The epic 30BB Bar Crawls: Three cities, 10 bars, a monumentally good time!
Priya Pathiyan gives you a no-holds-barred, bar-by-bar account of the time the 30BB team led cocktail enthusiasts into some of India’s most exciting drinking establishments.
December 19, 2023, saw a lively bunch of mixology-mad people joining bars crawls hosted by 30 Best Bars India across three cities. We visited some of the country’s most innovative bars, diving into fascinating aspects such as cocktail innovation with the use of local and sustainable ingredients, ice programmes, bar design, and more. In each city, the gregarious groups mingled with mixologists and owners, getting a deeper understanding of the drinks from some of the newest and most cutting-edge menus. Here’s what went down…
Drink up, Delhi!
Route: Mia’s – Sidecar – The Library Bar – PCO
Leader: Vikram Achanta, co-founder of 30 Best Bars India and CEO of alcohol consulting firm Tulleeho
Mia’s in the GK2 market was a great spot to start our Delhi crawl. Sushiil Pant and his team guided us through the 14 signature cocktails on their geeky-cool menu that plots the flavour profile of each drink on a graph! Of these, three are pre-batched ones, available on tap. We enjoyed the familiarity of flavours in Attaboy, that had black cumin-infused gin with a coconut-and-curry leaf shrub, sweet lime bianco, and coconut water. Crowd faves were the English Breakfast which cleverly fused gin, with elements like tea, cookies, marmalade, and Okinawa foam; and Wales, which managed to put together blended Scotch, with lychee, and tomato, successfully.
On that high note, our moveable liquid fest moved to everyone’s favourite artisanal bar Sidecar, only a five-minute stroll away. Waiting to help us ace our evening was Deepali Gupta, COO of Sidecar herself. She encouraged all the bar crawlers to sample all the signatures from their latest menu called Arq. While we had checked them out before (read all about it here), we were happy to get a deeper understanding of their philosophy and hang out with the incredibly inspiring bar team. The healing Titepati and Cacao, with its chocolate factory profile seemed right for this season.
We went from the easy-drinking vibe at this bar to the rarefied world of Chanakyapuri’s Diplomatic Enclave and The Library Bar at the Leela Palace Delhi. Siya Negi, who heads their bar programme, introduced us to their eight ‘novel’ cocktails, which are inspired by literature, literary figures, and not-so-literal references. A Caribbean Mystery was just the ticket for some of us, with aged rum, banana-cinnamon cordial, sparkling wine, and mud cake (!), while the others were enchanted by the sophisticated taste (coconut bourbon, Campari, Amaro Montenegro, and coffee bitters) and tale of the drink named for famous writer Raymond Chandler, who is said to have survived solely on bourbon for two weeks!
As often as we’ve been to Vasant Vihar’s PCO, we still manage to spot new things on their highly engrossing ‘newsy’ menu that takes you down the decades with the spirit and speed of the retro riff of We Didn’t Start The Fire. And while their formidable cocktail list keeps pace step for step with the snippets, we were happy to stay current with their mixologist Vikas Kumar’s tour of cutting-edge, technique-centric Cocktails of the Now. ‘Vocal for local’ The New East India Co uses sous-vide and a coconut milk wash to create a taste sensation made from ingredients sourced from the shores of Odisha. We found that the Vetiver Martini, which has redistilled khus with vodka and wine, is something truly unique too.
Mixing it up in Mumbai!
Route: Native Bombay – Slink & Bardot – O Pedro
Leader: Radhakrishnan Nair, co-founder of 30 Best Bars India, and publisher and Editor-in-chief of MW and Rolling Stone India
The crawl started at the atmospheric Native Bombay, set in an old ice factory, its exposed brick walls offset beautifully by the eight elegant Negroni variations that bar manager Denzil R Franklin and his team whipped up. A quick tour of the sensational space that is if.be (Ice Factory Ballard Estate) that the Negroni-only Native is ensconced in, lots of laughter and discussion accompanied the tasting. The Pandan, the Kaapi, and the Classic, at opposite ends of the innovation spectrum, were favourites from the eight special Negronis on the menu.
