A selection as seen at the Shanghai Club @ITC Welcome, Dwarka
India is waking up to a lot of different taste in it's liquor palette, even as the country takes measures to curb the sale of alcohol wherever possible. However, in the April afternoon of Delhi, the ITC Welcome Hotel in Delhi's Dwarka area, held the Grand Finale of the North American Whiskey Championship which ultimately put Vikram KU, from the Taj Palace Hotel, as the winner of the competition. According to the norms of the event, there were over 230 bartenders across the country. 89 entries were shortlisted for the second round, which were then judged on the basis of creativity, balance, presentation and consumer acceptance to arrive at the final 15. So, after winning at this event, Vikram will now go on guided tour to the well-known Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee and the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky.
With Vikram KU- the winning barman
Vikram's creation was called 'The Amazing Grace', which was made with walnut and fig infused Woodford Reserve, spice syrup, homemade spice bitters and homemade lemon bitter. In this case, though the whiskey itself had a certain complex character, which might suit many tongues, with the infusion of the walnut and figs, there was truly a new twist, most of which revealed itself after the cocktail was swooned and gulped. Almost felt as if, it was a pure whiskey tasting time itself.
Orange peels and cinnamon sticks were big part of good whiskey cocktail making
The final 15, who fought for the crown of the Championship, had been selected from India's prominent cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Gurgaon, Bangalore and Chennai. Each had their own style and formula too create the perfect blend in the cocktails, as each drink is a different story, but some of the ingredients which made an appearance repeatedly were the orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and even eggs! Egg whites are good for a frothy blend, and landing a slightly dry texture (subjective view point), while the spice of cinnamon and citrus flavor of orange peel had their roles.
Not the best looking, but the dryness of the aftertaste was actually interesting
The North American Whiskey Cocktail Championship involved a multi-stage selection process. In the first round, participants were asked to submit an original cocktail recipe using Woodford Reserve, Gentleman Jack or Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, and it saw participation from over 230 bartenders across the country. 89 entries were shortlisted for the second round, which were then judged on the basis of creativity, balance, presentation and consumer acceptance to arrive at the final 15. The judging panel however, consisted of Vikram Achanta, Co-Founder and CEO of Tulleeho; Vaibhav Singh, Founder, Perch Wine & Coffee Bars; Jay Malik, Senior Brand Manager - MENA, Brown-Forman and Vineet Agrawal, Head of Marketing - India Area, Brown-Forman (owners of the Jack Daniels brand).
Quiet an audience for these magicians at the bar
Most of the cocktails were made in batches of 4 each, so that the audience surrounding the bar counter, were able to gain access to the cocktail, and have more than a swig at them. Plenty of energy, creativity, co-ordination between people, and plenty of love and discussions for the taste of whiskey flowed freely.
Ushma Tyagi hosted the event
One of the things about the Indian palette, is that largely the whiskeys are still left unexplored in the country. It's mostly the white spirits such as white rum, vodka, and gin, though Tulleeho is doing to improve the taste of a great many. Whiskey for large bouts of people, is still unexplored, and the nuances of tasting and enjoying, still need to go far. However, one can always debate that it is something from the west and the tastes are really that different.
In the making
Here are some more glances from the event:
Some of the barmen hard at work, and what they showcased