The Telegraph
| Sunday, December 4, 2016 |

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High and heady

High-alcohol cocktails are becoming a big hit with young party animals and pubcrawlers, says Susmita Saha

  • Mixologists are innovating with ingredients like kala khatta in the Make in India cocktail at Molecule; Photo: Rupinder Sharma

Imagine sipping on a seriously stiff cocktail that throws in a whopping 30ml vodka, 30ml gin, 30ml white rum, 30ml dark rum, along with cola, star anise, palm jaggery syrup and fresh mint? The boozy cocktail goes by the name of Smoking Chimney and it’s a hotseller at Delhi’s Lavaash by Saby. And for hardcore party animals there’s Rum Patiala at Social, an explosive mix of 90ml dark rum, 10ml orange liqueur, lime juice, passion fruit puree and fresh sugar cane juice. Hic?

But that’s not all. You can also get high in style if The Junkyard Café in Delhi’s Connaught Place happens to be your favourite hangout on a pub crawl. Take a sip of the Bourbon Wreckage Fluid, a super-alcoholic concoction that’s a hot favourite with the party crowd. What’s more, the fancy drink is super-potent with a mean dash of 120ml of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey poured into assorted ingredients like orange juice, corn juice and cinnamon syrup.

  • Bourbon Wreckage Fluid is one of the super-alcoholic concoctions on the Junkyard Café bar menu; Photo: Rupinder Sharma

Clearly, super-stiff, boozy cocktails are making their way into bar menus across the country and intrepid boozehounds are being pampered silly by spunky mixologists. These cocktails boast of seriously high alcohol levels (anything from 100ml to 150ml when wine is added to the mix) and are catching on. Says Ankur Dixit of The Junkyard Café: “Nearly 
60 per cent of all cocktails sold here are high alcoholic drinks.”

Right next door, at Teddy Boy, a gastro bar which pays homage to pubs which became popular in London in the early 1950s, you can nurse a tall glass of Promnight Long Island Iced Tea (Prom LIIT). It’s a funky mix of vodka (30ml), gin (30ml), tequila (30ml), rum (30ml) and a raft of non-alcoholic ingredients such as lime juice and pomegranate juice.
Interestingly, most of these strong cocktails are served in huge glasses in combination with large volumes of non-alcoholic ingredients so that the alcohol doesn’t hit too fast. Says Deepak Rai of Teddy Boy: “High alcohol cocktails have a lot of potent components. So we have to ensure that patrons don’t get a sudden high.”

  • The explosive Benarasi Patiala at Social; Photo: Jagan Negi

Mixologists and restaurateurs say that the younger crowd — mainly between 25 and 30 — is downing larger volumes of 
alcohol than ever before and is also keen on sipping cocktails that taste of alcohol. Says Chef Saby of Lavaash by Saby: “If you order a cocktail in the US or Dubai, you are served generous quantities and you can actually taste the booze. People want the same here.”

A variety of liquors go into these boozy mixes. “Most of these cocktails are vodka-based as vodka’s a neutral-tasting alcohol,” says Dixit of The Junkyard Café. He has a concoction called Edison Bulb which throws in vodka, watermelon syrup and basil syrup. There’s Benarasi Patiala at Social, which, too, has a vodka option (a crazy combination of 90ml vodka with lime juice, 10ml-15ml orange liqueur and more).

  • The Gregory Peck peg at Lavaash by Saby is flecked with gold dust; Photo: Rupinder Sharma

But clearly, innovation is the name of the game and mixologists are armed with more than vodka to rustle up cocktails that pack a punch. For instance, Molecule in Gurgaon is wooing new-age tipplers with Make in India that’s a heady mix of vodka (20ml), tequila (20ml), rum (20ml), gin (20ml), orange liqueur (20ml) and non-alcoholic ingredients like kala khatta syrup and lime juice. 

So, does the taste of spirits triumph over flavour in these cocktails? “Flavour is never allowed to take a backseat,” says Gaurav Dhyani, mixologist at Molecule, whose Make in India is a riff on the classic Long Island Iced Tea with kala khatta syrup replacing the traditional Coke to amp up the taste.

“People are happy with the cocktails since they can taste the alcohol like in their regular drinks, but are also getting their booze with trendy presentations,” says Chef Saby. Indeed, cocktails at Lavaash by Saby come with oodles of drama. It’s Gregory Peck peg packs in 30ml vodka, 60ml gin, cucumber, dill, olives, tonic water and even gold dust. 
Cocktail fiends need to remember to sip, not gulp, these cocktails down. While some mixologists request you to hold on to your drink for half-an-hour, others recommend 15 minutes. Vijay Prakash, beverage manager, north and east India, of Social, says the ideal time to finish his Benarasi Patiala is 30 minutes. And punctuating your cocktail with nibbles is a must.

Despite the words of caution, super heady, dramatic cocktails are not going out of style anytime soon. Vijay Prakash of Social sums it up best: “There’s an advisory that’s printed in bold in our menu. And you would do well to heed it. ‘Ek ke baad abhi nahin, do se zyada kabhi nahin.’” 

Promnight Long Island Iced Tea (Prom LIIT) Teddy Boy 

  • Photo: Rupinder Sharma

Ingredients: • 30ml vodka  • 30ml gin  • 30ml tequila  • 30ml rum  • 10ml lime juice  • 10ml sugar syrup  • 30ml orange juice  • 30ml pomegranate juice  • 20 pomegranate seeds

Method: Take a long glass full of ice. Pour 10ml lime juice and 10ml sugar syrup. Then add 30ml of each spirit along with 30ml orange juice and 30ml pomegranate juice. Stir the drink and garnish with pomegranate seeds.