While the people of the spirits industry are gearing up for the upcoming party season, we talk to them to know which drinks will rule this year’s lavish parties.
1. Gin is back
Interestingly, around three years ago, most alcohol enthusiasts weren’t even thinking about a spirit like gin. Fast forward to 2019 and the gin craze started to gain ground in the market. India’s first professional lady bartender, Shatbhi Basu suggests some of India’s first artisanal gin brands to try this party season including Greater Than, Hapusa Himalayan Gin and Stranger & Sons Indian Spirited Gin.
Suraj Gurung, Head Mixologist at Stockton in Hong Kong, recently came to India to collaborate with Mumbai’s popular microbrewery Thirsty City 127 for its first anniversary. Giving a global perspective on the gin trend, he says that the many new gin festivals hosted in Hong Kong recorded full attendance this year. “In fact, at Stockton, my highest selling spirit has been gin.” One of the biggest gin bars in Hong Kong, John Anthony stores around 900 types of gin. “There’s a lot one can explore with this spirit; in cocktails, in punches, and there is, of course, the classic Gin & Tonic,” he adds.
2. The wine variety
Although the wine trend in India is at a nascent stage, people are not afraid of experimenting with their le vin. “One big trend currently is red wine. Its acceptance in the Indian market is growing much faster than that of white wine. I see this as a long-term trend,” says Karan Vasani, Senior Vice President and Chief Wine Maker, Sula Vineyards.
People are also opting for rosé, which is often considered as
a sophisticated wine, given its salmon pink tint and its versatility. It can be paired with a great range of cuisines. A bottle of rosé is a fitting drink at picnics and parties, Vasani says. “Sula Vineyards’ Source Grenache Rosé drink has been extremely popular amongst wine aficionados.” The elegant pink wine also bagged the trophy for the Best in Show category at the 2019 India Wine Awards.
The popularity of wines is unmatched during Christmas and New Year, says Pradyumna Shanker, Mixologist at RumBah, Ritz-Carlton Bangalore. “Preparations like wine cocktails, homemade mulled wines, sangria and even sparkling drinks are in trend this year.”
3. Do It Yourself
Who said one has to limit one’s party hours to just bars and restaurants? We say, take it home. DIY cocktails make for fun experiments. “For DIY cocktails one can find ingredients in the kitchen; spices, herbs, coffee and fruits. Pick any ingredient and pair it with your favourite alcohol and go on to test its quantity and the flavour balance,” says Ami Shroff, Flair Bartender, Mixologist and Bar & Menu Consultant.
She suggests a concoction of rum, coconut milk and vanilla ice cream with a punch of Dragon Fruit. The drink will be quite similar to a flavourful pina colada.
“One can make a syrup out of an exotic fruit and store it for a few days. This can be mixed with any choice of alcohol; from rum to vodka and gin,” she adds. For winter home parties, Basu suggests warming up a jar of mulled wine or sticking with the fuzzy eggnog, especially for Christmas.
4. Reigning flavours
As Gurung quotes, “Today’s consumers don’t want one simple drink. They expect and desire the excitement of varied flavours.” An impressive range of ingredients are being tried on the bar counters every day. Shanker infuses desi flavour to a cocktail by giving a light wash and swirl to the glass with tadka oil. Citrons are a popular pick for flavour-based drinks.
Orange, pomelo, grapefruit, passion fruit and pineapple are personal favourites of Basu, while star fruit, Indian gooseberry and a vinegar preparation with lime and salt works best for Shroff during winters.
5. Premium drinks
Relatively a newer addition to the liquor market, East Asian drinks are catching the attention of consumers. “Japanese saké and Korean alcohol have made an impact in the Indian market. But you will find these mostly in some of the most high-end bars in India,” says Pradyumna.
Basu says, “Lots of whisky, single malts and Bourbon is picking pace. There is a rising interest in rye whisky as well. People are also demanding premium vodka along with regional spirits like pisco and mescal.”
6. India-made liquors
Year after year, the consumption pattern of the Indian liquor drinkers is evolving. India-made alcohols are gaining popularity among old and young consumers. Amrut and Paul John Single Malt are leading the pack, and Old Monk has been an all-time favourite for years now.
Basu adds, “The tequila styled agave spirit from Desmondji is very popular, as is their orange liqueur. Their newest Mahua is gearing up to become India’s own heritage spirit.”
7. Low and no alcohol
While the global alcohol industry is loyal to the stronger and many full-strength beverages, Basu sees an increasing interest in low and no alcoholic beverages. “People are concerned and more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. Hence, they’re in search of more low-sugar and low-alcohol drinks,” says Gurung.
Seedlip is a non-alcoholic brand that goes by the tagline: “What to drink when you’re not drinking,” and can be found in Bo Tai in New Delhi, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park and The Oberoi. Gordon’s Gin and Tito’s gluten-free vodka can be enjoyed at Plum by Bent Chair in Mumbai.