Expert mixologists weigh in on the biggest cocktail trends and how to replicate them at home
From home-made bitters and savoury drinks to a focus on natural ingredients, here's what expert bartenders had to say:
Khushnaz Raghina, Diageo Brand Ambassador
A certified trainer and a malt advocate, Khushnaz shares, “The two trends changing the face of drinking experiences in and beyond the bars are conscious cocktails and high-balls.” Being mindful while choosing ingredients (local and seasonal), consciousness of making the most of a single ingredient (flower to root or fruit to peel) and minimising wastage are some of the key aspects of the concept of conscious cocktails. “Additionally, preserving the flavour (of ingredients) in various forms like home syrups, cordials, shrubs, jams, dehydration, and candying while making cocktails is referred to as conscious cocktail,” explains the trainer. The highballs trend not only focuses on a light and refreshing style of the drink, it also celebrates the expression of the spirit. In fact, a highball is the easiest cocktail to make at home. Khushnaz says, “You can stick to the simplicity of using only two ingredients that accentuate the expression of the spirit. For example when you add tonic to Tanqueray No. Ten, you will experience a burst of freshness on your palate which uplifts the citrus heart of the gin.”
Vedant Mehra, Bar Manager, Olive Bar and Kitchen
Mumbai-based Vedant says that over-the-top gimmicky cocktails are passé. “Currently, I see a lot of clean, crisp and technique-forward cocktails which focus more on the ingredients being used, rather than the gimmick and presentation. Another trend I see is spritzers. There’s a focus on carbonation, whether it is directly carbonating the finished cocktail or using ingredients like soda, ginger ale and tonics,” he says. Speaking of tonic, the award-winning bartender shares a tip to amp up your gin and tonics while at home, during social distancing. “Instead of drinking a regular G&T, you can add your own twist by infusing the gin with an ingredient of your choice. I love to play with spices, and they’re easy to find. A great way to spice things up is by adding peppercorns to gin and letting it sit for a couple of hours (longer infusion will lead to a spicier and more intense flavour). A simple peppercorn-infused gin with a flavoured tonic is a great way to awaken the mixologist within us,” he says.
Ravi Kumar, Bar Manager, 1Q1 – Kitchen & Bar
Ravi believes that Tiki cocktails and cocktails crafted with home-made ingredients are here to stay. He also shares that the line between food and drink are blurring thanks to the popularity of savoury cocktails. “For instance, there are gin cocktails with cucumber, mint, Greek yoghurt and lemon. Then, there are other savoury elements such as bone broth, Szechuan peppercorns, beets, gravy and bacon. A lot of this influence comes directly from the flavour profile of a particular dish that a bartender loves,” he says, adding, “If you’re making a Bloody Mary at home, adding fresh tomato juice is a great idea. You can even smoke your Whisky Sour with cinnamon sticks and cloves, which are easily available in most Indian kitchens.”
Asmani Subramanian, Diageo India Luxury Portfolio Brand Ambassador, South India
The Bengaluru-based mixologist has noticed three important trends in the industry - low ABV drinks, a resurgence of gin and tonic, and revival of Scotch- and whisky-based highball serves. “A highball is a mixed alcoholic drink composed of an alcoholic base spirit and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer (could be a juice or a ginger ale). A highball is typically served over ice in a large straight-sided highball glass or Collins glass. This is a great way to enjoy your Scotch whisky if you are looking for a variation. And they are very easy to make,” he says. A quick and effortless recipe, according to Asmani, is fruity G&T. “Just mix30ml of gin in a glass filled with a few ice cubes, top with chilled tonic water and top with sliced citrus fruits, berries or fruits available in your kitchen,” he tells us. To enjoy an easy highball serve, try the Johnnie Ginger — pour 30ml or 45ml Johnnie Walker Red Label into a tall glass, fill it with a few ice cubes and top it with chilled ginger ale with a wedge of any citrus fruits for an aromatic nose.
Aman Dua, Beverage Head, Raahi Neokitchen and Bar
Raahi’s Aman Dua stresses on the importance of immunity boosting ingredients, especially at a time like this. “There are many ingredients that are trending in the cocktail world, that also help build immunity, such as turmeric, ginger, nuts and a few green vegetables. When this pandemic is behind us, we are hoping to create a new menu featuring these ingredients. When we were doing trials a while back, we made a gin cocktail with raw turmeric, in-house ginger syrup and Mulethi bitter,” shares Aman. A great cocktail to make at home, according to Aman, is a rum-based one with two parts rum, mixed with homemade ginger honey syrup, Yakult and roasted nuts. “This tastes great without Rum too, so people who don’t want alcohol can also enjoy the drink,” he explains.
Evonne Eadie, Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador
An industry veteran with over 12 years’ experience, Evonne is a WSET-qualified trainer. She’s worked in Australia, and is now a Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador working in India. She says sustainability and acid manipulation are the two latest trends in the cocktail business. “Sustainability and waste reduction is in focus right now. It is all about rethinking the way we make drinks to ensure the lowest possible impact on the environment. The other trend is acid manipulation. By working with various acids like citric and malic acid, we can manipulate acid levels in other liquids to imitate the citrusy flavour. These liquids make for interesting cocktail ingredients,” says Evonne. But how can one practise sustainability at home? The mixologist says it is the easiest trend to adapt. “I recommend you use a raw ingredient in its entirety. For example, if you use mint leaves for garnish, then what could you do with the stems? You could make syrup out of the stems,” explains Evonne.
Rahul Tiwari, Manager, The Polo Club
Manager of The Oberoi’s popular bar, The Polo Club, Rahul, feels that there is growing affinity for naturally-sourced ingredients — fresh fruit juices, extracts, infused flavours, and reduced use of canned products and synthetic syrups. “The use of natural sugars are also big like jaggery, organic honey and fruit sugars,” he says, adding, “A few other trends I have observed are the popularity of non-alcoholic and low alcoholic content beverages (such as flavoured waters and kombucha) and growing gin culture. The trend of infused gins is huge — from traditional herbs and botanicals to flowers, fruits and spices. We are also moving towards simpler concoctions. The more simple the methodology adopted for the drinks with fresh interesting flavours, the better your cocktail. The complex and drama-driven cocktails are no longer trending.” If you’re interested in trying your hand at making cocktails, Rahul suggests you make your own infusions. “For example, take a good bourbon or smoky whisky and infuse the same with a little jaggery, bitters and star anise to make infused whisky. You can also infuse vodka or gin with herbs like fresh mint, coriander seeds, rosemary, honey and maple syrup,” he shares.
Arun Prasanna, General Manager, Byg Brewski
“Today, bitters are enjoying a ‘sweet’ renaissance,” says Arun, general manager at this brewery. “Stalwarts like Angostura and Peychaud’s share shelf space with tiny bottles from newer alchemists, such as Scrappy Lavender Bitters, making for livelier, more interesting drinks,” he adds. He also feels that the use of shrubs (concentrated syrups made with fruit, vinegar and sugar) is another growing trend.
“Cocktail shrubs are a fast-rising star among both cocktail lovers and teetotalers with good palates. It has its roots in England where vinegar was used to preserve fruit. Eventually it became the fashion to pour out the vinegar, mix it with a sweetener and use the syrup as a base for a drink,” explains Arun.