Around the Globe for World Cocktail Week - Part 2: India Cocktails

(Cover Photo courtesy of "World Cocktail Day" online)

In celebrating “World Cocktail Week” from May 6-13, I will be offering up cocktails from around the globe focusing on a different region of the world or country's signature drinks culminating in “World Cocktail Day” on the 13th. This week was selected for the prestigious holiday because it marks the first time the word ‘cocktail’ was published back in 1806. The definition appeared in “The Balance and Columbian Repository” and read, “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters." I can drink to that!

Second up - India. Although India isn't considered a mecca of cutting edge and classic cocktails, it is, however, well known for producing some great cocktails sipping poolside and summer parties utilizing fresh, aromatic, and in some cases, spicy and exotic ingredients. If you have difficulty finding any of the ingredients, visit your local Indian grocer or spice shop. Thank you to my good Indian friend, Paul Pawha, for providing insight into Indian cocktail culture and Food Republic, Saveur, Yummly, Food and Wine, and the Community Table for it's coverage of Indian cuisine and drinks and as a resource for this post. Also, thank you to the bars and restaurants listed below for doing great Indian-inspired cocktails.

Indian spices, like saffron and cardamom are now pantry staples for many cooks, but bartenders are also finding uses for the aromatic seasonings in deliciously complex cocktails.

Named for Mahatma Gandhi Road in Bangalore, MG Road is a new bar and lounge in Asheville, North Carolina, opened by restaurateur Meherwan Irani. Working in a space below Irani’s Indian street food-inspired Chai Pani, MG Road bartenders have access to the restaurant’s extensive stores of herbs and spices. “When I started poking around in there it was completely foreign to me,” says bartender Jonathan Ammons. He and fellow mixologists Kyle Gray Beach and Erin Hawley quickly began experimenting by making syrups with garam masala (a spice mix made with clove, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and black pepper) and flower waters. A newer creation is the curry leaf tincture, which stars in a bright and tangy cocktail called "Heart of Gold". It features finely strained kumquat puree, silver tequila, gingery Domaine de Canton and a bar-spoon of the citrusy tincture. Shaken and strained over a large ice cube, the cocktail is garnished with a curry leaf.

Other drinks on the Indian-influenced cocktail menu include the green cardamom syrup-spiked "It Might As Well Be Spring" (Bluecoat gin, green Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, green cardamom and muddled mint, strained into an absinthe-rinsed glass), and the Kewda Fizz made with gin, basil, fresh lemon juice, egg white and kewda water—a distinctly Indian, extremely perfumed essence distilled from Pandanus flowers. Here, more bars that are experimenting with Indian herbs and spices.

Seven Lamps, Atlanta

Beverage manager Arianne Fielder infuses honey syrup with saffron for the Golden Child cocktail. She shakes the infused syrup with caramel-tinged Mellow Corn whiskey, orange juice, cardamom-scented Boker’s Bitters and Terrapin Golden Ale (a hazy, mildly malty cream ale) and strains the lightly sweet cocktail into a snifter.

(Photo courtesy of Seven Lamps)

Poppy, Seattle

Though owner Jerry Traunfeld has a curry tree growing in his backyard he has to buy curry leaves for the bar’s exotic and herbaceous Rum Curry cocktail. “[The tree] wishes it were somewhere warmer,” he laments. Bartenders shake house-made curry leaf simple syrup with coconut water, orange bitters and fresh lime juice then strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.

(Photo courtesy of Poppy)

Brasserie S&P, San Francisco

The gin-centric bar in San Francisco’s Mandarin Hotel features a menu of gin and homemade tonics including the Aged G&T made with French oak-aged Rusty Blade gin and the bar’s Sensei Saffron tonic infused with saffron, coriander and cardamom pods. An Indian take on a classic British cocktail, the drink is served over ice in a crystal gin glass, garnished with a wildflower.

Greenwich Project, New York City

The recently opened townhouse bar and restaurant offers the refreshing Cardamom Collins created by beverage director John McCarthy. Made with Hangar One vodka, fresh lemon juice and house-made cardamom syrup, the fizzy, citrusy drink is shaken and strained into an ice-filled Collins glass, topped with soda water and garnished with a lemon wheel.

