 1911 Bar use fresh cucumbers and mint to make the refreshing The Imperial Cup.
"Light coloured alcohols like vodka, gin, tequila and white rum are preferred during summer months," says Lama. Speaking of which, over the past few years, bars across the city have bid farewell to sugary sweet cocktails. It's now all about berries and fresh fruit extracts naturally sweetening your drink. Time you raised a toast to the weather with a zesty, tall, iced drink.