Delhi restauranteurs are accepting indigenous ingredients in cocktails
A few Delhi restaurateurs discuss returning to flavours of familiarity with cocktails crafted from native ingredients
Long gone are the days of classic cocktails such as Whisky Sour, Vodka Martini, and the Manhattan. As the country catches up with the fast-growing trend of sustainability, restaurants are becoming less reliant on imported ingredients.
People have a new-found interest in cocktails crafted from native components irrespective of where it grows in the subcontinent. As Delhi craves to return to its opulent past, the Capital’s leading restaurants and bars have also accepted indigenous ingredients in drinks.
Award-winning mixologist, Yangdup Lama, who co-owns Sidecar (GK2), has introduced a chic avatar to the Bael ka Sharbat (a drink made from wood apple).
Although you might remember it as a bitter concoction as a child, the bael shrub mixed with whisky or vodka has won the hearts of many patrons at Sidecar.
Along with ingredients such as vetiver (khus), rhododendron (a flower) nectar, and different herbs, Lama’s team also experiments with ingredients native to the Himalayas to make their cocktails stand out.
With never-used-before produce like the Himalayan cherry chillies that are impactful and flavourful, his team has successfully introduced a new drink along with the culture and story behind the produce. Acquainted with the region, Lama mentions that it’s a way for him to share his heritage with the world.
“We made the tea menu in collaboration with a tea estate. It was easier since I’m from that region; I am a passionate tea consumer with a strong inclination toward understanding tea better,” he says.
A twist to classics
Indigenous ingredients are matched with the flavour profiles of classic spirits like vodka, rum or whisky to create a well-balanced cocktail experience. Executive chef Parul Pratap from Music & Mountains, GK1, talks about crafting cocktails with litchi as well as Indian plums.
Their idea is to focus on one primary seasonal fruit that is locally sourced and native to Delhi. Unlike following a simple recipe for a typical classic drink, these concoctions might come across as a challenge. Pratap, therefore, allows her team to think out of the box and be experimental.
“Guests like to try something new even though they may be fond of an old-fashioned, which they drink everywhere. Sometimes, they read the description of a cocktail in which you’ve used indigenous ingredients; they get fascinated and end up ordering the drink,” Pratap points out.
In a similar vein, the Sidecar co-founder speaks of how the earthy flavour of vetiver is distinct from that which is imparted by common ingredients.
“Traditional cocktails are an inspiration to deviate from and bring in more variety. The more different ingredients we use—spices, fruits, herbs or vegetables—the major change is that it adds an unknown flavour and makes the experience unique,” Lama says.
Back to the roots
Cocktails with indigenous ingredients have turned into a drink of choice for patrons who seek a unique take on traditional alcoholic beverages. Vasant Vihar-based Pass Code Only (PCO) is frequented by customers who favour their lychee and classic jamun cocktails.
“This is exactly what spurs us to innovate more and curate new flavours. It allows us to showcase the different ways locally-grown fruits can be used,” says Gaurav Sareen, General Manager, PCO.
It also helps that India is home to a plethora of geographically-distinct ingredients to choose from.
“What better way to present this to the world than in the form of food, cocktails and beverages? It is an offering to the global food and beverage scene. The beauty of our roots and traditions are spoken through the language of cocktails,” Lama concludes.