The Indian drinks industry is growing at fast pace and we caught up with bartender, Ema Pereira, from Mumbai to find out about the evolving cocktail scene in India and hear about some of the emerging drinks trends.

The Indian cocktail scene

Today India is at a wonderful stage where the cocktail movement is booming and we are seeing new techniques and a lot of movement in terms of innovation whether that be ingredients, presentation, or the bar setting.

Five years ago if you wanted to order anything other than a basic cocktail such as a mojito or a pina colada you would have often had to visit a luxury hotel - in some cases this was due to the availability of ingredients, while in other cases it was due to the lack of knowledge.For example when I started learning to be a bartender four years ago, I was instructed to add mint and lime along with the ice and crush all of them together to make the “best” mojito which was not necessarily the best technique.

In terms of knowledge, there has been a tremendous growth in the quality of education. The last few years has given us several platforms to progress our skills, including Diageo Bar Academy which has really helped spread techniques and information and raise standards within the industry.

Key trends in India

The last few years have seen a great sea of change in the Indian bar scene, especially in all the metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkatta. Here are some key trends:

1) Locality

As with other parts of the world, there has been a great deal of focus on bartenders using local ingredients in any way possible and really bringing local flavours to life. For example, using gheen bhati (ingredient local to Rajasthan) in an old-fashioned or rubbing ghee on to the traditional Indian clay cups, (usually used to drink tea from) and spraying them with TALISKER allows the aroma and flavours to last for longer.

2) Crafting bitters and syrups

Overall most bars make their own bitters and syrups on site rather than buying them in. Initially this was due to the unavailability of ingredients such as angostura bitters but now bartenders are enjoying experimenting with different flavours. Flavours that I am seeing more and more are citrus based reductions like garam masala with which you can make a garam masala old-fashioned, fennel and star anise reductions or tea based reductions like chamomile and honey or earl grey and orange peel.

3) More variety of bars

There has been an increase in the variety of bars within India. As mentioned, a few years ago you would have had to go to a luxury hotel to order a cocktail but now there is a range of bars you can visit. There are bars that are using higher-end techniques such as rotovap machines and hot syphons for their cocktails but there are also speakeasies where they are crafting cocktails using an eclectic mix of local ingredients.

4) Gin is growing in popularity

A few years ago it was the era of the Japanese malts, however it is now clearly moving towards gin.Indians are now are accomplished world travellers and like many Western countries you now see more and more people ordering gin and tonic garnished with fresh botanicals. If we had a wider range of international gin brands in India I am sure the demand would increase. However there are micro distilleries in Goa making gin so clearly it’s not just consumption but even manufacturing of artisanal gin that we can see on the rise.

Try this Indian inspired serve:

Asian Mojito

50 ml TANQUERAY LONDON DRY GIN

15 ml Passion fruit puree or liqueur

15 ml Coconut syrup

5 Drops of basil bitters

2 Drops of star anise bitters

5 Drops of lemongrass bitters

5 Drops of ginger bitters

Top up with carbonated water and lemonade

(2.3 standard drinks – 2 units per serve)

METHOD

Muddle a small fresh stalk of lemongrass.

Add the rest of the ingredients in to a Boston shaker.

Prepare the stand with banana leaf, crushed ice and the coconut.

Top the Boston shaker with ice and shake well.

Garnish inside the coconut with basil leaves, star anise and jasmine flowers.

Fine strain into a coconut and top up with equal amounts of carbonated water and lemonade.

Dress the outside of the stand with orange zest, lemongrass stalks and jasmines and serve.

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(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)