Happiness Premixed

Want to crank up your favourite poison this Valentines, then try a good premix, says leading bartender Yangdup Lama as he weighs on the new trend of premixes.

By - Madhulika Dash; Pictures courtesy - Sidecar

Earlier last year when the world was grappling with the anxiety of an uncertain lockdown, legendary bartender and owner of Sidecar, Yangdup Lama turned his little kitchen into a bar lab. What began as a project to explore unconventional (read: Indian) ingredients like Wood Apple and others, soon became a process that helped Lama create one of the most fascinating range of premixes that was launched during the second phase of Unlockdown.

The tonic-style additives scored on two things: flavour and health-mindedness. Fascinatingly, Lama wasn’t alone in re-exploring the idea of premixes, which at a commercial level had proven to be dud, as some of the industry’s best bar hands joined him in creating a range that would change the way cocktails were consumed. By the end of the year, with immunity taking centerstage, the hardwork paid as artisanal premixes became a standard across bars.

The thing about premixes, says Lama, “is that they have a potential to crank up a cocktail several notches high – and by that I am not just referring to the superb taste, but making them lean with a smidgen of do-goodness in it. But all that depends on how the premixes are made.”

Fortunately, thanks to the pandemic last year, the premix aisle today especially at some of the trendsetting bars across India have an array that is custom made to be functional beyond the glass.

Take the case of Sidecar’s Ginger Ale. A blend made of fresh ginger fingerlings and palm sugar, the premix works great to elevate a Whiskey Sour to a Penicillin, a Scotch-based whiskey sour that can also be made with the Mexican Mezcal, with soda water. But that’s not just the only beauty of this au naturale premix, which is equally at ease in adding value to the morning glass of lemon-honey-ginger.

Another interesting variation is the Bael Shrub. Leaning towards the concept of drinking vinegar, this old school technique of creating additives, non-alcoholic included, is made by macerate muddled fruit in vinegar and sugar. However, in this case, Lama takes the traditional wood apple chutney as a muse to create the shrub, giving it that unique flavour brilliance and goodness of a traditional dish.

One of the reasons that the cocktail version of the premix is a Bael is also a Gin & Tonic version, where he plays on the tonic to create a drink that works both on the headiness of gin and the goodness of tonic.

The thing about premixes made of natural ingredients is that while on one hand, says Lama, “they can create a great pour, they are equally good at creating cocktails that are leaner in terms of number of ingredients (including spirits) used without compromising on the appearance or the mouthfeel.”

Which for drinkers translates into a drinking experience that is both indulging as well as borderline healthy too. And the reason for this, concludes Lama, “is that most bartenders designed premixes like we serve in Sidecar has its muse in the ancient tradition of Kashayams, basically concoctions that were designed for wellness purpose. And that is the single most reason why they make for such an interesting flavorant for giving that favourite drink a gourmet elevation.”