The fun moved on to Slink & Bardot, the incredibly gorgeous bar located in the Worli fishing village. Here, the crawlers got a chance to sample drinks from the older menu (we love the Paanch, a refreshing yet old-school punch which the team says got its name from the Sanskrit for the five spices used in the original recipe) as well as the latest one called A Koliwada Cocktail Journey, which is inspired by its surroundings. From the fruit called bor (jujube) to the coffee that the late-night staff shares with members of the local coastguard in the wee hours, the cocktails by their mixologist Santosh Kukreti offered some very unique flavour bombs. We wound up with a lip-smacking dessert shot served in a waffle cone with which we toasted co-owner Vicky Singh who dropped by to say hello.
Next up was O Pedro in BKC, where co-owner Yash Bhanage did the honours, explaining their new Happy Go Rocky menu. We had got a sneak peek at this one before (read the full review here), but for a lot of the participants of the crawl, all eight cocktails were a brand-new and exciting experience. The chikoo-focussed Ready Steady was a favourite at one end of the table, while the caper-infused Ziggy Zag, a more grown-up martini-style drink, was the choice at the other end, proving that Rocky the Rooster does indeed ‘know a thing or two about happiness’ for everyone who visits!
Bottoms up, Bengaluru!
Route: Soka – 2 Moons – Foo – Muro
Leader: Rohan Carvalho, founding partner, Bar Square India
The first stop was the newly opened Soka in Indiranagar, the intimate, 38-seater, intimate cocktail bar by Avinash Kapoli and Chef Sombir Chaudary. Kapoli and his team treated the crawlers to a curated set of cocktails that introduced us to the creativity and the stories behind this very personal place. From the spicy, tequila-based Mofo Don to the elevated Next Gen or ‘Sakkath’ Martini, with Choya and a herb tincture, there was a lot to sample at the technique-forward bar.
Next, we headed to MG Road to Two Moons, owned by Thejus Shivarama and Namratha Nagarahalli. This restaurant, acclaimed for its food, has a rather interesting cocktail programme too. Rohan Kunder, who heads the bar here as well as a few other haute spots, took us through his approach to cocktails, the focus on sustainability and a lot more that goes on behind the scenes at the bar. The drinks that were unanimously given the thumbs up among the rather naughtily-named options were Revealing Desire (think bourbon with white chocolate, cinnamon perfume and a splash of citrus!) and Twice the Temptation (vodka blended with unlikely flavours like coffee, pineapple, cheesecake!).
Foo on Brigade Road was the third stop on our quest for the most fascinating cocktails and we weren’t disappointed. Ryan and Keenan Tham’s first Foo in the garden city boasts a warm and welcoming vibe and Manager Ayush Verma made sure we had a great time. The cocktails that got everyone grooving especially were the aromatic Foo Queen (with pandan, jasmine, lychee, rose, with vodka and tequila, it’s bound to be a heady affair!); Kokum Club which blended gin with coconut, and kokum syrup that’s popular on the Konkan coast; and Ichiban, which brings together the unlikely ingredients of lychee, yuzu jam, and saffron, with tequila and soda!
Our last watering hole for the night was the Muro Social Club on Church Street. The stunning bar had us oohing, while mixologist Sahil Essani and his team soon had us aahing with their creations. Essani, who won the Diageo Reserve World Class in 2022 knows the importance of storytelling and we loved his take on each of the eight signature cocktails we tried. Heat of the Moment made for some tableside drama where steel wool is sparked over the drink, but the actual theatrics were on our palate, with barrel-rested Reposado Tequila that bore flavours of Naga chilli, lacto-fermented guava, cilantro, and tobacco. We were pleased that the cocktails tasted as good as they looked, be it the bioluminescent Good Apple or the artistically presented Eat Your Art Out.