Desi-cate your drink, you say? Your wish is my command – the following bars ain’t even Indian, but the listed libations all offer more than a snifter of the subcontinent in every single sip; laced with liquor, spice and all things nice. Scroll down, order in, drink up.
There’s something deliciously bizarre about architectural salvage specialist LASSCO’s bazaar-like Ropewalk property, where Disappearing Dining Club is newly in charge of top-notch private dining and where Jerome Slesinski commands a concise cocktail list which includes the sandalwood-infused Chandan Box (£9.50). Combining rye, oloroso sherry, and Carpan antica, this perfumed number is potent enough to make you attempt to buy the table you’re tippling at. Lucky, then, that all the fixtures and fittings are for sale.
Powder Keg Diplomacy is a similarly stimulating space, where bartenders make bathtub spirits, vegetable-based tinctures, and great conversation. A Mexican in Bombay (£10) takes tequila as its base, dry curacao adds citrus and smoothness, lime livens things up, and a curry, agave and lager reduction brings in a spot of spice in a most novel manner.
Drinking at Cahoots is a hoot – this bar is below Kingly Court off Carnaby Street, styled as an abandoned tube station where one can enjoy a foray back to the forties when war was over and spirits were high. The Spicy Rupee (£9) introduces India to an otherwise brilliantly British menu – mixing vanilla vodka with lime juice, elderflower cordial and a sweet’n’spicy dash of honey and chilli.
It might be located in a street where the concentration of curryhouses is high, but the name of Brick Lane bar Apples & Pears comes from the Cockney rhyming slang for ‘stairs’. Here, the spicy scents in the surrounding area seem to have inspired several of the trademark tipples – there’s garam masala caramel in both the signature Apples & Pears (£9) and peanut’n’rum Mr. Tom’s Nuts (£9); and clove and nutmeg syrup joins Jura Superstition whisky and a wee dram of Drambuie in the Rusty Collins (£9).
Just around the corner in Hackney Road is drinkerie-cum-art gallery The Looking Glass Cocktail Club, where you’ll find yourself glancing over a menu which includes The Gryphon (£10). Sour, tequila-based, laced with saffron and cumin liqueurs, and finished with cinnamon dust, this long libation is a must.
Cooling, cleansing cardamom gets fruity with fresh mango in Rum Kitchen’s Twixt Golden Jaguar (£9.50), in which a potent potion of India’s national fruit, El Dorado 5, lemon and sugar is crowned with golden cardamom foam. For a more fruity experience which showcases the same spice, check out the The Cocktail Trading Company‘s Brick Lane branch, where there’s a light’n’aromatic Apairoteef (£9) comprising pear-cardamom infusion, pisco, white balsamic and sparkling wine, with a set of solid white chocolate dentures in its depths.
If you like things a bit more bitter, head for boundary-pushing bar Nightjar. Anyone who’s encountered karela will know its trademark taste only too well – and will understand that it’s makes a brilliant bitters. In the Honey Smash served here, a few drops add an edge to an already-unlikely amalgamation of ingredients, joining honey-d Jack Daniels, ginger wine, lemon, bee pollen, watermelon, spearmint and elderflower.
Palate well and truly whetted? Go forth and embark on a spicy, spirited adventure – just don’t drink them all in one night.
- To read about classic Indian drinks, click here
- To read about wine in Pondicherry, click here
- To read about more ways to spice up March, click here
Lead image courtesy of The Cocktail Trading Company