Others -


Mumbai Monsoon

This refreshing elixir is a twist on the classic "Dark & Stormy" served at Miami Rum Fest

(Recipe courtesy of Raj Sabharwal and Amrut)

  • 1.5 oz Old Port Rum (Indian dark rum)
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Ginger syrup
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lime juice
  • Top with Ginger Beer
  • Lime wedge garnish

Prep - Add all ingredients to a crushed ice-filled mule glass or highball glass except ginger beer. Stir well. Top with ginger beer. Stir again gently.


Spicy Vodka Soda

  • 1¼ oz vodka
  • 8 oz club soda
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch jaljeera powder
  • Lemon twist garnish

Prep - Add vodka, club soda, lemon juice, and jaljeera powder to a large highball glass full of ice. Stir mixture well. Garnish lemon twist.

Note - Jaljeera powder is a spice blend that combines cumin, ginger, black pepper, mint, black salt, some dried fruit powder (either mango or some citrus zest), and cayenne. The blend of spices that we suggest may make you sweat a little more, but you’re getting toxins out of your body as you put them in. Also, these spices are great for jump-starting your metabolism.


Mumbai Mango Mojito

  • 1½ oz Malibu Coconut Rum
  • ½ ripe fresh mango
  • 4 sprigs mint
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 6 oz club soda
  • Mint sprig garnish

Prep - Muddle mango, mint, and lime juice. (Using a ripe mango adds all the sweetness of simple syrup—with added flavor.) Add rum, mix, and then pour into an ice-filled glass. Top off with club soda and squeeze of lime. Garnish mint sprig.


Cooling Calcutta

  • 1½ oz Woody Creek Distillers Organic Potato Vodka
  • 6-8 oz fresh cucumber juice
  • 2 Tbsp macerated blueberries
  • 1 pinch salt

Prep - Combine vodka and cucumber juice with ice in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well. Place blueberries at the bottom of a collins and add ingredients from shaker.

The salt in the Cooling Calcutta brings out the natural sugars of the blueberries and allows you to avoid refined or artificial sweeteners. Cucumber is a cooling fruit and has a natural, refreshing sweetness.


Rum Cola

(courtesy of Paul Pawha)

  • 1.5 oz Old Monk Dark Rum
  • fill with cola
  • squeeze of lime
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Prep - Add all ingredients to a highball glass. Stir gently. Garnish lime wedge.

Old Monk Rum is an iconic  vatted Indian dark rum. It is blended and aged for a minimum of 7 years. It is a dark rum with a distinct vanilla flavour. It is produced in all parts of India.

Paul also recommends topping a glass of beer off with a shot of good vodka.


(Photo and recipe courtesy of Yummly)

Tamarind Martini

  • 3/4 oz tamarind concentrate
  • 4 oz cold water
  • 2 oz Vodka
  • 6 Tbsp Tajin (mixture of chili powder and sugar)
  • 1 lime

Prep - In a cocktail shaker, add the tamarind concentrate, water, vodka, and ice. Shake until all the ingredients are very cold. Rim a chilled cocktail glass with lime and dip into the Tajin powder. Pour in the martini mixture in.


Watermelon Mojito

(Photo courtesy of

A cool spin on that Cuban classic, with the sweetness of watermelon balancing out the sourness of the lime, and giving a little extra body and fruity fullness to the drink.

  • 2 oz Cruzan dark or light rum
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 3 seedless watermelon cubes

Prep - Muddle watermelon and mint with simple syrup in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Add rum and lime juices and shake well with ice. Pour (without straining) into a double rocks glass.

(Photo courtesy of

Kachumber Cooler

The vegetal coolness of the cucumber came out on top, with the cilantro and chilies (these were strained out after muddling) adding intrigue without overpowering the drink in any way.

  • 2 half-inch slices of hothouse English cucumber
  • 6 leaves fresh cilantro
  • 2 quarter-inch slices of fresh green finger chili (any medium-mild chili, such as jalapeno or Anaheim can be substituted)
  • 1.5 oz Plymouth or Old Tom Gin
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup

Prep - Muddle cucumber, cilantro, simple syrup, and chili in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass until well broken and slightly mashed. Add gin and lime juice and shake vigorously. Strain into a double rocks glass, half filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

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