People often ask me how I create new cocktails. What is my inspiration, and how many times do I have to try an idea before I succeed? Is there a method to the madness? Absolutely!
Is it always an exercise? Absolutely not! It is a magical hot pot of thought, synergy, inspirations and pops of visions that refuse to dislodge. It’s a multi-sensory journey to and from, which at some point comes together cohesively after a lot of brain-storming with oneself.
It also conjures up a series of little images, almost like a burst on a reel, of all your permutations and combinations.
When I plan a menu, my first thoughts are the name of the outlet, its ideology, the cuisine and the target audience. Each of these point me in a direction from where to reach for flavours, spirits and style.
The name allows me to play with either the meaning, or versions of it, incorporating them into the types of drinks. The ideology and target audience gives me inputs on focusing on categories that will work well.
The cuisine inspires flavours and accents that complement or contrast the chef’s creations. Finally, ensuring all the elements come together with a synergy that is a distinctive part of the whole.
As simple as it may sound, it is quite often a challenging process. Yet, it’s exciting. When the final presentation brings “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from the audience, you know that it was all worth it.
Picking spice and umami and balancing it with sweet, tart, fresh or deep, enveloped by the right spirits to create a series of sips that delight, can be quite a task. It is one’s ability to find nuances, understand flavours and know the heart of each bottle in the bar that allows a menu to shine.
Inspiration comes from everything around us – walking through the aisles of a supermarket or gourmet store, peeking into the glass display of a patisserie, shelves of every kind of chocolate, a dessert you ate, and (in my case) everything from popcorn to paan!
I remember my first Marmalade Martini with hot buttered toast, the Caramel Popcorn Martini after a night at the movies, the Bounty Lassi and Chocolate & Peanut Butter Shake, The Cucumber and Wasabi Sour, Cucumber & Curry Leaf Lemonade, Thai Gimlet, Passion & Chilli Pisco Sour…. Even a delicious Holi Hai with rum or whiskey and Thandai with slivers of almonds and mini jalebis!
Sometimes it’s a lot of hard work, other times the vision just stares at you till you pour it into the right glass – and voila!
Did I need to write a recipe and try it a million times till it was perfect? No. It begins with a vision in your mind from the ideas that are floating around. Then you work backwards from your vision. The glass tells you the size of the drink – is it a Martini, a Sour, a Sling, an Old Fashioned?
The flavours determine the style – fresh and fruity, dark and deep, umami, spicy. Which then decide the quantities and proportions of spirit to mixers or enhancers.
You then taste the flavours you envisioned side by side in your mind, and that will give you the final recipe and profile. You now have your drink, exactly as you had visualised it. You saw it, you worked around the visual, you made it, it’s just like it should be.
Life’s like that too. If you can see it, you can get there. You just have to work at it and walk the path that will lead you there. You simply need to want it badly enough. That’s all it takes.
For you will then do everything in your power to make it happen, Remember that only you have the power to determine your destiny. You are the driver, you are the block. If you believe implicitly in your ability to achieve, you will.
A very wise man (Dr. APJ Kalam) once said, “Dreams are not those that you see in your sleep. Dreams are those that do not let you sleep until you have found a way to achieve them.”
I got there. So can you. I’m still seeing into the future and walking towards it, determined. Live your dream. Let it be real. Be Unstoppable!