Words by Kamalika Mukherjee
The nightlife culture in India has seen a massive growth in the last decade with a huge whiskey and cocktail rise on the drinking graph. While some tourists prefer Goa with its al fresco style dining and open bars, a lot of them wander around non descriptive places, often worried about grabbing drinks due to the lack of knowledge about better places. To ease you of your woes, here’s the ultimate drinking guide for major cities like Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru as you travel across the subcontinent.
*In India, the ethos is to pair your drinks with some food, so the recommendations are for both cocktails and small plates to go with it.
The pioneer of Gastropub culture in India, Monkey Bar opened it’s doors seven years back and gave the regional Indian pub grub a modern twist which enhanced the humble Indian fare and brought it to the forefront. From the house of Olive Group of Restaurants, this is the OG party place. At the helm of it all, chef Manu Chandra is the mastermind behind the modernization. The menu at Monkey Bar is a modern take on food that is rustic and elevates lesser known delicacies. Think of cocktails and food that is so regional to the country, yet enjoyable by everyone. This is the best place to begin with, to get a hint of the culture. From the small plates, Indian Mezze Platter to the quirky cocktails with an Indian twist, the place is awfully relaxed with a beautiful view and offers an open space.
Recommendations: Tomesh Collins and Sip me Tender for cocktails make for great picks. Order the Odyssey Platter which is an Indianized version of the Mezze Platter, Mutta Puffa and the Kashundi Chicken for nibbles.
Address: 901A, Fort Knox, 6 Camac Street, Elgin, Kolkata
This Michelin star tea house might hit home due to their widespread presence across the globe, but when in Kolkata, do visit them for their scrumptious menu and a wide array of cocktails. With perfect small plates and sharing plate options, it’s a great place to unwind with the gang. The interiors are mute and ooze sophistication. Perfect for date night or a quiet evening, this is where you should be when you want a savour a good drink and follow up with some food.
Recommendations: Hargau, Chicken and Prawn Shui Mai, Chicken Char Sui Bun for appetizers. For cocktails, try the Lalu and Orange and Chilli. All of these are a part of their new Supreme Taste of Yauatcha menu.
Address: 5th Floor, Quest Mall, Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Park Circus, Beck Bagan, Ballygunge, Kolkata
An Ode to Goa, O Pedro is the place to be if you haven’t made it to the most-wanted party place in India. The ambiance at O Pedro oscillates between airy and sunlit sweetness to playful and energetic once dusk falls. Designed by the artists of The Busride Studio to evoke the art, architecture and landscapes of Goa, you’ll be greeted by a bright, busy bar designed in cane, timber and glass, vaulted ceilings, vintage furniture and restrained colours. There’s a large communal drinking, a semi-private dining room with colonial Portuguese style décor that allows bigger groups to gather in a cozy, distinct space.
Recommendations: Mr. Fenny-tastic, River Dol-fun, Heady but Steady from their new Cocktails menu. For appetizers, we recommend the Chilled Red Snapper Ceviche and Portugese Confit Tuna. Do finish with Bebinca, for the thrill of it.
Address: Unit #2, Ground Floor, Jet Airways-Godrej BKC Building, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra-East, Mumbai
Tucked away at the happening Kamala Mills, this posh Asian gastropub offers delicate flavours from the East, served with the choicest of freshly sourced ingredients and their detailed preparations. Reimagined modern Asian food with plenty of mood – from its astute interplay of light and texture to colour. Talking of interiors, one wall is a glowing jigsaw of Mahjong-style tiles, the upholstery and tabletops are delicious swathes of colour. Helmed by Eric Sifu, a Chinese chef from Malaysia who has worked with Michelin-star restaurant Din Tai Fung’s Singapore branch, the menu is eclectic and modern. The pub features a 100-foot long island bar offering Asian-flavoured concoctions, infusing ingredients like seaweed, soya sauce, matcha tea and more. The drinks menu is in collaboration with the world-renowned UK-based mixologist Dimitri Lezinska and offers a plethora of options for pairing.
Recommendations: Try Bellini, KOKO Master and OAXACA Sour for cocktails to pair with the Japanese Prawn tempura and Spare Ribs.
Address: C 2, Trade World, Kamala Mills, Near Radio Mirchi Office, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai.
The Bombay Canteen
This award winning restaurants at Kamala Mills explores the charm the country’s diverse regional culinary offering and the bar has a unique selection of re-imagined classic cocktails with firm Indian roots. Born out of the desire to showcase the wealth of our country’s cuisine, The Bombay Canteen recreates local, seasonal dishes and reinterprets age-old Indian culinary traditions in a frequently changing seasonal menu. Housed within a recreated old Mumbai bungalow, an ode to the city’s architectural history, The Bombay Canteen is effortless in its transition – a perfect meeting spot over lunch in the day and a great place to hangout for food and cocktails at night. With an entirely unique approach that is fun and familiar yet innovative, the food focuses on recreating traditional recipes using seasonal ingredients and showcasing it in a contemporary manner.
Recommendations: Try the Dilli Banta Soda, China Town and Incredible for cocktails and the Charred Dhokla Chaat, Eggs Kejriwal and the Crispy Mandeli Fry to go with it.
