Tag Archives: Delhi

The Return of the Gin Martini…

My journey starts with one inescapable truth in life, the sun has set somewhere in the world. And that means it is time to get a drink. Not just any drink but one of the classics… I love searching for classic drinks, it is a fun obsession and one that takes you through an intriguing maze of bars, drinking culture and interesting people.

Fine ArtFor the sake of tradition, let’s start with the ubiquitous Martini, not the bastardised version with vodka but one of the 6 original drinks, with gin! An interesting read on this is  The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury. For those really interested one can buy it on www.amazon.com for about `1800 including shipping.

Interesting fact, Martini® is actually a brand name for one of the world’s most visible bottles. Regardless of where one is in the world the chances are you will see a bottle of Martini® on the back-bar. It is essentially a 120-year-old European brand, selling in millions of bottles across Europe and fast becoming one of the largest brands in Russia (Fun reason why Russians are fast adopting it, more on that later) If you are an advertising fan, here is an example of classic Martini® turn of the century work. Martini Poster 1

Martini® is vermouth (dry, extra dry or red), drunk mainly as an apéritif, similar to how we drink tea in India! It is also a key component in the classic Martini and used well gives balance to ensure the drink does not come out too dry. It comes in a couple of varieties, Extra-Dry, Bianco, Rosso etc.

My journey starts in Delhi, not because it is the political capital of India but because I believe Delhi is fast over-taking Bombay in terms of quality of both bars, and drinks. Bombay still has some of the best hotel bars in the country, but cocktail culture is best absorbed in a more intimate, younger environment, which most hotel bars do not provide. Being someone who has drunk all over India at almost all bars, one of the perks of my job, trust me on one thing, you would rather spend time at a buzzing bar than one stuffed with old fogies! On an aside, Delhi has the least amount of bars & retail licenses per square feet/population density. There are approximately 450 odd bars in Delhi, conversely Bombay has over 1800! 

While there are a lot of good bars, the best are those that can consistently serve you a great cocktail, and those are unfortunately rare. It’s time owners realize that we come to bars to enjoy our drinks and there is nothing better than seeing a great stocked bar with the bartenders making classic and modern cocktails. Most bars rarely move beyond whiskies & standard white spirits. Cocktails are normally made with the cheapest spirits available and masked with liberal doses of sweet & sour mixes. That’s the beauty of trying out a Classic Martini, the nature of the drink means it is impossible to make a good one without premium alcohol.

Cary GrantThe Classic Martini has found its way across popular culture in books, movies & music, romanticizing the drink to almost the throne sat upon by champagne! Bolstering the decadence and magic around it are the gentleman who swore by it down the ages, including Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra.
Legend says that if it was not for the Martini, Churchill might not have won the war! Apocryphal quotes abound around the drink including my favorite, One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough”.

The Classic Martini is made from gin, vermouth, with an olive or a twist of lime. Nothing more, nothing less. The dirtier variety is an addition of brine from the olive jar and a couple olives  more. This is the Martini. Gin Martini

The best cocktails in Delhi are made at Smokehouse Grill, Shroom, Shalom, PCO, Setz, Magique, Ricks, Blue Bar & Shiro. Not surprisingly all these bars have experienced managers and forward thinking owners pushing the envelope. So you will find quality brands, interesting infusions and Sake varieties! The glasses are right, drinks are cold, infusions interesting and the flavors and fruits fresh and inviting.

The first stop is Smokehouse Grill at GK-2…I have to admit, I am an unabashed fan. I am not going to delve into the food, which incidentally is among the best meats in town, but stick to talking about the bar. There is a good choice of premium alcohol and some very good wines…it is not rare to see a `50,000 bottle of wine or champagne be popped for an occasion and without the pomp and fuss that one detests in Delhi! What I really like about the bar is the pricing, it’s affordable and it means one doesn’t have to stand around with a bottle of beer in their hands the entire evening. Eclectic mix of people, some extremely pretty women and a couple who are happy to wrap themselves around a couple of the strategic poles placed near the bar post midnight! 

GinsBack to the drink and make sure you get John to make it for you. He’s one of Delhi’s top bartenders and watching him shake and deliver a good cocktail on a busy Friday night in 90 seconds is quite impressive! When you order a Classic Martini make sure you ask for an imported premium gin. Any other gins are essentially spirit with an artificial flavor and should be avoided! Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Hendricks are the best out there, distilled using botanical’s and original ingredients made at a single source, i.e. one distillery in the world. Coming back to the drink here, its made in the classical style, i.e. stirred NOT shaken! If there is some criticism I have it is that the straining is not perfect and you do find some ice chips in your drink. The other issue is that the martini glasses are bigger than the serving, and for a classic cocktail that is a strict no no. On the flip side the drink is chilled perfectly, which allows the ingredients to mix well…it also means you need to drink your Martini within five minutes or the heat from your hands will start breaking down the ingredients.

