On a winter night

Updated: Dec 23, 2019, 14:40 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

As he takes over the 'downstairs bar' at Nara Thai, Colaba, British bartender Andrew Hyman discusses why he has chosen to make a few drinks that evoke Christmas memories.

Andrew Hyman has launched the new line of cocktails at Nara Thai's downstairs bar. Pics/Ashish Raje
Andrew Hyman has launched the new line of cocktails at Nara Thai's downstairs bar. Pics/Ashish Raje

It's Andrew Hyman’s first time in India. But it won’t be the first time that he will be away from home on Christmas. "I suppose, it will be a quiet celebration because I won’t have a 20-member family to bring the house down," he laughs. The mixologist of Caribbean-Cuban descent recently took over the new bar at Colaba restaurant, Nara Thai. "To be honest, I dislike the term mixologist," says Hyman. "Simply put, it’s a study of how liquids mix together. It takes away the social aspect and makes it more about yourself; a bartender serves people drinks."

At his home in Central London, Hyman was the designated bartender for the family every Christmas. "That’s after I bailed out of my cheffing responsibilities because I would end up making three-course meals and have little time to do anything else." Although he has worked as a chef, he enjoys bartending more. Trained at The University College Birmingham, he has worked at Birmingham’s many restaurants, including Tamatanga, Churchills and Coast to Coast.

Bombay spice Manhattan has cognac, Templeton rye whiskey, home-made spice dram and walnut bitters
Bombay spice Manhattan has cognac, Templeton rye whiskey, home-made spice dram and walnut bitters

At Nara Thai, he has managed to curate an entirely new menu for the Thai restaurant in less than two months. Incidentally, there’s nothing Thai about the cocktails that will be served exclusively at the basement bar. The mezzanine floor restaurant has a different bar menu, also crafted by Hyman. "If I’ve been methodical and structured for the upstairs menu, I’ve unleashed the artist down here." Hyman says the "downstairs cocktails" are for those interested in serious drinking.

Given the season, he has consciously picked winter ingredients to create the drinks. For instance, the Bombay spice Manhattan is made with cognac, Templeton rye whiskey, home-made spice dram and walnut bitters.

Cambay made with gin, lemon sherbet, mint and citrus foam
Cambay made with gin, lemon sherbet, mint and citrus foam

"This drink will evoke Christmas memories," says Hyman, as he opens a jar of all-spice dram. Commonly used in Caribbean cooking, it’s a powerfully spiced mix with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The aroma reminds us of garam masala, but Hyman says the difference is that the former has a dry flavour and is slightly bitter. The hero ingredient here is the pimento berry from Jamaica. To add a layer of complexity, he has also used caraway, ginger and black rum. It takes anywhere between two weeks to two months to have the mix ready for use.

All eight cocktails are named after South Mumbai landmarks, including Colaba Causeway and The Ballard. While the Causeway 1838 has jose cuervo reposado (Spanish tequila), smoked whiskey, lemon sherbet, ginger tincture and egg white, the Ballard is made with bourbon whiskey, cinnamon and ricard mist.

Andrew Hayman
Andrew Hyman

"When I look at a location [that inspires a drink], I always look at what elements I can use as an influence. For instance, Lady Flora inspired me to give the flora on the menu a more feminine feel. It has gin, elderflower, chamomile and dill bitters."

The Colio, a gin-based cocktail made with dry ginger and plums is gender-neutral. "I’ve used plum shrubs by combining vinegar, sugar, and red plums. It’s a way of creating a layered flavour profile without using lemon or lime juice because the ingredients are already sour." For now, Hyman is still in the process of gauging customer preferences. "I plan to get more experimental in the coming months," he winks.

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