Darjeeling-born, Delhi-based mixologist Yangdup Lama was in town to launch new variants of Vladivar vodka, by United Spirits Limited, with a class on mixology at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry last Thursday. A t2 chat...
How does one use flavoured vodkas in a cocktail?
Vodka is a spirit that comes without any character, so incorporating flavours in it is easy.... Bartenders do it, distillers can do it. With flavoured vodka, the best way to enjoy it is on the rocks. Vladivar’s dual-flavoured vodkas, on the other hand, have a lot of character and thus make the process of mixing cocktails simpler. Take the Orange Zest for example, it has flavours of both orange and pepper. All it needs is fresh orange wedges muddled into the drink to turn it into an Orange Caipiroska.
Your favourite base spirit in a cocktail?
Well, favourite in terms of ease is vodka. Since it doesn’t have a flavour of its own, it’s the easiest to twist into a cocktail. But in terms of what satisfies me, I like aged spirits, like a whisky or rum. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone though. Don’t try it at home. Leave it to a mixologist.
Aged whisky in a cocktail? Isn’t that something of a sacrilege?
Well, it needn’t be a single malt (smiles), neither be it a very fine aged blend. It can just be something with a character of its own. Say, I were to make a smoky drink, I’d probably use a nice single malt from the Islay range, like a Lagavulin or a Bunnahabhain.
These days a Bloody Mary isn’t a Bloody Mary but a Bloody Mary foam. What do you make of molecular mixology as a trend?
Let me ask you a question. How many times have you gone to a bar and asked for a Bloody Mary foam? If somebody gave you vodka which is solid, you would probably try it once. But you may not go back for it a second time. It’s also been done to death abroad, especially in London. I think most people would like a drink to be a drink, which they can swallow instead of chew.
What is your favourite cocktail?
Actually, I don’t have a favourite cocktail. We mixologists have to mix too many flavours, so we prefer straight spirits.
Okay, let’s rephrase that — what do you like making?
I love making the Old Fashioned. An Old Fashioned is a late 19th century cocktail with rye whisky, a sugar cube and a dash of aromatic bitters. It’s called Old Fashioned because it’s served in the old-fashioned glass. I would love to try making Old Fashioned with vodka or rum.
A cocktail you hate making?
A Bloody Mary (smiles). It’s something everyone knows and everyone has a different twist to it. And even if you make the best drink you can, the guest would say ‘good drink, but I would make it differently’.
What’s the flavour of the season?
I would say anything with citrus notes. The idea is to have a zesty note and use fruits like grapefruit, orange or lime.
Since you’re from Darjeeling, what would you say is the spirit of Darjeeling?
Well, tea of course! I have just done a book (with Gitanjali Chaturvedi) called Cocktails and Dreams, where I have used three recipes — one with a first flush, one with the second flush and another with an autumn flush.