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Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

20 questions to raise the bar at home

Ease into Unlock 2.0 with tips from beverage experts from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru

1 What is a good mix of spirits for bars?

In the spirit of “vocal for local", opt for indigenous liquors, such as DesmondJi Mahua and Cazulo Feni. A balance of white liquors like gin, vodka, tequila and white rum, and dark varieties such as whisky, bourbon, brandy and dark rum, is good to begin with.

2 What about liqueurs?

Mixologists turn to their trusted bottle of Cointreau or vermouth to develop cocktails. Mix Cointreau with tequila and lime juice for a Margarita. Combine a dry gin with the white vermouth Martini Bianco and ice for a Martini. The sweeter red version, Martini Rosso, calls for dark spirits. Stir bourbon with Martini Rosso for a Manhattan. Keep Camparis for Negronis. Chocolate lovers will love cacao liqueurs and Baileys Irish Cream.

3 How does one make infusions?

It’s a simple process of infusing flavours with spirits. Take 250ml each of vodka, gin and tequila. Place them in separate glass bottles. For vodka infusion, add a tea bag of Earl Grey and keep for 6 hours. For gin infusion, take a lemongrass stalk and roughly smash it in a wooden mortar pestle. Add it to the gin and keep for a day. For tequila, take one spicy green slit chilli and 20g fresh coriander. Add them to the tequila and keep for a day or longer. If the coriander starts to yellow, strain immediately. The last step of straining is done after the infusions have been left undisturbed for the stipulated time period. If you want something spicy, make a rum infusion. Take 125ml white and 125ml dark rum with a 50g mix of whole spices in equal ratio that includes star anise, black pepper, clove and cinnamon. Mix and let it sit for a day.

To make cocktails, pour 60ml infusion over a lot of ice and top off with soda, tonic or juices. Keep a good supply of the three mixers, ginger ale, home-made lemon juice and sugar syrup or a sweet alternative like honey.

4 How do you finish with flair?

Apart from fresh citruses such as lemon, orange and grapefruit, keep their dehydrated versions handy for garnishing. They have a longer shelf life. Experiment with whole dry spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise and dried figs. Add flowers too.

5 Whom should one follow for drinks inspiration?

Check out the Facebook pages of the three best bars in the world—The Aviary in Chicago, Nightjar in London and Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

Inputs from Neil Alexander, corporate mixologist at the Bengaluru-based Windmills Craftworks

6 Basic bar equipment? 

A jigger to measure, a shaker (a gym bottle can double up as one), a strainer, a wooden muddler and a bottle opener.

7 And the basic glasses?

Rock, pint, shot, tall glasses, stemmed glasses with variations like tulip, coupe, martini and flute, and Brandy snifter glass.

8 Which brands would you recommend?

Stölzle, Schott Zwiesel, Riedel and Spiegelau (on the higher end), and Bormioli Rocco and Pasabahce (mid-range). They are available online on Barsupplies.com, Barproducts.com, Behindthebar.com and Amazon.in. 

9 Tips for picking good-quality glassware?

Select durable and distinctive glassware that’s dishwasher safe. Avoid bulky versions.

Inputs from Amita Andrew Naronha, Beluga bar, The LaLit Mumbai

10 What’s the starting point for a great wine collection?

The ultimate aim of building a wine collection should be to discover styles and types of wine. Stock up on a variety, even the ones you may be unfamiliar with, in order to discover and enhance your enjoyment of wine. Not all wines need to be expensive trophy wines; most can be well-made wines from established producers designed for drinking early, in styles across sparkling, white, red and rosé/pink. Some of the best wines are in the price range of 2,000-4,000 a bottle.

11 Which wines should one pick for a celebratory evening?

Classics like Chablis from France or premium New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in whites, or a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon in reds.

12 What are your suggestions for wine accessories?

I like to enjoy my wine from stylish crystal wine glasses. They are light, thin and luminous. Some wine tools you need to stock up on are: corkscrew to open the bottle of wine or butterfly wings (easier to operate), decanter for separating the sediment in old, fine wines and also for quickly aerating young wines, ice-bucket for chilling sparkling or crisp dry white wines.

13 Wine recommendations from around the world?

Dry rosé and pink wine from Provence or Tavel, well-aged first or second growth Bordeaux, premium Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and a well-aged German Riesling. For Indian wines, pick Charosa Selection Sauvignon Blanc, H-Block Chardonnay, KRSMA Estates Reserve Syrah and Vallonné Vin De Passerillage.

14 Share a pro tip.

One of the most common myths about wine is that the older it is, the better it tastes. But the truth is around 95% of the wines have a shelf life of just around two-three years. Most wines today are made with the intent of being enjoyed immediately upon release. Drink them fresh and young.

15 What are your wine book recommendations?

The Oxford Companion To Wine by Jancis Robinson, The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil, Wine Folly For Beginners by Madeleine Puckettand Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Guide.

Inputs from sommelier Sonal Holland, chairperson of India Wine Awards

16 What’s a post-Zoom call drink?

You would want something quick. Shake up a Dark & Stormycocktail with 60ml rum, some lime juice and ginger ale, and garnish with a lime wedge.

17 Drink after washing dishes?

Make a Brandy Alexander. Mix 60ml brandy or 60ml Cognac, 30ml cacao liqueur and 30ml cream. Pour into an elegant stem glass and garnish with grated chocolate or sprinkle nutmeg powder. You can also use Baileys instead of brandy.

18 If one is missing one’s favourite bar...

Make a classic Negroni. In a whisky glass, take some ice and pour 20ml red vermouth, 20ml Campari and 20ml gin. Gently stir till well combined and serve with a twisted orange zest.

19 To shake off unsavoury news?

Opt for a stiff Long Island Iced Tea. In a tall glass, take 15ml each of gin, vodka, rum, tequila and Cointreau. Top off with Coke and garnish with a lime wheel.

20 Drink for no reason?

Grab your favourite beer. To switch things up , keep a few variations handy, such as something light like Amstel Light, a lager such as Peroni and a strong Belgium-style Dubbel.

Inputs from mixologist Dilbar Singh, The Blue Bar, Taj Palace, Delhi

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