A quick perusal of the menu, whether at a five-star restaurant or a local watering hole points to one conclusion; there are few popular establishments that can afford to run a bar without a comprehensive selection of cocktails. Gone are the days when a one’s choices are limited to simple hard drinks, right out of the bottle. Why, even rugged red-blooded men like Hulk Hogan aren’t too shy to admit that they enjoy the occasional Pina Colada, or in George Clooney’s case, a tangy Raspberry Cheesecake.
And why would they be? Don’t let the colourful veneer and mini-umbrellas fool you; keeping aside the stereotypical effeminate rep they’ve been plagued with over the years, cocktails are not for the faint of heart. With knockout mixes like the Aunt Roberta, at a strength of 100 percent alcohol, the stigma surrounding cocktails is slowly, but surely, beginning to ebb away.
For better or for worse, Goa is widely considered as India’s hub for the finest brews and spirits in the land. People come from all parts of the country, some from beyond, to sample some home-brew Feni, a cashew or coconut-based spirit exclusive to Goa. Against the backdrop of this legacy, Goan restaurants and bars alike have developed quite the affinity for handling a variety of spirits since the very first Cosmopolitan hit the bar counters.
Beginning with a common favourite, Long Island Iced Tea has been bringing smiles to the faces of countless bar-hoppers since the early 70s, owing to the fact that many confuse this innocent-looking beverage for it’s non-alcoholic cousin or an otherwise mild drink. One sip, however, is more than sufficient to stay any such notion. This is certifiably the case for A Reverie’s personal spin on this already potent drink i.e. The Round Island Iced Tea. Staying true to its name, this version of the cocktail is indeed served in a round, globe-like goblet, with an assortment of various fruits thrown into it. As for the mix, tequila, vodka, light rum, triple sec and gin lie stealthily below its gentle amber hue. And to add a final punch to this knockout drink, five or so shots, loaded into pipettes lay plunged into this potent pool, for those who wish to take a walk on the wild side. For the rest of us mere mortals, a light splash of cola can be thrown in, turning it into the perfect cooler for those warm summer evenings. And where better to enjoy said sunny evening than on the relaxing gazebos at A Reverie, Calangute?
Nothing says suave and sophisticated like the colour black, in which case, James Bond himself may be wooed by the elegant Blackberry Flirt. A drink that can be found almost exclusively upon the round table at Arthur’s Theme, it lures in the unwary with its black-as-night appearance, then traps them with its distinctive Citrus-Spice punch. What sets the Blackberry Flirt apart, however, is not just its innovative blend, but the perfect balance of flavour that keeps it neither too sweet nor too tart; a drink truly fit for a king. Close on its heels, comes it’s polar opposite sister, the Peach Tutu. A stark contrast to its dusky sibling, this fruity, aromatic cocktail could brighten up the dullest day in a snap. Its fruit-infused flavour with hints of lime makes this drink light, breezy and refreshing; perfect for a casual summer brunch.
Elderflower Cucumber Collins, a drink traditionally fashioned from the flowers of an elderberry plant, and rumoured to have been inspired by an ancient Roman recipe, dominates the bartender’s top-ten list of cocktails at Swing, Panaji. With its captivating presentation; a cucumber slice pressed snugly against the inside of the glass, adorned with lemon slices and mint sprigs at the crown, this cocktail is guaranteed to turn heads all through the night. It isn’t just the aesthetics though; the Elderflower Collins has been fashioned to impress in every way. It’s soft, delicate nuances of flavour will keep your tongue guessing until the absolute end, and what’s more, is that Swing will let you choose your base – Gin or Vodka – but only if you ask nicely.
Watsons, Panaji, aptly referred to as “The Grub Pub” is all too well known for its slew of delectable snacks and titbits. Little known to the masses, this deceptively entertaining and homely pub dishes out some of the finest cocktails one can hope to find. Their English Summer, in particular, is one that you should make a special note of, should you ever have the pleasure of stopping by. But don’t just take our word for it; the Tanqueray No. 10 gin base, found in this English Summer, is the only gin in existence to be inducted into the San Francisco Spirits Hall of Fame. Throw in some apple Juice, lemon grass, mint cucumber syrup, lime juice, and sugar syrup, and what you get is a cocktail that’s a record-breaker in its own right.
