If I were writing this article same time last year, just before the summers were to set in, I would’ve refrained from penning it. Beers and GinTo (Gin & Tonic) were the survival drinks for the summers. Last year seemed to have altered that perception that though, it’s been quite the year of mixed drinks and cocktails, I don’t remember the last time a straight drink took preference over a cocktail on my list, minus wines of course. And it seems they will remain the preferred elixir even for these summers.
With rising mercury, not only do we wish to stick to our AC-ed rooms, but also yell for a thirst-quenching, refreshing drink from time to time. And, to top it all up, in that frustrating heat that leaves you lethargic, mixology, no matter how much you may adore it, will be a bother in even the best of mood and settings. Delhi heat can do that to you. Having said that, this is the year of beating the blazing sun by teasing it with some really edgy and funky cocktails. Before I give you some recipes, here are my easy mantras to help you make your cocktails more summer-friendly; something to show-off your mixing flair as you stay cool in the heat for this season:
Fruity Freshness – Why use them tetra-packed, sugary juices when the summer brings you the most alluring flavours of fresh fruits. Watermelon, lychee, pineapple, strawberry, mango, plum, peach, you name it. It’s the season to live on these light and cool fruits. This time, don’t only eat them, drink them too. They not only bring pulpy nourishment to the drink but also add dollops of ever-required goodness, making the drink a relishing treat.
Citrus Tang– Only second to a glass of ice-cold water, citrus provides the refreshing lift much needed to kick out the monstrosity of the heat. Orange, sweet lime, mandarin, cherries and berries, whatever you may get your hands on, use them, and in abundance. They’re also an intelligent way of reviving your body’s lost nutrients and recharging it while you were busy combating dehydration.
Sweet and Sour – Ever wondered why energy drinks are mostly available in Lemon ‘n’ Lime flavours? They are the only component that bring balance and power to any drink and make it refreshing, using the principle of tart, sour, and sweet; AKA, the Sour Mix. Make sure, this summer, no cocktail on your list is offered without this magic ingredient.
Make Them Bubbly – Only ingredient that can lift up any drink without working too hard are the bubbles. Soda, ginger ale/beer, lemonade, tonic water, Champagne, or Prosecco, keep them handy this summer. Substitute commercial lemonade for its homemade avatar, you make it better!! If you wish to be tad playful, try limeade instead, you’ll be surprised.
The Green Power – Blue may be the most soothing colour for the summers but green is the new blue for cocktails this season. They not only make the drinks look attractive, but also pack an element of calm to the funk added by the spirits, and leave your palate tickled. Mint leaves, lime peel, kaffir lime, basil, cucumber, cilantro, or even green apple, muddle, jerk, or slap them and just drop them in to the next glass you pick.
Go White – They are easy to mix and easier to drink. Play with these lighter spirits. They are delicate and less egoistic; mixing them is easier from their coloured counterpart and that provides an edge to them at the pool parties. Move ahead of the regulars (Vodka, Gin, Rum, Tequila) and try your hand at Pisco, Cachaca, Cointreau, and others.
Tanned Spirit– Once you go tanned, it’s hard to undo it, and same applies to the spirits. I swear by my Whisky Sour and it at times supersedes the GinTo fixation. Dark Rum, Whiskey, and Tequila provide the backbone to any desi liquor cabinet and cocktail scene. Then why play safe and miss all the fun? Move to sweeter and softer American whiskies and let the caramelised rums replace the cloying sugar syrup. They can be smooth, soothing, and at times soul-touching.
Gentle Florals – A simple St. Germain and soda mix, or a recently tried Zwack and fizzy rosewater drink, can bring solace to the dehydrating palate in this burning summer. When in doubt, keep floral elements and liqueurs on the front line. Elderflower, Rose, Jasmine flavours are a must haves.
Condiments and Herbs – They have something too alluring to resist. Vanilla, nutmeg, and hazelnut, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, thyme, sage, rosemary, and many more such ingredients add a ‘Wow’ factor to the mix and satisfy a guilty side of our spice-loving desi palate. Macerate them while preparing sugar syrup to make a unique ingredient for this summer. Must-haves for my summer list this year is cinnamon syrup, vanilla syrup, ginger syrup. Flaunt them in your cocktails and substitute the boring sugar syrup for something quite interesting if used well. Some interesting pairings are Mango-Cilantro, Raspberry-Thyme, Watermelon-Mint, Plum-Sage, and Apple-Ginger.
Stay Oxidised – While the burning heat and dehydration can leave your body tad parched, antioxidants can be your saviours. The apple Mojitos, Martinis, and Caprioska are a good way to stay energised, why not turn to the daily teas to bring some aid too. Try some floral and aromatic teas to create the magic, without much of a mess. They are the kindest form of stimulants and antioxidants; and when brought to the mix, they provide an element of tannin and structure to the drink. Make them in large batches and store refrigerated; you never know when the party may begin!
