Hit the ji-spot
Today, the US will celebrate National Tequila Day, another of the many quirky celebrations getting coined world over. Back home, Kanika Sharma spoke to the man behind Desmondji, who makes this tipple tip in favour of India and its countless clandestine secrets
It’s because my name doesn’t sound Indian. So, Desmondji sounds funny,” were the words coming from the other end of the phone from Goa, in a deep, rich baritone. “Plus, like how all the famous brands get shortened — Kingfisher for KF, Jack Daniels for JD — I thought that Desmondji, would be DJ, having a fun and party-like connotation to it,” continued Desmond Nazareth, a person who with belief and a hunch has paved his own path through the corridors of IIT Chennai, software companies, Temple University (when he thought of filmmaking) that eventually led to an open sky with Agave plants all abound.
If your curiosity is piqued as much as ours was, let us tell you that the border state police between Andhra Pradesh and Goa still has a hard time understanding what the actual thing is. In the end, “big pineapples” is the only description that’s blurted out. Nazareth tells us that it was a plant that he grew up with during his childhood. It re-entered his life when the Mumbai boy was rummaging through the shelves of several shops in the city and found no good tequila post his return from the United States. While it was all about making cocktails and setting up a bar for his friends in the rain-drenched Mumbai, he in eight years’ time, now concocts the best Agave Spirit that can only be called Tequila by the Mexicans.
“My life is, in fact, a cocktail where an Agave was just one of the ingredients but now it has become the most prominent component,” chuckles the 56-year-old who since 2000, looks at himself as “retired” but paradoxically, is sitting on “five international projects that he hopes to seed-fund” — Desmondji being one of them. The brand currently has three kinds of liquor for a perfect aperitif — 100% Agave, 51% Agave, Margarita and Orange Liqueur.
Calling himself a “Central Government brat”, he typifies the children he grew up with as ones who are “outgoing, always interested in checking out and playing with new ideas”, while we think, maybe it was all due to travelling all over the country is the secret. Nazareth has always been conscious of producing an ostensibly Indian product with “no foreigners involved” as from the R&D, compounding and distilling the spirit to zigzagging through a bureaucratic maze (that led to one of the most outlandish things we have ever heard), the man behind the brand has done it all.
In good spirits
“So, I was trying to get a license for the spirit from a district office. He asks me what is the spirit made from. ‘Is it a fruit’ — ‘no’; ‘a vegetable’ — ‘umm…no; a plant, actually.’ Then you need to get an Ayurvedic license, pat came the reply,” chortled Nazareth, while we were busy rolling our eyes to tell how ludicrous the dusty, arcane system of ours was only best for stories. More of scotch drinkers ourselves, we kept on nudging Nazareth to think why the ostentatious spirit for shots will be a good way to wind down. Plus, the projectile emissions and throbbing hangovers have made it all the more infamous.
“If your tequila is well-made like our 100% Agave Spirit, that is to be had, on the rocks, chances of a headache are minimal. Plus, with the Mexicans being our competitors, I try to eliminate all the stuff that can cause headaches, as we would be definitely taken for fools if the Mexicans scanned through our stuff,” comments the man who brews the “waste from wasteland” spirit as Agave is commonly perceived as an unwanted plant.
Still, he disclaims, “There are many people who come and tell us that they’ve never had a hangover because of our spirit. But we can’t say anything especially if you’ve mixed it wrongly.”
Agave, any way
The “rough-and-dunk-it-down” drink can be had in a well-made Margherita, one of the primary reasons why the drink gained popularity. “You should take lime, orange liqueur and Agave Spirit to make the classic Margherita. In case, you feel for adventure, “fruit juices with a touch of lime” will work equally well,” shares he.
He feels that this century plant can give a zingy twist that the people at Desmondji call, “Bloody Maria, a take off from the tomato juice cocktail or Agavita, a twisted Mojito.”
The man with the frizzy mop shares his moment of epiphany, “I had once tried cucumber juice which had worked very well. Any water-based vegetable where you can taste all the elements distinctly will be a good option. You need to get a waft of the spicy, sweet and salty in a cocktail.” There is one more trick Nazareth is yet to pull out with his Desmondji Pure Cane fro Mumbaiites in December while his line of spirits garner much acclaim from boozers worldwide.