While bringing you one of the finest five-star dining experiences in Goa, the Marriott’s own Waterfront Terrace and Bar also offers you the very best European cocktails right here on the sandy shores of Miramar. The delightful Peach Schnapps-based Bellini, named after Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini, is made with sparkling wine, traditionally Prosecco, or Champagne, depending on the occasion. While the composition of this fine concoction may seem basic, like most things in life, a Bellini is all about balance. It’s elegant, simple composition makes it the perfect light-bodied drink for a brunch or a lazy day at the beach.
On a similar note, the good people at A Reverie are no stranger to the Bellini. In fact, to simply make one like all the rest would be a cardinal sin to their Chef de Cuisine, Aakritee Bhandari. Engineered using molecular gastronomy, the Bellini found at their bar looks like something from a different realm and its taste is out of this world. While the traditional method of preparing this cocktail involves pouring peach syrup into Champagne or Prosecco, A Reverie takes it a step further by capturing peach essence into tiny ball-like capsules and suspending them within the drink. The sheer joy of experiencing these textures interact within such a simple cocktail, coupled with the tiny peach explosions amidst the light and breezy Champagne base makes the Bellini at A Reverie one that we won’t soon forget.
Luxurious cottages, MasterChef-level cuisine and a beach sunset to die for; how could Antares possibly get any better? A pitcher from their versatile bar could have you believing in the impossible. A classic, The Bloody Mary, quite unlike the night-time horror story, is a sure way to liven up any party. While a considerable amount of variation in the drink’s construction and presentation is almost expected, depending on the maker, the general idea behind it remains the same. With all but the kitchen sink thrown into variations of this “Hair of the Dog” drink over the generations, the sky is the limit as far as the Bloody Mary is concerned. The variant presented by Antares includes the quintessential vodka and tomato juice along with healthy measures of Worcestershire, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, celery, olives, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and celery salt. While that daunting list of ingredients might have you worried, never fear; this tricky mix is also widely considered an effective hangover cure.
Antares, the pride of Sarah Todd and Ashish Kapur of Whiskey Samba in Delhi, would be incomplete without margaritas, one of the most popular cocktails in America, on their menu. A simple Margarita, however, would be simply too passé for a seasoned restaurateur like this. For that reason, Antares is one of the few places in Goa where one can find the elusive Strawberry Basil Margarita. To describe this fruity masterpiece as ‘good’ would almost be an insult to its true magnificence. Containing strawberry, tequila, lime juice, basil and Triple Sec, the Strawberry Margarita is sure to put a delightful spin on any hot summer day. The advantage it holds over the average margarita lies in the tangy strawberry and its acidity, which balances out the tequila beautifully, while the lime juice keeps it light and refreshing.
And speaking of refreshing, a fresh Spicy Mango may be just what the doctor ordered for those days when you can’t be bothered to step out in the scorching sun. Catering beautifully to Goan taste buds, Antares whips this unforgettable cocktail together using vodka, mango juice and lime, laced with hints of green chilli, to a create a lip-smacking cooler that keeps you coming back for more. The strength of this drink lies greatly in its wide spectrum of flavours and textures, spanning from the playful mango to a zesty chilli. Without question, such an edgy concoction should be attempted by none but the most skilful bartenders and Antares certainly makes the cut.
In the end, while many factors contribute to its preparation, what defines a great cocktail is not just what goes into it, but what comes from it. With each passing year, cocktails continue to break societal stereotypes, cross cultural barriers and break the ice between people across the world every day. Beyond the facade of exciting flavours and new experiences, millions of people owe a crazy story or two to the revolution that is cocktails, and the world is that much a merrier place for it.