‘Make Mine A Bombay’ declares The Bombay Canteen’s fifth Canteen Cocktail Book
Priya Pathiyan tells you the back story about The Bombay Canteen’s epic Canteen Cocktail Book, a menu that also evokes a sense of community among Mumbaikars. The fifth edition is just out.
From the very beginning, The Bombay Canteen has prided itself on bringing you the easy-going spirit of bindaas Bombay through its décor, drinks, and vibe. The recently refurbished restobar has just released the fifth edition of its Canteen Cocktail Book, which is its new drinks menu cleverly packaged to evoke a sense of community in the hearts of Mumbaikars.
As we’ve often seen up on the letterboard outside the establishment, they believe ‘Bombay is not a city. It’s an emotion’. And this is what they’re trying to capture through the fifth cocktail book. This time around, they’ve extended their reach beyond SoBo to venture into central Mumbai and the burbs, both in terms of taste as well as inspiration.
They say, “We chased reckless young lovers, raised toasts with weary white-collar workers and hauled several kaali-peelis, all to shake, stir and squeeze the reality of this city into a cocktail (or eight). Each cocktail in this all-new offering will not just surprise you but awaken your love for unconventional pairings, hand-crafted, smooth libations, and house-made infusions.”
Delicate, floral, savoury, nutty, tropical, complex, aromatic, umami and bittersweet is the array of flavours celebrated and showcased by Bar Head Prantik Haldar in the newly added drinks, which celebrate Indian produce through innovative techniques. We loved the way each of the eight cocktails is presented with flavour notes and a short description and a very visual cue to the place in the city that it has been inspired by. The floral excess of marigolds at the Dadar flower market, Worli buildings awaiting a facelift, curbside concerts in Bandra, or backseat embraces stolen in taxis stuck in traffic are all as Bombay as it gets.
Inside the book
The navy-blue hardcover is emblazoned with golden matchsticks (remember that old parlour game where you have to move one to create a different shape?) depicting a cocktail coupé. Inside, cute crows welcome you into the book, and help you see the city ‘through liquor-tinted glasses’. Pop-ups and cut outs, quirky quips and interesting textures… it all adds up to a menu like no other.
The Phool, inspired by the sights and smells of the Dadar Flower Market, is like a bright Mumbai martini with a bouquet from the floral liqueur and marigold soda, with plummy undertones from the Umeshu. Duty Free bridges Mapusa and the Goan side of Mahim with a complex Feni-based cocktail that blends Pinot Noir with pineapple, roots like sarsaparilla and ginger, with creamy coconut milk. Paparazzi has a different sort of creaminess, with a unique burrata whey that brings the Vodka, Aperol, and bitters together like, well, a groupfie at the flash of a camera.
They’ve gone technique forward with the coconut fat-washed Tequila in Waiting List, with hints of curry leaf to take you to the super-popular South Indian restaurants at Matunga, as well as the clarified basil cordial in Rising Star, which references the ever-new towers on the Worli horizon. The jury’s still out about whether we love The Verdict or are merely intrigued by it, with itsslightlyfunkyfugof banana-infused Sherry, blended with dark Rum, Umeshu and an all-spice dram. The crows in the picture definitely make a case for it.
Objects in the back seat are closer than they seem. And Rear View is closer to our hearts than we’d expect. The Tequila goes unexpectedly well with the sweet zing of the black garlic, and the honey-ginger that is has been our go to in the Mumbai monsoon. Especially after cosy taxi rides on cool, rainy nights. Speaking of atmospheric nights, the Curbside certainly jazzes things up with its gin, sweet lime and orange juice giving it a deceptively simple feel, while the spiced Amaro gives it the complexity one craves from a talented trio.
The drinks may be seriously good, but the cocktail book is as playful as it gets.
The back story
Over the years, Sameer Seth and Yash Bhanage, co-founders of The Bombay Canteen (and several other successful ventures) with the late Chef Floyd Cardoz, have spent considerable thought, time, and dime on creating these menus that delve into ‘what makes Bombay Bombay’. With each one, they have collaborated with some of the city’s most creative brains (like the design agency Please See) to come up with a strong Bombay narrative that keeps locals and newbies discovering more about the city and the bar offerings at every visit. The menus are collector’s editions which appeal to those who love Mumbai as much as they love mixology and design.
It all started with The Bombay Canteen Art Deco Cocktail Book, which celebrated some of Mumbai’s most iconic Art Deco structures by crafting cocktails that matched each one in hue and spirit.
In 2018, they came up with the Canteen Cocktail Calendar, which used Bambaiya lingo to introduce you to unique aspects of the city — anecdotes, fun facts, places to visit, and things to do — and half a dozen drinks to dazzle your tastebuds. Bole toh, jhakaas!
Their third edition was A Guidebook to the Talkies of Bombay, which brought alive the glamour and grandeur of the city’s single-screen cinema halls with each of their histories and a useful map along with six stellar libations to help you live it up in style.
The fourth, in 2019, was all about the People of the Promenade. Giving a cocktail hat-tip to the interesting denizens of Marine Drive.
With the fifth iteration of the Canteen Cocktail Book — Make Mine A Bombay — they’ve created a narrative that makes you ponder what Bombay means to you, own it, and grab it with both hands.
Price: Cocktails start at ₹ 675 | Timing: 12 noon to 1 am (all days of the week) | Book: Call +918880802424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org | Address: The Bombay Canteen, Unit-1, Process House, S.B. Road, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013.