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Once upon a time gentlemen loved their drinks. Unadulterated single malt on the rocks, gin with tonic water, over spilled foaming beer from beer mugs. Although a certain Mr. Bond, who has been the epitome of masculinity and oozing sex appeal, had been ordering martini, shaken but not stirred, historically speaking, cocktails with their fancy glasses, slice of fruit and a small umbrella had always been considered as the ladies’ drinks. Be it a long island iced tea or a mojito or a margarita, it was seen standing its ground by the side of the wine or a vodka or rum.
While most of the classic cocktails such as martini, Manhattan, bloody Mary, margarita, daiquiri and so on have been an essential feature in all the bars and have been immensely popular with the connoisseurs, the bar tenders or the mixologists across the globe continued reinventing the classic cocktails, presented in new ways and added twists and a special touch of their own. In the recent times, we have come across restaurants and pubs with some of these cocktails which are making news across the city and will be worth checking out in the coming months.
Cocktails are a lot about presentation and if you walk in to Bodega Cantina Y Bar, then try out the Mexican version of Dia De Los Muertos (commonly known as day of the dead). Made of hibiscus, tequila, orange, grenadine and made to order pineapple juice, this cocktail is served in a skull shaped glass and the citrus coupled with tequila makes it a beautiful medley of flavours. If you are a coffee lover looking for some cocktail with distinct coffee character, then the tiramisu martini is the call of the day. Dark rum infused with cocoa, roasted bean coffee and dairy is a smooth blend with a good balance of the primary coffee feel and just the right amount of alcohol kick.
Gabbar's Bar and Kitchen has been instrumental in molecular gastronomy since the launch a couple of years ago and it is of no surprise that the cocktails here are also quite quirky and innovative. While one can try out espresso sangria or bollywood bhang, our recommendation would be ‘ab gola kha’. Yes! named after that famous dialogue from Sholay, this is a cocktail which is served with some theatre around it. The orange margarita encased within ice spheres are served with a special ice breaker and one needs to break the ice ball to enjoy the cocktail.
Food theatre around cocktails are now a common feature and if you are visiting The Grid, the new gastro pub in Kolkata, then you will find plenty of them along with innovations of some popular cocktails. While the daiquiri has many variants including a frozen one which is immensely popular, The Grid offers you trio daiquiri which comes together in 3 compartments which can be dismantled containing three flavours of citrus, berry and kiwi base. While there are many more impressive cocktails in the bar menu, one which is worth recommending is the smoky Tennessee served with a cinnamon stick inside the glass along with slices of lemon. The smoky flavour of Bourbon whiskey is distinct which is a welcome enhancement to the cocktail.
When it comes to dramatics around food, the smoked cocktails at Smoke House Deli are a super hit. Be it the smoked sangria or lapson souchong smoked sangria or the cherry wood smoked Rob Roy, the smoked cocktails are another aspect of new age cocktails which are gaining popularity. Do not miss out on the misty apple sour which is a combination of vodka, green apple and lime presented in a tall Collins glass with a lid and straw to trap the smoke which in turn infuses with the drink while giving it a lingering effect.
How can one forget the Monkey Bar which has recently opened its door in Kolkata? Some of the unusual cocktails which they are offering are mad men (made with coffee and orange scrub, whiskey, tonic and rosemary), hipster smash (cucumber, elderflower spritz, watermelon, mint and vodka), not so vanilla (coffee and vanilla, cream, lime and almond with vodka) but pack a punch is worth a try where it is a refreshing take on gin punch made famous by Charles Dickens. Pack a punch consists of rum, brandy apple and thyme shrub, and cinnamon.
After having set its foot in a number of cities, Kolkata was also not far behind with Hoppipola, the fun place to have drinks. The bird cage, their most popular cocktail is a combination of white rum, orange liqueur and a number of fruits presented inside a bird cage, making it a pure tropical fun drink to have. It contains 1000 ml of spirit making it a drink good enough for a group of 2 – 3 people. Another popular and fun drink is the Da Vincitini, which is espresso infused vodka but served with dark and white chocolate and a paint brush. One can paint their glasses with the dark and white chocolate before pouring out the drink into the glass.
The Irish House at the Quest Mall has earned its name for being a cool pub which also throws up a few superb cocktails. Their community cocktail of Irish Terminator (a combination of vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, grape juice, grenadine and finally topped with beer) is an assault of flavours and spirit and is a good way to end a party in a group. The Irish House signature Whistleblower is another cool drink with Teachers, Laphroaig, raspberry juice and passion fruit extract and is refreshing and quite an inspirational cocktail.
Whether the purists like it or not, cocktail innovations are here to stay and no list is ever comprehensive enough to speak about all the innovative cocktails and trends which start moving around in the circuit, however, some innovations stand the test of time and some do not.
A true blue Kolkata foodie, Anindya loves cooking and eating his Kosha Mangsho. Anindya weaves stories around food as he believes exceptional food is an emotional experience. Previously a restauranter, now a passionate photographer and traveller, he runs a successful blog called Pikturenama and contributes to other publications.