At PCO, it’s back to the future

At PCO, it’s back to the future Bar manager Vikas Kumar (C) with his award-winning team at PCO, New Delhi.

Nestled behind an unassuming white door on a busy street in Vasant Vihar is a box, with a keypad. If you know, you know.

The cocktail bar landscape of Delhi is arguably the best in the country, and if one were to trace the scene’s origins 10 years ago, the white door and the keypad become very-very important. Countless memories, a history of its own, and a huge crop of professionals trained here who, today, drive the industry forward.

Pass Code Only (PCO), New Delhi, is not any other bar. To celebrate 10 years of success, the bar launched a new cocktail menu, chronicling its history in 11 cocktails, from 2012 to 2022 with another four representing the future.

Since opening its doors, PCO has won all major food and beverage sector awards, including Best Bar in New Delhi for 6 years in a row, Bar with Best

Ambience, Best Cocktail and Best Mixologist in India.

It is consistently featured on the World’s 500 Best Bars list and has made it to the prestigious 50 Best Discovery List in 2021. PCO has also been ranked #54 on the prestigious list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, 2022.

Sitting down with Vikas Kumar, General Manager for PCO New Delhi, I had a look-see into the new menu and hear his story and take on the cocktails. Vikas started his career in 2007 and till 2012 had worn many hats, from waiting tables to being an operations manager and trainer for various outlets.

In 2012 he realised where he was, was not where he wanted to be. That’s when he decided to join Yangdup Lama’s Cocktails and Dreams Speakeasy. He joined PCO in 2014.

Under the tutelage of Yangdup, Vikas picked up his two mantras, the first being a direct quote from Yangdup: “I will not teach you anything, though you will know everything.” The other is: “The intent of knowing makes you learn.”

Rotovap fare

The new menu, as Vikas points out, uses a rotary evaporator (rotovap) as its core equipment, utilising it to create re-distilled spirits to perfectly grab the essence of each botanical that is used in the cocktails.

A rotovap is a fancy piece of equipment that helps prepare unique and concentrated flavours, allowing one to create potent essences that can add the exact flavour and aroma of a botanical into a cocktail, without any of the dilution of sugar, that any syrup or juice just cannot match.

From the menu, I tried 2016, a PCO take on the Bee’s Knees, featuring vodka re-distilled with Shiso, honey water, cinnamon, lime and home-made grapefruit bitters, a delicate and complex cocktail with a silky finish from the Shiso.

The 2015 Jungle Bird is another show-stopper, featuring house-blended rum, pineapple, honey, Peychaud’s bitters, and Campari crystals that transform the cocktail into something truly unique.

Removing the Campari from the composition makes the cocktail more approachable, while the crystals remind you of the classic’s herbaceous bitterness.

Rewind, replay

There are many more stand-outs, such as the Gin and Tea, the Boulevardier, and the Clover’s Club, to name a few of my favourites. But the real magic lies in experiencing the printed, physical menu: flipping through the pages, reading through each year’s most popular cocktails and relishing a healthy dose of member berries.

Nostalgia grips you when you see the years flip by with a blurb on the biggest happenings of the year, and you recall where you were in life in the story of each page.

A brilliant effort that stands apart as a truly thoughtful look into the past and present of the cocktail landscape, elevating classic cocktails in a delightfully modern way.

The New PCO menu is many things: foremost it’s a chronicle of how important this bar truly is. The irony is that while it has been a haven for the cocktail culture of the city for more than a decade, very few people know what hides behind that unassuming white door on that busy street in Vasant Vihar!