Mixology is having its moment in India with Indian bars being recognised globally (thanks to titles like Asia’s 50 Best and World’s 50 Best Bars) and a sudden boom in cocktail-specific events. Bartenders are getting more innovative and putting in the effort of research in every glass. It’s not just about the cool bartending tricks or pretty-looking drinks anymore. While the classics will never go out of style, alco-bev connoisseurs are always on the hunt for something new. People want to know what their drink is made of, the ingredients and techniques involved in its making, and whether or not it has a story, because that’s when you enjoy an elevated experience. I had one such experience on my recent visit to PCO Cocktail Bar when I dropped by to try their new cocktail menu inspired by Indian fabrics. And it is certainly one for the books.
An Ode To Textiles
With its earthy interiors and ample greenery along with its Sunday brunches and delectable cocktails, Passcode Hospitality’s PCO Mumbai was quick to become a hangout spot for many in the city. This time, the restaurant and bar launches a new cocktail menu that gives you another reason to visit the space.
To revive the often-forgotten sense of touch, PCO Mumbai draws inspiration from its location–the historic NRK House, an overlooked landmark for its rich history of India’s most exquisite fabrics run by Naveen R Kapoor. The textile-rich legacy is the foundation of the new menu, where each cocktail is inspired by the colour or prominent characteristics of the fabric or the technique of how the textile is made.
Launched by the Dhariwal duo Rakshay and Radhika, PCO Mumbai’s new cocktail menu “aims to offer an innovative yet grounded concept that provides an inspired yet relatable experience.”
In tandem with the theme of tactility, the new menu is designed with linen fabric, each page featuring the cocktail name, its illustration along with its ingredients, the story behind the inspiration of the cocktail and the name of the mixologist who made the drink–a nice touch that recognises the maker of the cocktail.
The bartenders of PCO actually went to various fabric shops to get an idea of how each fabric felt. The result? A menu featuring 14 cocktails each named after a textile it takes influence from. Here are some of my favourite picks.
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I started with Muslin, a light gin-based drink, just like the cloth. As a nod to its other name ‘cheesecloth’ (as it is often used in the making of cheese and other dairy products), mixologist Sourabh Patil uses parmesan for roundedness of flavour, strawberry for sweetness and citrus for zing–all strained through a muslin cloth. It comes with a Parmesan stick as a garnish, a nice addition to cut the sweetness.
Inspired by the tye-dye technique of Bandhani with bright and bold colours, this agave-based drink is a spin on an espresso martini and brings together the contrasting flavours of beetroot, coffee and maraschino to add a layered depth. Mixologist Rutik Matkar is the brainchild of this cocktail.
The half-Maharashtrian in me couldn’t help but choose the Paithani. The fabric is woven with gold zari making the entire fabric shimmer delicately, just like this agave-forward cocktail. While the drink captures the colour of this traditional fabric, what caught my attention is that the drink–again, created by Sourabh–is made from a homemade liqueur with one of India’s most traditional and ancient vegetables, the bitter gourd. I often run away from this vegetable but if you serve it to me in the form of this drink, I’m sold.
Instead of taking inspiration from this glamorous fabric’s smooth feel and natural free-flowing drape, Akshay Wagmare seeks inspiration from its history. Satin dates back to the beginnings of the silk route in Asia where it was traded from China to India, to Arabia and all the way to Western Europe. Akshay makes this rum-based cocktail using ingredients that were often traded through the silk route—mango, lime, cardamom and French vanilla. The result? A soft, easy-going drink that pairs well with some of the Asian dishes on PCO’s menu. I loved the finishing touch of the spiked aam pak as garnish.
Sourabh borrows inspiration from where this fabric comes from. Pashmina gained prominence under the Mughals with the popularity of Kashmiri shawls made of pure pashmina wool. The incredibly soft fabric comes from the Himalayan ranges of Kashmir and Tibet. Inspired by this Himalayan provenance, this cocktail uses Goji Berries and Peaches from the mountains along with sparkling water to make it softer and more decadent.
The other cocktails on the menu include Chiffon, Kalamkari, Brocade (another must-try), Hemp, Banarasi, Corduroy, Velvet, Kantha, Raw Silk and Kanchipuram Silk. It wasn’t possible for me to try all 14 cocktails at once but hey, that just gives me another reason to drop by PCO again, isn’t it?
Restaurants often spend a lot of time and effort in creating a memorable dining experience with its dishes but PCO is giving equal importance to its bar menu, making it a holistic experience and a spot you’ll want to visit repeatedly.