Just before the world was paralysed by the pandemic, iconic restaurants were making way for resto-bars. Economic reforms had made a variety of drinks and imported food items available and waves of globalisation lapping our shores were creating ripples of aspirations. At the same time, there was much greater health consciousness and the hardworking professionals were deterred from imbibing harmful intoxicating beverages.
This has made it possible for sparkling, colorful mocktails to challenge traditional cocktails. The person-professional or amateur who mixed drinks in the good old days was called a bartender. Sommelier, the connoisseur curator who dazzled the gourmet with an encyclopaedic knowledge of wines has become Jurassic. Mixologists are working center stage and enjoying the spotlight. The age of mixology has dawned. The surging trend of pairing food with wines or teas was bewitching the young. This continues to be the happening thing as lives return to normal and the hospitality business is gathering momentum slowly.
The past, we are told, is a foreign land where they do things differently. As we age, the present too at times becomes a strange place with confusing language. There was a time, not very long ago when things were simple cocktails meant mixed alcoholic drinks that enhance the potency of the beverage. They were imbibed by the sophisticated elite. Remember James Bond ordering his Martinis shaken not stirred? At times fruit juices were added to reduce the intoxicating content. Bloody Mary blended Vodka with tomato juice and other tall cool drinks paired a spirit with orange juice, soda, bitters, or cream. Specific cocktails were served in special glasses tall collins glasses for highballs, old-fashioned for low balls, martinis and gimlets in thin stemmed glasses, and so on.
It has been suggested that cocktails were created to disguise the taste of cheap spirits when prohibition was imposed. Others opine that the motivation was to enhance the potency of what was poured into the glass. ‘Mix n Match’ may also have been inspired by making the most of what was at hand.
Gone are the days when mixed coolers like ‘Long Island Iced Tea’ or ‘Planter’s Punch’ were prepared without a drop of tea. What is in vogue are mocktails without a drop of alcohol injurious to health.
As scorching summer descends on us, mixologists are busy resurrecting extinct sherbets and creating cool recipes to quench our thirst. There was a time when a restaurant was known by the chef presiding over the kitchen. Nowadays increasingly, the charismatic mixologist attracts guests like a magnet. The art and science of mixology are treated as a specialised academic discipline and reputed culinary institutions are offering offline and online courses. Several professionally qualified chefs have branched off into this emerging field.
KAMA is the nom de guerre of one such Indian chef Kamalaksh K (alumnus of IHM Pusa) turned mixologist. His special claim to fame is The Big Bhaang Theory propagating legalised therapeutic use of cannabis steering clear of any intoxicating parts of the notorious plant. He has resurrected traditional Chandan and Sattu sherbets and brewed a sugarless Stevia Tea.
His experimentations continue to lure tipplers off and on the wagon to his Drinking Safari Pit Stop on Gwal Pahari. He has won laurels with homegrown wellness-inspired mixed drinks at international mixology summits and has conceptualised some resto-bars and happening clubs. How times have changed! Earlier wines were paired with food. Now, food-small eats and canapes/tapas are created to match the mixed drinks on the table.
Mixology is trending outside the Capital as well. The Cauldron Sisters in Jaipur live by a strictly vegetarian code and have acquired an enviable reputation for their cocktails. Recently, they have started offering lost gems like Neera tapped from the date palm tree before sunrise as the sap ferments fast and become toddy. Neera and coconut water along with fruit and flower juices Jamun and rhododendron are increasingly being used in mocktails and super coolants.
Virgin Mary and Virgin Mojito are passe. Bottled Panna and thandai flavored and colored synthetically and with added preservatives are losing favour with those who like to shake or stir their drinks without an artificial high.
Gender biases take a long time to die but in the mixology world, the barriers are breaking. Mocktails and mixed sherbets are no longer for women only. The men with bulging biceps and enviable abs are also unabashedly reaching out for non-alcoholic highballs, old-fashioned and smaller ‘shots’.
In passing, we may add that promoting prohibition is one of the directive principles in the Indian constitution and this trend seems to be quite in step with the temper of the times. ANI