Singapore gave us the Singapore Sling, NYC is the birthplace of the New York Sour and London gave us The Collins, the popular gin-based tipple created by John Collins, a bartender who worked in Mayfair in the nineteenth century. But there’s a new hotspot on the cocktail scene: Mumbai.
The city’s bartenders are shaking up a storm, introducing Mumbaikers to new flavours and spirits, and making homemade syrups and bitters with local, Indian ingredients. On a recent trip to the city, I sussed out where to head to see Mumbai’s masters of mixology in action…
ASILO AT THE ST REGIS
Asilo can be found on the rooftop of the St Regis hotel, a wonderful spot with panoramic views over the city. I loved the Grey Goose Golden Delight, a vodka-based cocktail topped with edible gold flakes and served in a Swarovski martini glass. It was the most glamorous cocktail I’d ever ordered! Asilo attracts a wealthier crowd, who come here to soak up the views from private cabanas while enjoying an ever-changing menu filled with food and cocktail pairings. Try the truffle-infused, Ciroc-based Bloody Mary paired with a truffle and mushroom flatbread. You won’t be disappointed!
Address: Level 37, 462, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Lower Parel
Telephone: +91 22 6162 8031
The view from the top of Asilo at the St Regis hotel
The Grey Goose Golden Delight, a real work of art
KOKO, KAMALA MILLS
Kamala Mills is an up-and-coming area of Mumbai, and the city’s A-listers are flocking to this sleek, buzzing bar. World-renowned mixologist Dimi Lezinska is the man behind the cocktail menu and was also the star of a television show called Cocktail Kings. When I met him, he told me: “Mumbai’s bar scene is going through a massive boom and spirits companies are investing more in Mumbai’s bartenders.” Whisky still reigns supreme here, but white spirits are becoming more popular, and many of KOKO’s cocktails are vodka or gin-based creations, albeit with an Indian twist. “Indians have an affinity for anything sour, partly because of the abundance of sour fruit, such as limes and amla (indian gooseberries),” reveals Dimi. “And of course they love a bit of spice. One of our most popular cocktails is our Tom Yum Cup, which is both sour and spicy.” The only problem you’ll have is stopping at just one!
The beautiful bar at KOKO
THEORY, KAMALA MILLS
Theory is regarded as one of Mumbai’s top cocktail spots, thanks largely to the efforts of Ema Pereira, a Goan-born mixologist who’s helped create the cocktail menus at some of India’s best bars. It really is one of Mumbai’s most spectacular venues, with a seriously impressive rectangular bar hewed from black volcanic rock. On my visit, I found the cocktails just as stunning. Take the Hickory Bong – another example of how Mumbai’s bartenders are introducing Mumbaikers to cocktails by giving classic drinks Indian twists. It’s based on a Bloody Mary, but made with whisky instead of vodka, and it’s served in a hickory smoke-filled bong. For the equally popular Nirvana cocktail, Pereira uses gin-soaked maraschino cherries, flambéed with a tiny blowtorch. They’re added to a blend of cherry-infused tequila, Campari and vermouth, with rather delicious results!
The seriously impressive bar at Theory, hewed from black volcanic rock
AER LOUNGE, FOUR SEASONS
Mumbai is attracting a growing number of top class bartenders, and Ashish Sharma, master mixologist at AER, is one of the best. He arrived at AER after a stint running Singapore’s Manhattan bar – recently voted eleventh in the World’s 50 Best Bars awards. Strict labelling laws prevent the import of brands such as Angostura Bitters, forcing bartenders to get creative. Ashish makes his own syrups and bitters using local ingredients. “In New York or Singapore you’ll have 45 different bitters available,” says Ashish. “In Mumbai, it’s a different story, but India gives you so many different spices, fruits and herbs.” His signature drink is the Mumbai Sour. A twist on the typical New York Sour, it’s made with egg white – an unusual cocktail ingredient in Mumbai – and is one of the bar’s most popular drinks. Indians prefer sweeter drinks and in this case, Ashish has provided a sugar hit with the addition of a lavender syrup. I can vouch that it’s also one of Mumbai’s most beautiful cocktails, thanks to the image of the Gateway of India, sprayed onto the top using red wine.
Address: 1/136, 34th Floor, Dr. E. Moses Road,, Worli, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400018
Telephone: +91 22 2481 8444
THE FATTY BAO, KAMALA MILLS
Local ingredients are important at The Fatty Bao, a cosy, colourful Asian gastro bar famous for its root-to-fruit cocktails, made using every part of a plant, including stems, flowers, bark and seeds. One of the most popular drinks is the Sesame Street, made with homemade Earl Grey bitters and sesame-infused whisky. The Popcorn Sour, meanwhile, contains popcorn-infused whisky and a homemade wasabi syrup. The Fatty Bao’s customers love to Tweet, Snapchat and Instagram the bar’s beautiful drinks, and Nakul Chandra, The Fatty Bao’s brand head, believes social media is one of the reasons Mumbai’s cocktail scene has exploded. “Mumbaikers are more open to new things because they’re seeing it online, on social media,” points out Nakul. “And they’re travelling more, so they’re more aware of what’s going on in other bars around the world.”
Our writer Tamara meets Nakul Chandra, brand head at The Fatty Bao
Author: Tamara Hinson
Travel journalist Tamara has travelled to some of the most far-flung corners of the globe in the name of research. If she’s not mountain biking in Tanzania, she’s wine-tasting in South Africa or checking out remote beaches in Vietnam. Her destination and hotel reviews have appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail and Sunday Times Travel Magazine, as well as in in-flight magazines such as BA High Life.