Mumbai's first licensed bar digs out tales from its archives to create themed cocktails that hark back to the speakeasy era
Sommelier Abhas Saxena. Pics/Atul Kamble
Back in 1933, Mumbai got its first licensed bar in the form of Harbour Bar in The Taj Mahal Palace. A far cry from the new age, EDM-churning pubs, it was a place where aristocrats, archaeologists and artists would drop in for a night of revelry, swaying to jazz and sipping on cocktails from the Prohibition era. If you're keen to take a walk down memory lane, head for Speakeasy Saturdays, a new, weekly affair that recreates the time.
Interestingly, each cocktail on the menu narrates a story. For instance, The Masci - with a base of hazelnut-infused whisky laced with spinach and mascarpone mix and Italian wine foam - is an ode to Miguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas, the legendary chef (also the five-star's first executive chef) with a flair for cooking Italian cuisine. He had a special corner at the bar, where he would taste Italian wines and American whiskies. "We had to dig into the archives to learn about the various historical events, guests and of associates, who have been a part the legacy. To create cocktails themed on them, we also had to study their preferences, which was tough to source," says sommelier Abhas Saxena.
Time: 8 pm onwards (every Saturday)
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Infused with silk-textured luxury vodka, Campari, sage and white wine reduction, pineapple juice and lime juice, the refreshing concoction is an ode to the first cabaret at the hotel, started in 1934-35 by violinist Leon Abbey and his band. "Then, tea time was not just about drinking tea but also about spiking it up by putting on your dancing shoes," Saxena reveals.
Off To The Elephants
In the 1970s, two patrons would visit the bar every evening. They were the key archaeologists responsible for the restoration of Elephanta Caves. Their never-ending conversations revealed their love for whisky and rum. To celebrate their legend, the bar has created a cocktail using Angostura 1824 rum, whisky infused with dark chocolate, peppercorn and honey syrup, angostura bitters and an orange wedge.
With a Lil Help From My Friends
This cocktail is made with an 18-year-old blended scotch whisky, star anise-infused Martini Bianco (Italian white wine), caramel and cinnamon syrup, angostura bitters and yellow Chartreuse. It's the same one that John Lennon and Yoko Ono would have during their stay at the hotel in 1968. "They never left their room through the day. Some scribbles found in the archives by John Perreira, a bartender and an Apple scruff [hardcore Beatles' fan], tell us of them enjoying this cocktail that was left outside their room every day."
The cocktail is an ode to the adjacent hotel, The Greens, where the Taj property's tower wing is located today. During World War II, aristocrats, would crowd the bar, and those who couldn't find space here, would end up at The Greens.
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