Picture this: a beautiful courtyard in South Bombay’s Race Course on a bright sunny day in late February 2019. The cool shade of giant old trees sheltered a collection of the finest small batch, artisan distilleries from around the world.
And an ice-cream cart. Wait, what? An ice-cream cart?! It is exactly this emotion – 2 parts surprise, 1 part joy – that made Sucres Des Terres ice-cream cart at the Vault Biennale such a memorable collaboration.
Before we get into the magical day that we decided to re-interpret classic gin cocktails as ice-creams, let us step back and look at the origins of Sucres Des Terres, the artisan ice-creamery that many consider to be South Bombay’s best kept secret.
When we moved back to India, we heard it all. “It will never work,” they said. “India is not Switzerland,” others pointed out. “The produce isn’t as good, and the customers aren’t the same,” yet many others reminded us.
But we refused to listen. We continued to dream – of beautiful ice-creams, as good as the best luxury confectionary anywhere in the world.
The produce in India has always been outstanding. And the Indian palette is well travelled and discerning. It is us, the purveyors of fine foods, who need to change. And so we began our journey to extract the finest Sucres Des Terres (Sugars Of The Earth ).
Partners & collaborators
Collaborations quickly became an increasingly important part of how we engaged with our customers. And the start of this journey was as dessert consultants to Bombay Canteen.
The experience opened our eyes to the fact that there is a massive opportunity to work with restaurants as ice-cream partners. We use the word ‘partners’ because that’s how we work best.
As sounding board for dessert concepts – adding ice-cream components that elevate the entire dessert. Lal Mirch ice-cream with a Guava Tarte Tartin. Goat cheese ice-cream with a Malpua. Salted caramel ice-cream with a coffee Rasgulla…
Over the years, our partner programme has grown significantly and we work with some of the best restaurants in Mumbai, including Thai Pavillion, Gustoso and Uno Mas. We have had a partnership in Indore and will be launching our first partnership in Delhi very soon.
Knowing our love for engaging with like-minded brands, Keshav Prakash – the eclectic and uber-creative founder of Vault – stopped by the creamery. He talked us through his vision of a well curated exhibition of fine spirits, the likes of which India had never seen before.
Small distilleries, where personal attention to every single detail creates magic. Many of these are family owned. Many are multi-generational.
Provenance is of utmost importance. This ‘Biennale’ sounded like heaven on earth. And then the idea – what if we collaborated with some of these spirits to create something truly special?
We spent days talking through what this collaboration would look like. We finally settled on a concept that was beautiful in its simplicity: three classic gin cocktails, interpreted as ice-creams!
However, the simplicity of the concept masked the complexity of process. Ice-cream in itself is a delicate balancing act. Sugar, texture, flavour and temperature – each element pulls the product in different directions. Yet somehow in the end they come together as a perfect symphony.
Throw alcohol into this mix and the equation is turned upside down. It took months of development and countless trials, but eventually we were ready to go!
Collaborations such as this – where, at a single event, one can work with such an incredible group of brands – requires stars to be aligned in a way that they rarely are.
But this also sparked a host of other exciting partnerships. This summer we had a pop up at Nicobar’s Kala Ghoda store with a menu inspired by the tropics. There are a number of partnerships at the concept or development stage, some of which should materialise in early 2020.
No matter how much we grow, we will always have a special place in our heart for that magical day in February where, surrounded by the most special small batch artisan spirits from around the world, the Sucres Des Terres ice-cream cart re-imagined three classic gin cocktails as ice-creams.
The first of the gin cocktails was a Negroni. Freshly squeezed Malta orange and Campari formed the base of the sorbet. This was infused with Mancino Rosso, a small-batch Italian vermouth.
Each scoop was sprayed with Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin as it was served. Bathtub Gin is known for its distinctively heavy taste of orange peel, which is why the act of “spraying” the Bathtub Gin as a garnish felt so appropriate!
A classic sugar cone would not work – neither as a flavour nor as a visual. So we continued the Italian theme by serving it on an activated charcoal and parmesan cone.
The next cocktail was a Dirty Martini. With its olive-forward flavour, Gin Mare was always going to be the perfect option. But of course, Gin Mare also has a very strong association with the Mediterranean coast.
So we came up with the idea of an olive and rosemary sorbet diving into a sea of Gin Mare. This was executed as a mini scoop of ice-cream placed on top of a mini shot glass filled with Gin Mare.
As the sorbet melted slightly, it slid into the shot glass, just as you would dive off your boat if you were out in the sea.
Finally we need to have a classic Gin & Tonic. The collaboration over here was with the delicious Fentiman’s tonic. Fentiman’s Connoisseurs Tonic is so subtle it allows the gin to be the hero of the beverage.
So, in order to showcase the tonic, we had to make the gin so mild that it allowed the tonic to be the hero. We did that by removing the alcohol altogether.
The tonic was infused with juniper berries and other botanicals like Kafir Lime Leaves and Lemongrass to bring out the delicate notes of the Tonic Water.
The end result is not a glass of Gin & Tonic (G&T), but rather a popsicle of Juniper & Tonic (J&T).