Address: Unit 1, Process House, Kamala Mills, S.B. Road, Lower Parel Mumbai
Toast and Tonic – East Village Style
Local inspirations, new age dining and a bar come together in an experience that is effortlessly chic and minimal. The menu offers a variety of culinary cultures and is decidedly international but it seeks to celebrate India’s bio-diversity, working with local producers to ensure that Indian products are championed in a non-traditional way. The bar offers spirits, wines and beers from around the world, plus an array of cocktails and Signature G&T’s.
In a city as wired as New York, the East Village is an unexpected pocket of beauty. It’s relaxed and unique and offers an intriguing array of cocktails where ingredients are treated with reverence and Signature G&T’s and has been instrumental in the revival of Gins with natural shrubs. The bar also offers spirits and beers from around the world and an excellent selection of wines.
Recommendations: Blushing Lady, Uno Para Mi, The Irish Redhead are great options for cocktails and try the Bangalore Ham and Andouille Sausage Flatbread, Pork Belly and Teriyaki and Gonguura Chicken Wings for nibbles.
Address: 14/1, Wood Street, Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru
Throwing in a major cultural reference to the mix, Punkah here stands for the handheld fan, made from a single frond of Palmyra Palm that is significantly important in tropical countries. Throwback to the era of sprawling bungalows with bustling verandas and pillared architecture, Punkah House’s food menu draws on the rich gourmet traditions of India, Ceylon and Burma, three diverse nations united by history. The space is sophisticated and the ambience is intimate with a mix of old-world minimalism and embellishment. Think of the clubs of Yore, and bungalows of the old weekend hill stations. Punkah House offers distinct sections – The tropical terrace garden offers open space for groups and the Oak Bar with the corner balcony, the dining room and the verandah for smaller and larger groups, providing the ultimate space for a fun filled evening of food and cocktails.
Recommendations: Bengal Sour, Pisco and The Rangoon Connection make for excellent cocktails while you chase that with small plates of Marinated Jolpai Olives, Potato Éclair and East Indian Egg.
Address: First & Second Floor, 2989/B, 12th Main Rd, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Bengaluru
Warm tones, the odd pop, an old black and white movie, the smell of tea mixed with jasmine, silk lamps with soft tassels in a corner and the sound of jazz in the background coupled with the warmth of wooden tables, and smiling servers are the little things that make even a casual place feel like something more. Spread over two floors, this 150-seater trendy Chinese restaurant and bar, brings a contemporary approach to recreating Cantonese and Sichuan culinary traditions. Cantan occupies a unique position as it attempts to capture the complex depth of food from this vast Asian nation. Think hearty hot pots, Shaokao style Chinese barbeque skewers of aromatic meats and vegetables ready for a wood-fire oven, cold plates, dainty dim sums, the freshest seafood tossed in house-made sauces, and a line-up of stellar signature cocktails
Recommendations: For cocktails, the Bubbly Ruby Wong, Lady of the Moon, Star of Canton and The Monk of the Yangtze Orchard are excellent. Pair it with Spicy Beef and Coriander Guotie and Hunan Crispy Lamb.
Address: 1st & 2nd Floor, 25/4 Lavelle Road, (Opposite Harley-Davidson Showroom), Bengaluru
An all-day restaurant and concept store, Comorin includes a cocktail bar, coffee bar and a market section. The design is intended to create a sense of journey as guests explore the restaurant and experience it through the day. The name Comorin is a reference to Cape Comorin at the tip of India. The menu has been designed by renowned chef Manish Mehrotra that plays with comfort dishes and unusual food combinations from across the country. The bar features craft cocktails, including an innovative sous vide infusion counter, a seasonal cocktail on tap, and a unique selection of house-made beverages and sodas.
Recommendations: Andhra Gongura Chicken, Hot Buttered Seekh Kababs, Kanyakumari Crab Claws go spectacularly well with the Pickled Pom Whiskey, Ramos & Roses Gin Fizz for cocktails.
Address: 101, 1 Floor, Plaza Level, Two Horizon, Golf Course Road, Gurugram
Serai – Olive Qutub
Nestled in the heart of ancient havelis and Mughal ruins, in a burgeoning fashion district, Serai is a culinary cocktail bar at the famed Olive Qutub. Serai borrows its name from the concept of ‘serai’ which in ancient time meant a tavern and resting place for travellers. It also served as a gathering place and a social spot to unwind, drink and eat; where strangers would come together to share tales of their travels. Borrowing from this concept, the ambiance is easy going, the seating fuss free and the lighting, happy. The edges of the crockeries aren’t perfect and the wabi-sabi is what makes the heart of Serai. The culinary cocktails are made with fresh ingredients and come paired with a bite-sized pintxo. The bar focuses on music, artistry and entertainment. They have even created their own signature bar drinking game to add some more juice to the drunken escapades.
Recommendations: Passionfruit & Gondhoraj, Corn & Coriander and Citrus & Chilli are great picks for cocktails. For small plates, try the Fritto Misto and Lamb Buddha Dumpling.
Address: Serai, One Style Mile, Mehruali, New Delhi