While Indians willing to experiment with exotic flavors still prefer drinks with an Indian touch, even if that means an unconventional cocktail of Scotch whiskey and Darjeeling tea, says an international whiskey expert.
“A cocktail made by mixing whiskey with tea is fast catching on in India. I was quite surprised when I noticed this because Indians already drink a lot of tea here, so I thought they wouldn’t like this kind of cocktail. But I think they like the Indian touch in their drinks,” says whiskey expert Stephen Marshall.
India is one of the largest consumers of whiskey in the world, consuming around 120 million cases annually.
After tasting the best of the spirits from across the country, the Scottish connoisseur, who is also the global brand ambassador for Dare Whisky, says this combination is one of his favourites.
To make the cocktail, first flush two pegs of chilled Darjeeling tea with one peg of whiskey. Sugar syrup or honey is added to taste, before being topped with lots of ice and mint.
“The combo gives an amazing taste. It makes for a fresh, daytime drink,” Marshall said during a recent visit to the city.
“The trick to combining different things with whiskey is to make them taste good together. Tea has a strong flavor of its own that works with whiskey.”
With many defined flavors that can range from quite mild to very strong, smoky and very heavy, Scotch whisky, however, has not traditionally been used for cocktails.
“But there are many ways to drink whiskey. Cocktails can also be made with soft drinks, ginger, beer, etc.,” says Marshall.
After conducting tasting and blending sessions with whiskey aficionados in cities like Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi, the expert says the preferences of Indian drinkers have matured over the years.
“I first came here in 2006 and the taste has changed a lot since then. Now people are keen to find different flavors. I’ve been to some of the best bars in the country and met the best bartenders and everyone is experimenting,” he noted.
In favor of blended malt whiskeys over traditional single malts, Marshall says blends take the best of single malts to enhance their flavor.
“Why settle for a single one when you’ve got so many of them? Blenders take the best of single malt and sell it after making it better,” opines the expert.
Blended whiskey is made from a blend of multiple malts and grains, while single malt is made from a single distillery.
“Mixing whiskey takes a lot of skill because the goal is to get the same final taste,” he says while rejecting the perception of whiskey as stuffy and an old man’s drink.
“Whiskey is about enjoying yourself and enjoying life. It’s a perfect social lubricant because it encourages you to talk while drinking,” he said.
Whisky, often seen as a serious drink for older men because of the subtlety and depth associated with it, forms the lion’s share of the country’s Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) market.
Yet vodka is fast becoming the tipple of choice in pubs and lounges as Gen-X sees the alcoholic drink as trendy and fashionable.