Keshav Prakash raises his glass for his new brick-and-mortar tasting studio set to launch soon
Spirits guru Keshav Prakash on building a new brick-and-mortar tasting studio in SoBo for the well-travelled connoisseurs
We are hanging out by the bar at The A, a private members club on the eighth floor of One India Bulls Centre. The Speakeasy Bar within has a hidden entrance, replete with dim lights, brick walls and leather furniture and is literally Lower Parel's towering secret.
Keshav Prakash, dressed in an indigo linen suit with a silver broach, a juniper sprig from his recent induction to the Gin Guild, asks the server to fold a strip of cucumber around the inner lining of a glass and drops three ice cubes into it. He hands us a bottle of Martin Miller's Gin and a 30-60 ml peg measure. He guides us to fill the 60 ml cup to brim and pour it into the glass. "Now, top it up with tonic water, carefully in equal measure. This is the game changer, as tonic water can easily overpower your drink. When you try this at home, you can replace your cucumber slice with a slice of orange, bay leaf, kaffir lime and even basil leaves," he explains, offering us our cocktail.
Prakash, a former adman and co-founder of four-year-old The Vault - a whisky-centric, import house representing over 30 small and independent distillers from around the world - is all set with his plan of a brick-and-mortar that will lock a space at South Mumbai once it hits its first 100 members.
Conceptualised as a co-founded project, the aim of the tasting studio is to curate experiences for the well-travelled connoisseurs with handcrafted and handpicked single malts, rums, cognac, gins and other fine spirits by independent producers from across the world. The membership is valid for the life of the project and can be transferred via the management for a fee, that applies at the time of transfer.
The Early Bird Founding Membership one-time fee starts at R2.5 lakh for the first 50 members. "Think of a space where you can walk in to have a conversation around spirits, meet like-minded people and have an expert who exposes you to spirits from all over the world. It is a community house for people who celebrate spirits, like whiskies," says Prakash.
Every founding member will have access to a vault, which can hold up to four bottles, with their name on it. "The spirits will be custom imported for the club, more unusual things not commercially viable outside," says Prakash, adding that the studio, which will function as a proper bar, will see events, visiting masters, high-end mixology by consultants from top bars of the world.
He points out that the tasting studio is not a members' club and will function like a regular bar. "In ethos and experience, it will be a place for serious spirit-centric conversations; but I promise it will be fun and not geeky," says Keshav.
So, if you're looking at enrolling, be promised to a range of mezcals, hard to find vermouths, armagnac, calvados and liqueurs. The legwork, Prakash admits, has been enjoyable. "I visited almost 20 of the world's 50 best bars to understand what sets them apart. I have been impressed by kitchen bar set-up of Chicago's Aviary, Dandelyan London and Singapore's Native bar, which uses native spirits," says Prakash, who has already started relationship building with craft spirit makers. "By this time, next year, we should be up and running," he says, raising his glass.
Founding member privileges
* Access to experiences such as high-end mixology Tasting of artisan spirits
* Master classes with distinguished experts
* A boutique that provides access to small and craft
* Labels from around the world
* Special member benefits such as an exclusive import bottle menu
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