And All That Jazz
By Pallavi Rebbapragada | Published: 22nd December 2013 06:00 AM |
The First World War had ended and the sombre spell of guts and glory was fading away from American imagination. Inside Wall Street, yuppies in pinstripes made the bulls dance to the waver of a red rag and those outside, roared and roared in cheer. In the least colloquial way possible, F Scott Fitzgerald described this state of affairs as the jazz age. Almost a century later, on the other edge of the world, Yangdup Lama is feeling the jazz age. After being behind the (more desirable) bars for nearly two decades, he now serves up prohibition-era cocktails at his own speakeasy Cocktails & Dreams that was launched earlier this year. Here, his take on the gin-soaked classics serve as the pride of an exhaustive cocktail menu.
There’s Uncle Sam, of the gin and vermouth fame, which is improvised with a grapefruit wedge and served in frappe form. The Thunderclap, that was originally just whiskey and gin, is spruced up ‘resin infused rum’. The gin and ginger ale Foghorn comes sprinkled with gingerbread juice and the Mint Julep is available in both gin and whisky versions. “This is the age of molecular mixology, bars are equipped with mixing tools to enhance flavours. While the spirit (both liquor and state of mind) remains the same, the taste is a tad more effervescent”. So says the man who has been trained by International bartender Laval Lim Hon of the Waikiki Cocktail Bar in Majorca, Spain and runs a molecular mixology school at his speakeasy.
His speakeasy belongs to an age when radio broadcasts were a first; they flashed something bright and alien across the airways. Then, swinging to a blitzkrieg of trumpets, flutes, drums and bass, was a generation of daydreamers. Men in waxed moustaches stretched their suspenders and flung their fedoras. Women, freed off the last vestiges of Edwardian conduct ventured out unchaparoned, in receding necklines, low-waist dresses; rolled-up stockings and feathered hair-dos were a common sighting. Right through the 20s, liquor trade was prohibited by law, making it an evermore exciting idea. The children of the superpower had chosen to be frivolous, to be submitted to a nothingness of song and dance. Those more prosperous than the others had champagne stockpiled in cellars, which were poured out into crystal saucers, every other night. Others frequented what were called speakeasy bars. As evident from the name, these were unlicensed, hidden from the whip of authority; often buried in basements and camouflaged inside brick-and-steel buildings.
The contextualisation of the era is befitting. Wait-staff dressed retro in berets, suspenders, polka dots do the rounds and the walls are etched out with graphics, the largest one being Louis Armstrong’s take on jazz. Pinned around everywhere are sketches of alcohol trading folk who were then called Bootleggers & Moonshiners and newspaper headlines announcing the lifting of the ban on prohibition. Of course, the bar is an underground space withdrawn from the world just like its famed American counterparts.
Thank god, the Indian cocktail sensibility evolved from baby umbrellas, if there’s ice for summer, there’s fire for winter and Lama can play with it. He flambés the rims of glasses and flames up the surfaces of spirits to bring in the heat, even the ingredients are warming agents. There’s Hot Apple Cider spiked with rum, seasoned with cinnamon and served with hot apple juice. The Hot Ginger Toddy is rum based, with ginger bread infused in warm lime water; the ginger juliens thrown in this opens up choked throats like nothing else does. As expected, there’s Irish Coffee that’s the usual double-espresso-cream floating in Irish whiskey and Mexican Coffee that is a strong black coffee humanised by coffee liqueur and single cream. For the tea-totaller, there’s Winter Warmth, a green tea infusion with kaffir lime and a shot of blended scotch.
Oh sure, Delhi doesn’t indulge in New York’s grey afternoons and bashful winter drizzles; one can always throw in a cocktail or two and get with the jazz age already.
Price: Rs 395 per drink, plus tax
Address: Cocktail & Dreams, SCO 23, Sector 15, Part 2, Gurgaon