Bengaluru’s Single-Spirit Bars
Prashant Rao carefully measures 60 ml of Glenfiddich 12 YO and pours it into a glass. Next, he adds four drops of flavour and 6 ml of honey that has been spiced with black pepper and cinnamon. He then adds a dash of orange bitter. A thorough shake later, he pours out the drink into a cocktail glass with something approaching reverence and places it in front of me. Picking up the glass, I sniff and take a tentative sip. Swirling it in my mouth, I feel the heat of the Scotch and the spices, and under that, the cool notes of honey. My eyes close for just a moment, as I savour the contrasting flavours. Opening my eyes, I find Prashant waiting to see what I make of the drink. I nod at him slowly, as my smile broadens. It was indeed a great drink. This was my introduction to Dufftown Confluence, one of the smoothest whiskey cocktails I have had. It is the first of the few concoctions Prashant serves me that evening as part of his signature experience called Whiskey Flight. I go on to taste the Glenfiddich Project XX, Glenfiddich IPA (both these coming from the brand’s Experimental Series), Kirin Fuji-Sanroku and Amrut Peated Single Malt. I am at The Collection, a bar dedicated to Scotch and single malts. Located in the plush confines of the Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru, it is one of the exclusive single-spirit bars that have emerged in Bengaluru in the past year. And Prashant is assistant outlet manager at the hotel and the resident expert on whiskey. Single-spirit bars are a recent phenomenon in Bengaluru. They, unlike regular bars, shine the light on just one spirit — such as whiskey, rum or vodka. They cater to those who love a particular spirit and enjoy spending a few hours savouring its delights.
Single-spirit bars are meant for connoisseurs — those with an evolved, curious and well-travelled palate for drink. Regular bars are high on the breadth of spirits offered, but low on depth. At single-spirit bars, it is quite the opposite. You take a particular spirit and dive deep into it. So, you can choose from a fine list of brands (including exotic labels that are rarely found in India) and unusual cocktails. In the process, you are able to take in the rich stories and legends that accompany iconic labels — something that does not happen in a regular bar. Sandeep Arora, India’s pioneering spirits ambassador and consultant to several liquor brands, feels that the time has come for single-spirit bars in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. However, he adds that it is important to choose a spirit for which there is a large enough market. Also, a bar like this should have a compelling proposition for guests that is different from what regular bars offer. “Only then will guests keep coming back to it and bring their friends too,” he says. Samar Singh Sheikhawat, business consultant and former CMO, United Breweries Limited, says that many such bars exist abroad, where the alcoholic beverages market is more sophisticated, stratified and nuanced than in India. “But in India, it is a nascent trend,” he adds. In a city that is awash with pubs, breweries and regular bars, single-spirit bars stand out as wonderful oddities. Perhaps, they signal the beginning of a shift in people’s palate for drinks; a small set of people seem to be ready for a more nuanced and deeper appreciation of alcoholic beverages. It will be interesting to watch this phenomenon evolve over the next few years. Should you fancy a visit to a single-spirit bar in Bengaluru, you could choose from these three.
This bar at the Four Seasons offers several of the best Scotch and single malt brands. Its selection of labels stands at 58 and is likely to go up very soon. Gargi Guha, director of public relations at the Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru, says, “The Collection offers whiskey lovers a distinctive experience that goes beyond the drink to include multi-sensory stimulation — in the form of stories, music and rich conversations.” A corner has been dedicated to Whiskey Flights of the kind I described earlier. A square table that can seat four is the centrepiece of the experience, as Prashant opens a series of bottles for you to savour. After introducing each whiskey to your palate through a small sampler, he prepares an interesting cocktail based on that whiskey — before moving on to the next. Whiskey Flights are offered with different sets of brands. Guests can choose the particular set they want to enjoy. From time to time, the bar hosts experiential tasting sessions, where the music and stories flow as smoothly as the whiskies being served.
The Collection, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru at Embassy ONE, 8, Bellary Road, Ganganagar, Bengaluru. Phone: 080 – 4522 2222
Gin Garden at URU
Brewpark URU Brewpark is a multi-faceted outlet enclosing different kinds of spaces within its premises. Apart from the microbrewery and main bar, there is a coffee lounge and interestingly, a gin garden. Karthik Chandrasekaran, designated partner at URU, got the idea for the gin garden from a tour of distilleries in Scotland. “The green, garden-like setting of many distilleries there led me to think that we could offer a similar place in Bengaluru. And gin being considered an afternoon drink, I thought it would go well with the mild weather in this city,” says Karthik. With stout trees lending shade, pebbled stones and easy seating on repurposed wooden benches, the garden is a great setting to enjoy a few drinks in. The bar has been set up under a pretty canopy and is backed by a herb wall that supplies herbs for cocktail infusions. URU’s Gin Garden aims to ride on the popularity that this drink is regaining in the metros of India, mirroring the global trend. Karthik and his team intend to break the stereotype (prevalent in India) that gin is a woman’s drink. Indeed, the gin garden is their way of throwing open the doors to the beautiful world of gin and inviting the city to partake of its delights. They have hit upon an interesting inducement to do so — DIY cocktails. Guests can choose the gin brand, tonic and herbs they want in their cocktail. The bartender then makes them the drink, adding bitters and garnish to the mix. Karthik is of the opinion that many of the guests who visit URU Brewpark primarily for beer or other spirits, would discover the gin garden and chalk it up for their next visit.
The Gin Garden, URU Brewpark, Maratt Estate, Bannerghatta Main Rd, J. P. Nagar Phase 4, Bengaluru. Phone: 080 – 40511500
RumBah is dedicated to rum, the rich-bodied brew that evokes sailors, pirates and calypso beats. Think of it as a luxury tavern that serves rum. India has a large number of rum drinkers, no doubt; but mostly, they know rum as Old Monk and Bacardi. RumBah attempts to change this. The bar wants to bring some of the most storied labels from across the world, like Diplomático, Kraken, Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Rum, Cacique Ron Anejo and Chairman’s Reserve White Label. And then, there is a whole world of rum-based cocktails that award-winning mixologist Gaurav Dhyani and his team will help you explore. Amitabh Rai, general manager at The Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, where RumBah is located, knows that rum has not received its due in the luxury bars of India. He is trying to change that. “We want to show that rum can indeed give people a sophisticated and varied drinking experience,” he says. With its low seating and easy-flowing music, the 60-cover RumBah is a cozy and somewhat informal place. Be sure to try some of their sparkling cocktails such as Midnight Maitai, Dark and Stormy, Lavender Delight and Fog Cutter. RumBah could well be the place you celebrate at, when you seal your next business deal or snap up a promotion at work.
RumBah, The Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, 99, Residency Road, Bengaluru. Phone: 080 – 49148000