Travel

Not Just Cocktails

We recently spoke to the some of the winners of Asia’s 50 Best Bars back home in India, here is what they had to say

The exterior of Bar Tesouro in Goa
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Celebrating the best bars, the annual list for Asia’s 50 Best Bars was announced recently. While many big names from across the continent made their way to the list, there were a few familiar ones from the home country that found a sweet spot on the best bars list. Handpicked by members from the industry and media, there is much more than what meets the eye and that goes behind these outposts. We recently spoke to the some of the winners back home in India and here is what they had to say:

Copitas, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru
With only two years in the trade, Copitas serves artisanal cocktails while placing their focus on local ingredients, sustainability and the choicest collection of white spirits. According to Sarath Nair, Bar Manager at Copitas, the cocktails at the bar are, “Expertly mixed, while allowing the ingredients to shine on their own, while maintaining a connection with the guests by using local ingredients.”  

On asking upon how his travels have inspired his craft, he says, “Travelling gives you a chance to meet so many people, so much to learn, look and see. I love spending time in small, nondescript eateries and bars, just to see the craftspeople at work.”

Talking about the future plans, Nair says, “We will be tackling sustainability head-on with the aim of promoting a more balanced ecosystem to support the bar industry.”

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The signature Ibiza at Copitas

Sarath’s recommendations at Copitas:
Ibiza: With exuberant notes of betel leaf, homemade saffron, honey water and lemon blended with tequila, this cocktail is sure to transport one to that lively Spanish island. 

Crazy Rich Negroni: This is an ambitious twist on the classic Negroni with a fragrant Asian flair from banana and Pandan leaf.

Copa G&Ts: Though a range of cocktails are crowd pleasers at Copitas, the Gin & Tonics deserve a special mention. Without the frill of a fancy name, these G&Ts are the star attractions. 

Bar Tesouro, Goa

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Inside Bar Tesouro in Goa

Started by Arijit Bose who comes with a stint with the 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore, Donovon Vaz from Firefly in south Goa, and Pankaj Balachandran, who was part of the Taj hotels and later Barbackcollective and Countertop, Bar Tesouro has 40 years of combined experience backing it. Bose describes the place as a place with “Great hospitality, fast service, quality drink program and food that compliments it.” 

“Our intention was to be a neighbourhood bar that we like to drink at ourselves with international standards,” he says. Talking about the signature cocktails at the bar, Pankaj says, “Our menu is divided into five sections and there is a cocktail for every palette. We have a selection of progressive technique driven drinks which use modern techniques including a gravity filtration, a fat wash, a milk wash, a rapid infusion and so on. 

On asking both of them upon how their travels have shaped the craft, Bose says, “I see it as my currency. Travelling humbled me and showed me possibilities I had not even explored in my line of work. I met amazing personalities from the trade and got enlightened by their knowledge and their pursuit for improving their craft.” 

Balachandran credits his previous stint at Monkey Shoulder and says, “Hospitality in India is at a pinnacle but there is so much to learn from what is happening outside. I’ve bartend at some iconic bars across the word and one learns something new every day from these venues and people who run them. I have been lucky to have travelled and now being able to implement the same at the venues we run. This in a way has improved the baseline for the Indian hospitality industry for sure.” 

On asking about the plans for the future, Pankaj says, “We always are looking out to increase our footprint in India and Asia.” To which Arijit adds, “We hope to open a few more bars across India and set up a few cool little gambits to push the Countertop idea of bars forward. Maybe even an incubation lab with three other superstars in their respective industries.”

Arijit and Pankaj’s recommendations at Bar Tesouro

Midnight Brekkie: A cult drink at Tesouro which combines gin with peanut butter, strawberry and watermelon balanced with acids. Bose describes it as, “a peanut butter and jelly sandwich punched into a cocktail made with gin”.

Salcette Salsa: The drink features fermented guava with tequila, jalapeno and citrus and is served in a martini style to get people to appreciate tequila cocktails other than margaritas. 

Salty BAE: This combines miso bourbon and islay malt with vermouth and bitters. 

“A lot of attention is also given to feni but not just as a local spirit but rather a fine fruit brandy that comes from India and given how its production is so cool and similar to mezcals and other local fruit spirits from around the world we try to give it its due,” adds Bose. 

Sidecar, New Delhi 
A repeat winner and one of the most popular names on the list this year was Sidecar. Owned and run by Yangdup Lama and Minakshi Singh, Sidecar has been in business since 2018. Describing the aura of the outpost, Lama says, “The bar is the hero and everything about the place revolves around the bar. Cocktails take centre stage and the hottest and the most comfortable seat is the bar stool where one could sit for hours chatting with the bartender and sipping on some lip smacking cocktails without realising how quickly time goes by.” 

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The man behind Sidecar, Yangdup Lama

He also shares how his travels over the years have shaped his craft. “My travel has given me the real experience of knowing and observing the global cocktail scene more closely. There’s been so much learning in the process and it has helped me stay relevant to the present times,” he says. As for the future plans, he says, “If all goes well you may see more cocktail bars with different concepts across various cities.”

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Yangdup’s recommendations at Sidecar

Dilli 6: Made with vodka, Roohafza, fresh watermelon, ginger, coconut milk wash and garnished with rose chocolate, this one takes inspiration from the dainty old lanes of Matia Mahal in Jama Masjid, where vendors like Amir have perfected the art of refreshment with Sharbat-e-Mohabbat. “That iconic drink made with milk, fresh watermelons, and Roohafza, has been distilled by Sidecar into a complex drink with nostalgia in every sip,” he says. 

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The appealing Bhumi

Bhumi: Made with Makroot lime gin, camphor cordial, and orange foam, this one comes adorned with a QR Code that shares with you the story of Grass to Glass, the Sidecar way.

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