The only key to learn which cocktail may strike the chord for you this summer is experimentation. However, here are some classy ones to begin with and set you to explore hereafter. They’ve been picked from our own mixing sessions and at my two favourite bars in Delhi – PCO in Vasant Vihar, and Ricks at the Taj Mahal Hotel:
- Gin: 40 ml
- Lime Juice: 10 ml
- Sugar Syrup: 10 ml
- Homemade wine vinegar: Dash
- Ginger Ale: Top Up
- Garnish: Cinnamon Dust
My dear friend, Pankaj Balachandran, allured me with this drink upon my first visit this season to his bar, Ricks, at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi. A simple mix of easy-to-get ingredients that concoct together to create an outstanding, all-evening sipping cocktail. The spice from the ginger and the wine vinegar balances the sweetness of the ale and the sugar syrup to let the gin mesmerise you.
ELDERFLOWER AND CUCUMBER SWIZZLE
- Gin/ vodka : 60 ml
- Elderflower syrup (St. Germain or Monin): 10 ml
- Lime juice: 15 ml
- Lychee juice: 25 ml
- Cucumber slices : 4-5
- Soda to top
In a shaker add the first 4 ingredients with ice. Shake and pour into a wine glass. Fill with cube ice and top with soda. Adjust sweetness to taste. With the help of a potato peeler cut long slivers of cucumber. Twist them gently and place over the ice. Add straws and serve. The sweetness of exotic lychee juice, blended with the floral lifts of elderflower syrup, backed by Gin’s spice and herbaceous grip, and the coolness contributed by the cucumber, this cocktail is hard to not get addicted to. A newbie at PCO’s menu, and there to stay, especially reputed amongst the fine ladies.
Our love for green tea and Jack Daniels brought us face-off to this amazingly delectable mix.
- Jack Daniels – 60 ml
- Freshly Cooled tannic Green Tea liquid – 100ml
- Lime juice – 10 ml
- Sugar Syrup – 30 ml
Brew a pot of green tea strong enough to bring out the tannins, without making it too bitter or losing its acidity. Cool it and let it rest. In a rocks glass filled with ice, pour Jack Daniels, lime juice and sugar and mix, and pour a good measure of green tea liquid. The tannins of the tea grips the sweetness of the whiskey and the lime juice-sugar blend adds balance to the concoction, making it a soothing and playful summer sipper.
We love our rums and this one is a must have on a hot day by the beach or by the pool. A day time drink to overcome the worst hangover.
Take a nice and big tender coconut and carefully cut from the top. Drink some of the coconut water and replace it with the same amount of Rum and some ice to chill it further. Add 10 to 15 ml of sugar syrup to balance the mineral content of the tender coconut water. Garnish with a flower and a long straw. Best enjoyed lying flat on a hammock and with shades on.
THE MINT JULEP
Romantically mistaken with the Mojito which is a Cuban drink, the Mint Julep is a drink over 100 years old when fans and air-conditioners were merely concepts even in the U.S.
- Jim Beam: 50 ml
- Castor Sugar: 2 spoons and can be varied upon how sweet you like it.
- Mint leaves: 12-16.
Traditionally, silver plated metal glasses were used to present the drink in. Fill it with cracked ice and start pounding with the help of a spoon. Mix the whiskey and sugar and release the aroma of the mint leaves. This will also ensure adequate dilution to soften the whiskey and make it ever more so delicious. Make a bunch of 3-4 mint sprigs and plant it on the crushed ice. Place two straws right behind the mint so that with every sip you draw, the enchanting flavours and aromas of the mint mesmerise your mood.
THE DARJEELING EXPRESS
India being known for its tea supply to the world was the ideal choice for this punch style drink. This recipe makes at least 20-30 drinks in one go and is a fun thing to have at parties where you would much rather lay back and enjoy as opposed to making drinks. It is an alcoholic ice tea of sorts, and is designed to chill you out from the get go.
Throw half a bowl worth of ice in a big bowl or pitcher. Cut fresh whole oranges and lemons into halves and place it in the bowl. Sprinkle some cinnamon sticks (4), cloves (10) and star anise (6) and start pouring in the following:
- Gold rum : 1 bottle
- Light Rum: 500 ml
- Gin: 500 ml
- Lime juice : 300 ml
- Sugar syrup : 350 ml
- Earl grey and darjeeling tea liquid: 1.5 litres
Decorate the Punch bowl with a few more things like flowers or spices and place a big ladle alongside. Place 20 glasses with some ice and a few slices of oranges and spice in each glass. Enjoy the site of guests pouring out their own drink into the glasses. With this dangerously delicious concoction, you just may want to keep an extra batch on standby.
How to make the components:
Sugar syrup: add 2 kgs of sugar to 1 ltr of water and simmer over a low flame till all the sugar dissolves
Earl grey and Darjeeling tea Liquid:
Dip 4 Twinnings earl grey tea and 5 Darjeeling tea bags into1.5 litres of hot water for 6 minutes with some spices blended in. This can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days.
BUDAPEST WHISKY SOUR
I can’t have my summer start without a twist on Whisky Sour, but this one is without the egg white. Niki at Boutiq’ Bar fixed this twist, bringing sweet, sour, spice, and smoke together in a glass.
- Laphroaig Quarter Cask – 60 ml
- Lemon Juice – 30 ml
- Cinnamon Syrup – 30 ml
- Peychaud Bitters – 3 Dashes
- Ginger Root
Gently muddle some ginger root in a shaker. Add whisky, freshly squeezed lemon juice, Cinnamon syrup, and ice to the shaker and mix. Double strain it in a rocks glass filled with ice. Place a slice of ginger root on the cocktail for garnish and Peychaud bitter to finish. It is no short of summer in a glass.