The Making of an Award-Winning Bar

Akanksha Maker | August 7, 2022 | Life

When the news of a quaint and fairly new bar being rated as India’s Best Bar for 2021 by 30 Best Bars India and fourth in Asia’s Best Bar 2022 (a bars ranking platform) surfaced, the F&B industry in the country stood amazed. What took me by surprise was that it wasn’t Mumbai, Delhi or even a Pune-based bar, it was a bar based out of India’s beach state – Goa that had won this accolade. Tesouro by Firefly was making waves (quite literally) – and having missed a visit to their South Goa outpost the last time I was there, I decided to make a pitstop at their bar takeover at Sette Marra at The St. Regis Mumbai – to decipher if all the hype was validated.

“Sette Mara is famous for its negronis and great Middle Eastern food, while Tesouro is the best in India for their creativity on great concoctions and the people who work at the venue. We wanted Mumbai to experience a bit of Tesouro and that’s how everything fell right into place. This is the first of many bar takeovers to come over the coming months,” says Keith, Executive Assistant Manager for F&B at The St. Regis, Mumbai.

Tesouro by Firefly, Goa.

Speaking with Akshit Sharma – bar manager of the establishment and Pankaj Balachandaran, gave me an insight on the avant-garde approach taken Tesouro by Firefly – one that has contributed to their quick and substantial success. And what’s unfolded has been nothing short of interesting.

It was bang in the middle of the pandemic, around September 2021, that veteran bartenders Arijit Bose and Pankaj Balachandran opened Tesouro along with Donovan Vaz, a restaurateur and scion of a south Goa-based liquor distribution family. Bose and Balachandaran brought in their extensive experience running the shows at bars of renowned hotels in India. Balachandaran’s time as Monkey Shoulder’s (a Scottish blended malt whisky) ambassador, helped him experiment a bunch with the creation of Tesouro’s mind-bending concoctions.

Words that seemed to emerge quite frequently in the conversation were “ingredients first”. An innovation I had more often than not, seen across Michelin-starred restaurants, it was interesting to see this come to life behind the bar at Tesouro.

Balachandaran and Sharma reminisced about the time they ventured into the forests of Goa to create their “Foraging Menu”. As the word suggests, the team delved deeply into the jungles of Goa to handpick ingredients that were previously unheard of – or used in food or drinks. Goa’s apparent flora and fauna is quite conducive to unconventional ingredients that can be concocted into inventive cocktails. Traversing into unheard territories, the team fondly spoke about encountering “magic berries” (a name coined by the team themselves) and a certain Japanese mint that were then featured into drinks using advanced mixology methods. It’s notable to mention here that they were assisted by a botanist to ensure they do not end up tasting venomous flora.

Sette Mara, The St. Regis Mumbai

Surprisingly, they did mention unique elements like red ants which apparently add a certain acidity to the drinks with their formic acid content. A peanut butter fruit found in the forests of Goa also became the basis of a number of drinks conceptualised at the Tesouro lab.

This along with an array of wild ingredients were included in the “Foraging Menu” which could be attributed to the early success of the bar. Balachandaran mentioned that the team aims to create unconventional menus at least twice a year.

However, ingredients just make up one aspect of Tesouro’s approach. If mixed by a novice, these ingredients have the potential to create havoc in one’s palate. Hence, carefully curated processes which are intertwined deeply in science and the art of mixology, are inculcated to create the concoctions.

The team uses a laboratory like method called gravity filtration that amends the molecular composition of drinks. Also known as gravitational clarification, this method uses racking tools like a centrifuge and gravity to break down the liquids – thereby allowing the particles to separate out of it.

L-R: The Dead Man’s Switch, a tequila based cocktail infused with dehydrated thyme smoke; Salty Bae, a miso and butter washed scotch with sweet Vermouth, peated malt, bitters, and demerara.


Another very interesting method used by the Tesouro team is fat washing. While the name may imply the washing of fat off the ingredients, it’s actually all about infusing the flavour of a particular fat to the spirit.

For instance, for miso and butter washed scotch, the team adds melted butter to scotch at room temperature and allows it to sit for a few hours before it’s chilled in the freezer. After which the fat solids and is skimmed off – letting the spirit retain the contrasting flavours of the fat.

The marriage between unheard ingredients and advanced methods can attribute to the success of Tesouro. While the team is chuffed with their accolades and is expanding its reach by bar take-overs like the one mentioned, it would be interesting to see what’s churned out of the Tesouro stable in the near future.

Whether it’s more awards for the team, a new bar or more tantalising cocktails, this treasure (Tesouro translates to treasure in Portuguese) is one to watch out for.

Words by Akanksha Maker.
Images via Tesouro.

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