The Stirring Trend: The Rising Popularity of Cocktail Culture in India

Anithya Balachandran | November 17, 2023 | Life

My initial foray into the captivating world of cocktails materialised during a balmy afternoon during the British summer while I indulged in a Wimbledon match, it was there I was introduced to Britain’s favourite cocktail, the Pimm’s Cup. However, it would be disingenuous to claim that this is where I fell in love with cocktails. In truth, the love affair with these cleverly crafted alcoholic concoctions transpired during a blissful sojourn in Barcelona, where I tried the Cava Sangria. That single, ambrosial sip amidst the Catalan ambience kindled an enduring love for cocktails and there has been no looking back since then.

In recent years, India’s F&B landscape has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis, one accentuated by the surging prominence of cocktail culture. Historically, India’s inclination towards tea and other indigenous beverages was widely recognised. However, today, the country is embracing a newfound and exponentially increasing passion for cocktails. This cultural shift is underscored by the fusion of global mixology trends with locally-inspired flavours and innovation, setting the stage for a spirited cocktail renaissance that has enamoured the entire nation.

The changing preferences of the Indian population play a crucial role in the surge of cocktail culture. The younger generation is increasingly seeking out innovative and exciting drinking experiences which makes them open to exploring a variety of flavours, ingredients, and techniques, moving beyond the traditional alcoholic beverages. This shift has given rise to a demand for well-crafted cocktails that cater to different palates. India’s rich culinary heritage and diverse ingredients have paved the way for unique and enticing cocktails. Mixologists are incorporating indigenous spices, herbs, and fruits into their concoctions, creating a fusion of global cocktail trends with local flavours. Whether it’s a spicy tamarind margarita or a refreshing coconut mojito, these locally-inspired drinks are refreshing iterations of age-old classics with a touch that resonates more with the Indian taste buds.

“I’ve witnessed a transformation in the art of mixology across India. It’s a time when each cocktail is a canvas for creativity, and flavours have become a palette for exploration. We’re crafting unique concoctions that infuse Indian spices and herbs. The rise of themed bars and captivating cocktail presentations adds a delightful twist, making every sip an extraordinary experience. Moreover, our commitment to local and sustainable sourcing not only enhances the quality of our cocktails but also reflects our dedication to supporting our environment and local communities,” says Mayur Marne, Partner, Cocktails of Tomorrow and Cobbler & Crew.

Left to Right: “Like Havana” & “Temptation” by Cobbler & Crew

The art of mixology, once reserved for high-end bars and five-star hotels, has made its way into the local drinking scene. Skilled mixologists are concocting cocktails that are both visually appealing and bursting with unique flavours. These experts are not just bartenders; they are artists, infusing creativity and innovation into their craft. Their influence has been instrumental in elevating the cocktail culture in India.

The proliferation of themed bars and immersive drinking establishments has contributed to the allure of cocktail culture. Whether it’s a speakeasy, a breezy rooftop bar, or an establishment with a penchant for retro aesthetics and regional specialties, these venues offer more than just innovative libations. They provide patrons with immersive experiences, elevating the act of cocktail consumption from a mere social pastime to an adventurous escapade. This emerging trend in consumerism is a post-pandemic phenomenon, reflecting an increased appetite for novel experiences, particularly in the food and beverage sector. Consumers’ craving for novelty finds satisfaction in these innovative establishments, which labour tirelessly to craft distinctive experiences that align with global standards, effectively setting new benchmarks for international counterparts as well. “Three things are happening simultaneously. First and foremost, a number of excellent cocktail bars have been opening up around the country that celebrate Indian ingredients along with modern techniques. Secondly, the Indian consumer is more curious, aware and interested in cocktails than ever before and thirdly, international bars and important bar personalities have begun to show interest in the Indian cocktail culture. All of these things together make the future of cocktail bars in India seem very bright,” shares Radhikha Dhariwal – Director and Founder of Pass Code Hospitality.

Left to Right: “Bandhani” & “Corduroy” cocktails by Passcode (PCO)

Moreover, the significant impact of travel on the burgeoning cocktail culture in India is a facet that warrants substantial consideration. In an era of increased globalisation and international connectivity, the trend of Indians venturing abroad and immersing themselves in the cocktail culture of foreign lands has played an instrumental role in reshaping the domestic landscape. As these travellers return home, they bring with them a newfound and enriched appreciation for the intricate art of mixology, having sampled an array of exotic libations. The exposure to diverse mixological traditions, distinctive ingredients, and innovative flavour profiles has proven to be a catalytic force behind the surge of cocktail culture within India. It has bestowed an enriching layer of complexity to the local scene, infusing it with global inspiration, and pushing bartenders and mixologists to experiment with novel combinations and techniques. In doing so, travel acts as a bridge between India’s indigenous drinking preferences and the world’s evolving cocktail landscape. The rising popularity of cocktail culture in India is more than just a passing trend; it’s a cultural shift that reflects the changing tastes and preferences of the Indian population.

Words by Anithya Balachandran.
Cover image – Martinez cocktail at Passcode (PCO)
Image courtesy Passcode; Cobbler & Crew

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