Ever wondered how to turn your favourite fruit, vegetable or ingredient into a delicious cocktail? We did just that with ‘Create Your Poison’, a workshop curated by Delhi Walk Festival in association with Vijay Prakash, Head Mixologist and Drinks Curator of Impresario (North & East) – the man behind the 'spirits' at Social and Smoke House Deli.
Once we arrived at South Delhi’s Green Park market, 20 of us got divided into four groups.
No two friends could be in the same group. Each group was then assigned a category – fruits; vegetables; tea/coffee, chocolates and herbs; and if you fell in the last group, you could pick anything. The winning cocktail would be a part of Social’s menu in Delhi, making us vie for the right ingredients all the more.
But, what's the right ingredient? No one knew. The only instruction given was to pick them up in 15 minutes from the nearby shops and vendors. At time of registration itself, we'd been told we'll have to pay for the ingredients ourselves.
Our group landed in the fruit category. So we decided to pick out the juiciest and most flavoursome ones to ensure our cocktail turns out delectable. We wanted to win! After pondering over pomegranate for colour and custard apple for texture, we unanimously decided to stick to conventional ones like grapes, grapefruit, kiwis and plums because we didn't want chance landing up with a flavour people wouldn't take to. Meanwhile, the vegetable group had picked beetroot, carrot, radish, parsley, starfruit, avocado and lemon; the third group purchased a cup hot coffee, organic green and black tea, some flowers as well as dark and milk-based chocolates; and the last group that could fetch anything returned with rose petals, star anise, fennel seeds, sweet potato...what a varied mix!
At the Hauz Khas Social, tables were set MasterChef style; only here we were to don the mixologist's hat. Each group's ingredients were examined; most got rejected for being too conventional. But every weird combination was accepted – Prakash likes them challenging and is always looking out for something different. Interestingly, he doesn't drink except for tasting his experiments.
Armed with our friends for the evening – the chopping board, knife, shaker, strainer, bar spoon, muddler and a measuring device called jigger – we were set to shake and stun. Whenever a group fell short of ingredients, Prakash would provided them with inhouse ingredients, be it a fresh cup of hot coffee, mint leaves or crushed ice. He emphasised on being careful when muddling – too little force won't allow the flavour to come out and too much of it might turn it into a dominant flavour that may not work either. Equally important is straining the drink, you don't want pulp or seeds going into anyone's mouth. In fact, he also let out his damage-control magic potion – a sweet and sour syrup of “granulated sugar, fresh orange juice, fresh lime juice, some water, fresh grapefruit juice and a touch of grape juice blended and refrigerated for a week before using”.
While fruit-based cocktails are quite popular and baileys is known too, the drinks that stole the show were ‘The Chai Party’ (prepared using organic tea), Hot Shoddy (prepared with spices) and ‘Sabji Mandi’ (prepared using vegetables). By the end we were amazed to see how green tea was given an alcoholic twist and how the awful smelling vegetable juice turned into a delicious drink that Prakash chose as winner.
*'Sabji Mandi' will be available at Hauz Khaas Social mid-December onwards.
The Winning Concoction: Sabji Mandi
Ingredients: Red radish, beetroot, ramphal, parsley, celery, carrot, cointreau, gin.
Method: Take a cocktail shaker and add chopped parsley, celery sticks, sliced carrot, sliced red radish, diced beetroot, sliced ramphal and muddle them. Add sweet and sour syrup, ice cubes and shake hard. Strain and pour into a glass filled with crushed ice and then add gin and Cointreau. And there's your sabji mandi.
Always use fresh ingredients.
Don’t use artificial flavours or syrups as one can taste that.
Don't be afraid to experiment, try and combine new flavours.
Try and add healthy elements.
Don’t overdo it with the liquor, balance is the key!