On the Nautical Side of Bombay

Akanksha Maker | October 16, 2023 | Life

Walking into the recently renovated Aer at the Four Seasons felt like entering a yacht club of from another era; one that echoes the aesthetic of Bombay’s signature art-deco architectural style. Its nautical theme is seamlessly incorporated in this cocktail lounge that’s located on the 34th floor of the hotel. Decorated in stripes and monotone, it’s an understatement to say that Aer has transformed. As expected, its cocktails and food also emanate the nautical theme imbibed in its decor. The menu pays homage to the seasonal skies of the city which are best viewed from this rooftop lounge that overlooks Mumbai’s scape.

Being a lover of the rain, I chose to start my evening with a cocktail called Rain Dance – which featured London Dry Gin, pineapple, quinine, chakriphool and laung. The mix of herbs with the sweetness of the pineapple amplified the juniper flavours of the gin. I also tried On Cloud Nine which was a blend of Old Tom Gin, salted white peach and narikela (coconut) foam. On the savoury side of cocktails (the way I prefer them), this one was a refreshing concoction with just the right amount of fruity, milkiness thanks to the coconut foam.

Being intrigued by the interesting list of creatively concocted cocktails, I caught up with Alexandre Renoue, the beverage manager at Four Seasons, to understand his inspiration behind the cocktails at Aer.

Alexandre Renoue, Beverage Manager at Four Seasons Mumbai

AM: The menu at Aer is devised as per the seasons and skies of Mumbai. What is the philosophy behind crafting the menu at Aer.

AR: The renovated Aer is designed with nautical undertones to give the feel of a yacht club with a bar in the middle where everyone has access. This sets up the bar like a command center and like the bridge of a ship. Since the vibe at Aer is of a nautical voyage through the skies of Mumbai, I curated Aer’s menu while drawing inspiration from these ever-changing skies. This yacht club theme of Aer extends to the menu with dishes and drinks that evoke the spirit of sailing. The menu reflects the different moods and colours of the sky throughout the day and night. Given the coastal location of Mumbai, the menu at Aer also focuses on fresh and locally sourced ingredients, including seafood and seasonal produce.

AM: What are some of the key ingredients and methods you deploy in your concoctions?

AR: I am a big fan of using locally sourced ingredients, especially in an abundant country like India. We aim to highlight forgotten spices, herbs, botanicals and elevate the flavours using modern methods equipment such as clarification using a centrifuge, a Rotovap, and even natural infusion.

AM: Can you tell me about your background in mixology and what brings you to India?

AR: I found my way at a bar out of basic needs to make a living and soon after I discovered the bar, fell in love with the creativity and the opportunities it offered. With this, I learn every day and try my best to keep up with the constant evolution in the industry, learning every day.

I find plenty of potential in India and hence organically found my way here. There is a rapidly evolving bar scene which gives me much to learn from. The kindness of Indians people is recognised all over the world and I am grateful to be able to make the most of this here, especially with my team. Also, India offers a beautiful palette of flavours for someone like me to choose from leaving me ever-so-excited to discover more every day.

Mumbai yacht club; lure of the siren; blue sapphire horizon

AM: What ethos do you bring in from your Corsican heritage in your mixology career?

Born and raised on the beautiful island of Corsica, my style of mixology is a blend of classic techniques and modern twists. I try to take the time to get to know my guests, ask questions about their favourite flavours, spirits, and ingredients. This way I can create an inspired and personalised cocktail experience that they are sure to remember.  The world knows Corsica for its warm Latin Hospitality and that helped me find and prosper in my career as a mixologist. Growing up, I was also taught the importance of sharing and that comes in handy when working in teams.

AM: What are some of the trends in the mixology industry which you feel would be 1) short lived and 2) which would go on for a long time?

AR: Trends come and go; it is our responsibility to make the most of passing trends to create our own offerings.  What is set to stay is sustainability is all set to be the future for the bar industry as well and I can only see the demand grow exponentially for locally sourced ingredients, zero waste set-ups and using minimal disposables during our operations.

AM: What is your foresight of the Indian spirits culture – which spirits do you reckon would become the next big thing in the next 10 years?

AR: India is lucky to be full of resources which give it the capacity to create stunning spirits of its own, from gin, tonic, beer, and acclaimed whiskies to even its own agave spirits. With a study of current consumption patterns, I would like to believe that low ABV spirits and cocktails will be the next-big-thing in India. And this could very well be the currently popular Gins along with exotic tonics.

Interview by Akanksha Maker

Images by Aer

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