Sip on nostalgia with Rasna & Roohafza in your cocktail
The slim-stemmed wine glass could very well be holding a crisp white – however, the sprig of fresh curry leaves in it is a giveaway. Part of the new summer cocktails at The Leela Palace’s Library Blu, the Nanari Sherbet cocktail is a pale gold and sweet concoction. The South Indian signature drink, with tender coconut, features some muffled strains of vodka. While we swirl and sniff appreciatively – we chat up with Dev Thakur, the assistant food and beverage manager, about how this new line of 11 cocktails happened. “Tiny umbrellas and garnishes is not really our style,” admits Dev, sharing how they made an exception to this menu as they wanted to add some character to the creations that are made with regional summer favourites. Familiar ingredients like Rasna, Roohafza, kayree panha bring a hint of nostalgia to the drinks.
Whiskey meets cardamom
In the middle of it all, we suggest you dig into the curry leaf and lentil crusted fish that packs some reasonable heat and great flavour when teamed with the tangy ginger chutney that smacks of the injipuli from the Western Ghats. It will also prepare you for the Peated Thandai, a deceptively benevolent looking drink with delicate strands of saffron floating on top. One generous sip and the whisky is a shot of adrenaline to the palate – and even as I gloat over that happy moment, there are belated tones of cardamom dust, orgeat syrup and pistachio to soothe the fieriness. The almond biscotto on the side suddenly makes sense – as it provides comforting interludes ’tween sips!
“The team was really excited about the menu – and we scoured the local markets across the country to plan this menu,” says Dev, as we sip on a Padneer next. Fragrant with jasmine and fresh coriander garnish, my heart skips a beat as finally one of my favourites, the ice apple – the much-underrated summer fruit — was getting some stage time. Though a delightful thirst quencher, the nongu fruit puree is unfortunately drowned in the medley of aromas, sweet lime juice, coriander tonic and gin. However, as I jab at a cushiony slab of paneer tikka, I am suitably mollified with the addictive taste of the aam chunda stuffing in it. Often the most unexpected combinations can produce great flavours – I ruminate, as I sip on the inspirational Angoori Lassi – the wild card from the lot. Light, frothy, summery and delicious, with some Scotch, fresh lime, honey and yoghurt – this one is begging to be put in a brunch menu!
At The Leela Palace Chennai, Summer Cocktails at Rs 850 each.