Return of Gin and Tonic
As the bar and club culture strengthens in the city of Mumbai, old-school stars like gin are making a comeback in a more discerning avatar as Aneesh Bhasin finds out more at the city’s first gin bar, Arola.
Gin and tonic is simply the quintessential summer drink. When it comes to Mumbai weather, which is always either hot or humid, or hot and extremely humid, a gin and tonic hits the spot just right.
The cocktails and mixology space in Mumbai has seen a huge upgrade in the recent years. A lot of bars are not serving cocktails around the Rs. 1000 mark, which are more often than not made with fresh ingredients and better skills rather than using ready-made syrups. We finally have restaurants and bars, like The Table, where I would gladly say ‘surprise me’ and not worry. The Daily, a relatively new bar in Bandra, serves well made smoked cocktails at Rs. 650. Meanwhile, Woodside Inn at Colaba has started popsicle cocktails with different flavours for a limited time a few months back, like green apple and beer, watermelon and cola and even white wine sangria. Come to think of it, why didn’t anyone do this before?
Coming back to gin. One thing I have always questioned about drinking habits in India is about the insignificant gin consumption. I presume the answer lies with the fact that domestic gins in India, sadly, are just not worth drinking. India actually has a very long history associated with the drink. In the 1825, British officers began to mix their gin with tonic water, which was consumed to off fight malaria amongst a few other diseases. Cut to the present, gin is just starting to make a come back.
The first indication that gin and tonic is here to stay was made very clear by Arola at J.W. Marriott, which features the city’s first gin bar. Think gins and the usual labels which pop up here are Beefeater, Tanqueray and of course Bombay Sapphire. Arola went a few extra miles and brought in as many as 31 gin brands on the menu; these are just the ones I was able to count.
After visiting Arola on quite a few occasions, I did find my way around the different gin brands. Gin Mare is something surely to be tasted, with intense and rounded olives; it always takes me back to Spain. Old Raj, which again goes back to the British Raj in India, is crisper with toasted almonds and floral notes. Another favorite would be Fifty Pounds, which is distilled with coriander seeds, lemon and orange peels and liquorice. This gin has a nice subtle spice, which is quite interesting and is something I did not expect.
Thankfully, Arola also has Fever Tree tonic water. It stands out distinctively from the mass produced Schweppes which can taste of artificial sweeteners with a metallic feel to it. Along with good tonic, Arola also has tons of bitters which can transform any drink. Even if you go and order a house gin and tonic, ask for a dash of orange bitters, you will thank me later.