The bar scene has come a long way in Mumbai, from Cosmo-carrying arms to Boulevardier-wielding wrists.
This year we’re thankful for restaurant bars being given as much attention as their kitchens. Many are presided over by skilled mixologists, who’ve not only compiled well-thought out cocktail lists, but who can also dream up a cocktail at the spur of the moment, based on an ingredient you love or the mood you’re in.
Precision, planning and passion (fruit) go into Mumbai’s top 12 cocktails, and here we’ve compiled a list of our favourites.
This drink is both sophisticated and playful, a hard line to walk on any given day, but especially so in such a potent cocktail. A glowing orange drink, whose inception is attributed to the writer Erskine Gwynne, it contains rye whisky, vermouth and Campari. This American drink is in full form at Colaba’s The Table – bitter and sweet with just a touch of warmth from the whisky.
Teetotaller alternate: The Mick Jaggery
Where: The Table, Colaba
This deceptively simple cocktail illustrates why expertise behind the bar is so crucial, and why we only drink our Mojitos at Toit. (Bonus points for the option to switch out crushed ice for cubes, instead.) White rum, soda, lime wedges and mint – basically your favourite childhood beverage with an adult makeover – easy enough for anyone to put together, poorly. But the key to a great mojito lies in the perfect balance of sweet and sour, crisp and muddled, and this bar nails it.
Teetotaller alternate: Not very kind to teetotallers, your best bet here is fresh lime soda
Where: Toit, Lower Parel
Gin & Tonic
A G&T is always a good choice, but at O Pedro, especially so. The drink gets a tropical makeover with the addition of blue pea flower, which, with a dash of lime, turns your drink a delicious shade of pink – evoking uncanny resemblance to sunsets over a Goan beach. Crisp and refreshing, with just a hint of juniper, this is a drink that we will never tire of.
Teetotaller alternate: Passion fruit & star anise iced tea
Where: O Pedro, BKC
This classic cocktail is made with whisky and lime juice, topped with a frothy head of egg whites. The egg white, more often than not, risks making the drink eggy, rather than light and frothy. Not at Eddie’s Bistro, however. The egg whites are felt only in the smoothness and body of the drink, without the faintest whiff of raw egg.
Teetotaller alternate: We heart their beetroot, banana and coconut smoothie
Where: Eddie’s Bistro, Bandra
Polynesian Pearl Diver
The only bar that serves a Polynesian Diver in India, is Bastian. This alone warrants a visit on your next night out. This Tiki drink had its moment in the sun when Leo DiCaprio was spotted delicately sipping it through Django Unchained. With a mixture of cinnamon, all-spice and vanilla, this rum cocktail’s flavours are further intensified during a two-week steeping-period. It’s Christmas in the Caribbean, in your glass. Expect a gentle warm heaviness, and top notes of vanilla and cinnamon.
Teetotaller alternate: A ginger beer is the closest to the spicy notes of this cocktail
Where: Bastian, Bandra
Birds and the Bees
This aptly-named honey-coloured drink is perfect for when you’re in the mood for something delicate and floral. Slink & Bardot’s uses turmeric-infused gin in place of chamomile, to pair with triple sec, honey and ginger beer. It is ideal for a summer evening when you’re craving something light and sweet.
Teetotaller alternate: Cucumber Fields
Where: Slink & Bardot, Worli Village
This cocktail, named for the iconic sea-facing hotel on Marine Drive, is made with apricot brandy, housemate espresso and a dash of whisky. Delight in the festive caramel notes as you drink to old Bombay Heritage at The Bombay Canteen, where this potion easily tops their most-ordered list.
Teetotaller alternate: The Cinnamon and Curry Leaf Iced Tea
Where: The Bombay Canteen, Lower Parel
A delicious rum cocktail that blends Bacardi with kale syrup, honey and tonic water, Masque’s Ayurveda inspired cocktail might feature a daunting ingredient pairing, but trust us and make that leap of faith. You’ll thank us later. Invigorating and hearty, this delicious cocktail might just replace our morning workout. It’s tastier, and promises the same results as a sweat session.
Teetotaller alternate: Their thoughtfully crafted cocktails are best replaced with a virgin equivalent.
Where: Masque, Mahalaxmi
Some days, you just need a well-made jug of sangria to pass around the table with your girlfriends, refilling every hour or so on a long Sunday afternoon. May we recommend Saltwater Cafe in Bandra, where the reds are robust, and the whites are light and cheeky. Our favourite is the melon sangria, pairing green melon and apple with a crisp white, and a hint of sage.
Teetotaller alternate: The Plum Mocktail.
Where: Saltwater Café, Bandra
Bacon old Fashioned
The only thing better than an Old Fashioned? A Bacon Old Fashioned. Homer Simpson knew what he was talking about. With bacon infusing the elegant bitterness of a bourbon old fashioned, this classic is taken up a notch with the addition of a smoked bacon sliver at Toast & Tonic, resting delicately atop a beautifully carved hunk of ice.
Teetotaller alternate: Flower Power Tonic
Where: Toast & Tonic, BKC
This tall, sultry cocktail is exactly what you need when you’re battling the weather, hot and bothered. Citrus heavy, with orange juice and passion fruit, Monkey Bar in Bandra makes a mean Copper Monkey with mint and bitters for an icy, uplifting finish. Note: upgrade and do it with Jameson instead of the standard 100 Pipers.
Teetotaller alternate: Virgin Mangaa.
Where: Monkey Bar, Bandra
Hunt & Peck
Made with equal parts vermouth and Aperol, this prohibition-era cocktail comes laced with a dash of grapefruit bitters. It bubbles in a dreamy rose-gold against the afternoon sunlight; perfect for easy, all-day drinking. Find it at The Little Easy in Bandra.
Teetotaller alternate: Arizona Sunset.
Where: Little Easy, Bandra
* Some of the images are for illustration purposes only.
This story was contributed by the team at brownpaperbag.in, a culture and lifestyle portal in Mumbai, Delhi & Bangalore.