A sip of nostalgia: This signature ' Arq' takes you down the memory lane
As you sip the cocktails in Sidecar’s very Darjeeling-esque interiors, you can’t help but remember simpler times—less fancier, perhaps, but simpler.
I kicked off this week’s Monday in no less than a full-blown Friday mood. Sidecar, ranked as Asia’s 18th best bar for this year, played host for us, for its new signature menu—beautifully named Arq.
Arq means elixir—an undefined something that gives you the wind beneath your wings. For Sidecar, helmed by the legendary Yangdup Lama, its founders, drew their own arq for the word, describing it in the menu, as an attempt “to bottle the rush we feel when we encounter a familiar scent.”
All of this eloquence translates tangibly into the cocktails on this very special menu—which includes Cilantro, Gondhoraj and Cacao. Each item on this menu pays homage to the Indian kitchen, driving home the flavours and aromas that we’ve grown up with. For instance, Cilantro is a tequila-based cocktail based on tomato, coriander, chilli and the fat extracted from the quintessential lassi.
As you sip the cocktails in Sidecar’s very Darjeeling-esque interiors, you can’t help but remember simpler times—less fancier, perhaps, but simpler. The new cocktail menu harks back to such times, and as a result, really showcases the immense capabilities that a wholesome, thought-evoking bar can today offer. If you’ve been to Sidecar, this wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Some of the pioneering bar’s epic menus have included ‘Dear Delhi’—an homage from the bar’s proprietors to the city they’ve grown up in, the city that we’ve all come to love despite its many flaws. As epicureans, such cocktails transcend what we’d come to expect from an evening of revelry—instead of being just-drinks to keep you company, they draw your attention to the drink itself.
While Lama is hailed as a visionary by most, what his (and his team’s) menu does is also inspire you to remember flavours and smells that you may have forgotten. Most of us from middle-class India have grown up to strong smells from the kitchen—driven by the fresh grinding of spices and the consequent aromas.
This gives Delhi’s already-lively bar market a quaint makeover. While we have a particular proclivity for quirky aesthetics, an increasing number of Delhi’s headlining bars feature cocktails that find inspiration from the nearly-nothing moments of life. At Loya, the speciality restaurant at Taj Palace, head mixologist Dilbar Singh Rawat’s cocktail programme features the Masala Whiskey—a blend of spices that gel perfectly with India’s favourite brown alcohol. There’s also Mulethi—a concoction that offers a gin in very Indian flavours.
Then, there’s the inimitable Rick’s—a bar that gives you the unmistakable vibe of Elvis Presley or Clint Eastwood just having been there. Here, you get the Bombay Blazer—a Mumbai-inspired gin that’s fruity, spicy and sprinkled with herbs, too. Another such instance lies in Gurugram’s The Drunken Botanist—which serves the classic pina colada with its twist, under the guise of Mysore Colada.
All of this showcases exactly how big an impact India’s leading bartenders are making by finding flavours and inspirations in our very own kitchens. Not only are our flavours finding a place in pristine crystal decanters and highball glasses, but we’re steadily finding a place at even the most upmarket bars for some of our most familiar flavours.
Why, though, are we suddenly doing this? After all, most of us, by now, have a favourite drink or two—and there will always be a place for classics and their variations such as the million different takes on the whiskey sour, the martini and the Cosmopolitan. The answer lies here and beyond.
You see, as bartenders evolve in their experiences, we’re increasingly finding ways to merge global favourites with our taste buds. Even in urban hubs, while we continue to find increasing refuge in global flavours, there is impeccable nostalgia that rises out of flavours and aromas from our childhood kitchens. Add to that a bar, which is an increasingly emotional space—it is where patrons speak easily, letting down their inhibitions and fatigue for a few minutes of respite.
Perhaps this is why the name Arq resonates perfectly with what Sidecar and a host of others set out to do with its new signature menu. With drinks that urge you to savour your favourite cocktails with a rather different twist, you would never really mind celebrating the Friday mood—even if it is
on a Monday.
Vernika Awal is a food writer who is known for her research-based articles through her blog ‘Delectable Reveries’