Referring to my point on the phenomenal rise of  Martini® in Russia is ironically because most Russian women are drinking bottles of it at nightclubs and parties. It looks elegant, much less kick than vodka or champagne and there is an innate elegance about it. 

monica-bellucci-martini

martini_rosato_jude_law_ad_campaign_advertising_2009_2010

The newest advertising campaign is all about Martini® being the world’s most beautiful drink, and to communicate the messaging they have roped in the gorgeous Monica Belluci & Jude Law to promote the brand. In the past George Clooney & the gorgeous Charlize Theron have worked their magic on television for Martini®, the Clooney campaign is particularly good, a take-off on the golden age of cocktails, with Clooney sporting a Clark Gable mustache with his customary savoirfaire. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81OmtxZHJVA

Continuing my search for great drinks, to quote a classic from Jim Morrison…Take me to the next whisky bar!

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Bangalore Women & The South/North divide

I never really thought of the differences between men and women were so drastic until I moved back to ‘Zouth India‘ after three years. So it’s not like a move to virgin territory, I did live in Bangalore for 5 years earlier, but things are a bit different now…for one I was not living in with a woman, and two…I am older now!
I have just shifted jobs with a beer company based out of Bangalore and like all companies based here, the marketing team is filled with, North Indians! Anyhow that’s a different story for another time.
I just finished reading another article on Delhi boys written by who else, a nice South Indian girl (http://raagshahana.blogspot.com/2011/09/open-letter-to-delhi-boy.html?spref=fb)where she proceeds to rip all North Indian boys apart, along with a couple of sweetly timed barbs at the women down there as well. While the article is funny, it’s also a summary of all the20110914-010945.jpg clichéd impressions one tends to have about us from the other side of the Vindhya’s, so I thought why not flip the coin and do unto others what they do unto us, after all it was the Bible that said ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’!
So why do all women here think that ‘macha’ and ‘da’ are supposed to mean something to everyone? Every sentence is punctuated with one or the other from, “let’s meet for a drink…da!” to “I want to have your baby….da!” Imagine spending ‘intimate’ time with one of them and in the middle of all that, sweet nothings are liberally sprinkles of da and macha…
I have yet to meet a Southie who doesn’t think that music begins and ends with rock, that every time Pink Floyd plays there needs to be this insane air guitar strumming and when Iron Maiden plays, all the long lustrous locks (half the reason there is a global oil crisis…most of it is used for oiling the long locks every morning.) start violently moving in every conceivable direction, mostly defying gravity. Ladies, just because it doesn’t show so easily as women northwards, doesn’t mean the upper lip, legs and arms should be in full blossom…visit the parlour once a month please! Not all South Indian women look like they are about to burst in to a Bharat Natyam dance or change in to bright red and yellow clothes, run around trees following a big mustachioed man and play with big bouncing balls!
The interesting cliché of all thoughts is that the North is a state in the region of Punjab! Forget about Rajasthan, UP, Jammu, etc etc…all North Indian boys belong to The Punjab! They all have rich daddies, live in South Delhi or Chandigarh, drive BMW’s, listen only to Bhangra & Jay Sean, work in ‘papa’s bizness’, go to F Bar or a similar club to party, went to Bhagat Singh College and go to ‘Amrica’ to visit ‘vilayat uncle’ once a year! Sorry to bust the myth, but that’s as far removed from the truth as the fact that all South Indian girls come out of their mother’s stomach either holding a stethoscope or a keyboard!
The Cliched Delhi Boy!A few home truths, breakfast, lunch and dinner cannot be idli, dosa and sambhar every day. A work day does not start at 10 am…full straight means absolutely nothing in the English language while giving directions…Hoysala is a semi-abuse not the correct name for the police…banning a film actress from movies for having an affair is not progressive…all boys from Delhi are not automatically Punjabi and definitely do not look like the guy on the left…the airport is not a railway station, bedding is not required…one hour does not mean one day, it’s IST not SST…everyone living here does not automatically know Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malaylam, try English or Hindi once in while…Dubai is not in India…putting racing stickers on white Maruti Swifts does not make it a F1 car…and smoking and drinking isn’t being an “independent woman”!
Let’s give Delhi and it’s boys it’s due. It’s the capital of the country. We’ve had a women chief minister through three elections, unlike the quarterly ‘let’s make 500 crores and then move over for the next politician” CM process here. For every destination in Delhi there are a minimum of 5 four lane roads, unlike here where there are three roads…one to the airport, one to Infosys’s office and one to the house of the new CM. The Delhi Metro covers over 250km, the one in Bangalore began construction before India’s independence, I believe they may have covered 6kms till date. When the boys in Delhi party, they start drinking at a bar at 10 and then move to a club at 1, here they start drinking at 6 and wind up by 10! Oh, and when they go out, they wear this really cool invention called clothes and shoes, not vests and slippers! We don’t really care for inheritance laws, because we would give our sister whatever she wanted anyway. We went to St. Stephen or Hindu College not because we studied 20 hours a day and didn’t have a life, we went because it’s part of Delhi University!

Finally, don’t get this wrong…I love South Indian women, just not the stuck up, pseudo-intellectual, oil loving insular clichéd bunch who think that the Sun rises in the South and a mustache is the newest fad in town!