We’re in a space you could call an old boys club—The Bayview Bar at The Oberoi, Mumbai. The bar is known for its menu of single malts but there’s only one whisky cocktail out of the 12 mixes on the menu: the venerable Manhattan.
We’re with a man whose alcohol preferences can’t be called old-fashioned, but they’re not avant-garde either. You just can’t picture Ashwin Deo, Moët Hennessy’s managing director, India and Indian subcontinent, doing shooters from a test tube rack. He says he’d rather kick back at home after a long day with a malt or a glass of red wine. And when he’s out, Deo likes to tipple on some dry vodkatinis. He seemed like the perfect candidate for an experiment with whisky cocktails—someone not too willing to add other ingredients to whisky.
Multiple choice: Deo relishes his Old-Fashioned while the Mint Julep is on standby. (Kedar Bhatt / Mint)
The brief was simple—give us honest feedback on classic whisky cocktails.
We started with the Rusty Nail (scotch, Drambuie). Deo liked it, but prefers something less sweet (we observed he took a gulp of water to cleanse the palette). The Mint Julep (Bourbon, crushed mint, sugar, mint syrup, crushed ice) was next: “It’s fabulous, just right for this time of the year. It has a fresh, vegetal taste, it’s not too sweet and I’m getting really fresh aromas,” he says, taking another sip. He tries to experiment and asks for the Rusty Nail with half the quantity of Drambuie, to cut the sweetness.
The obscure Silky Pin (scotch, Drambuie, cream) was next. All it took was one sip. “It’s like Phantom going to the bar. He always drinks milk,” Deo said, setting down the glass. He didn’t touch it again.
So far, the Julep is ahead.
But only till the Bourbon Old-Fashioned (Bourbon, a sugar cube, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, soda) makes an entrance. Deo observes it for a while. “It looks inviting.” After the first sip, he’s hooked. “It’s lovely. I’ve never tasted whisky with bitters, but this is fantastic.”
The Rusty Nail with less Drambuie is better—“I’m getting more scotch”, but he’s not happy with the attempt to replace the Bourbon in the Mint Julep with scotch.
Reaching for the Old-Fashioned again, he proclaims it the most complete of the lot. “A cocktail is meant to tease all your senses. This one teases my sight also,” he says of the golden liquid with the ripe orange garnishing the rim.
“A whisky cocktail is not in the first three drink choices I’d make,” he says after we’re done. (We figure it’s probably not in his first 10.)