At South Delhi’s upmarket Greater Kailash II area, on a road lined with coffee shops and restaurants, sits India’s greatest pub.
Sidecar is at the forefront of this expanding cocktail pub scene in India. It was rated number 91 on the World’s Greatest Bar listing in October, India’s only entrance in the top 100 and just the next pub in India to be chosen — before its next birthday.
Why is Sidecar’s climb to the top even more notable is that one-fifth of their bartending talent behind its Minakshi Singh. She co-founded the pub with business partner and veteran bartender Yangdup Lama. However, when Singh began out bartending personal events and parties in the early 2000s while researching hotel management, it was illegal for girls to bartend in India.
Though the federal law has been overturned in 2007, every one of India’s 29 states makes their own spirits legislation. For Delhi, the legislation would not formally be repealed until 2010.
However, Singh had discovered fire for the planet of drinks. She fulfilled Lama, already a recognized bartender, in 2003. As her mentor, he had been”instrumental” in helping Singh get her foot in the doorway, she states. With limited prospects in bartending, she chased marketing work in the beverages industry rather, spending a few years with spirits giant Diageo and Pernod Ricard.
The notion of conducting her own pub lingered, however. In 2012, it turned into a reality. Lama and Singh opened their very first pub, Cocktails and Dreams Speakeasy, in Gurugram, a town southwest of Delhi famous for its technology and fiscal startups.
Early clients were confused with the cocktail jazz and offerings music, enormously different from the shots-and-club encounter more prevalent in India at the moment, says Singh. However, this was the very first step towards producing India’s greatest pub.
A shifting bar scene
Speakeasy was well ahead of this curve. In 2012, India’s pub scene was on the cusp of change,” says Vikram Achanta, CEO of drinks consulting and training company Tulleeho and co-founder of all India’s finest Bars Awards. Over the previous five decades there’s become a”new breed of the customer” looking for the”cosmopolitan” pub experiences of cities such as New York, London, Singapore, and Hong Kong, he states.
This gave rise to a different tendency of pubs run by people who have a passion for the market, who”can offer their whole backing concerning menus, experimentation, cocktails,” states Achanta, instead of businesspeople or shareholders looking mostly at earnings.
He points into pubs such as Perch in Mumbai and Delhi, and also the now-closed Bootleggers at Bangalore, which, such as Speakeasy, were bartender-run-bars sparking the change from India’s cocktail culture.
“it is a pub’s pub,” states Achanta, echoing Lama and Singh’s own description of the places. He notes that India does not possess the same”purist civilization” about mixology, therefore bars are usually combined with a restaurant, and the food is set on an”equal footing” with the cocktails.
This, together with a bartending team headed by world-class mixology from Lama along with the market expertise of Singh makes it a winning recipe.
“It has quite strong principles,” states Achanta, which notes the Delhi market is quite wide, and customers were prepared and searching for a raised cocktail pub-like Sidecar as it started in 2018.
A recipe for success
It had been that fundamental Delhi place and audience that Lama and Singh had desired, but been not able to manage when they started Speakeasy in 2012. However, the victory of Speakeasy and their growing reputation let them pull together funds to get their”dream pub.”
In a year of launching, Sidecar had scooped three awards in India’s inaugural 30 Best Bars Awards in October 2019, such as India’s leading pub.
And we said ‘everything’
The place’s insides are reminiscent of a classic library or billiards room, with bottle-filled shelves behind the pub. Its menu is filled with classic cocktails, using a distinctive Indian spin. Just take the G&T, such as gin, orange-infused water, and a tea focus, smoked with Himalayan pinewood.
It isn’t only about the drinks, however. Singh leads the programming and front-of-house, while Lama manages the menus and pub.
Problems such as sustainability were woven into Sidecar by the Beginning. The group generates its bitters, tinctures, and syrups to minimize waste and develops many of its components in its own backyard. Steel straws would be the standard and waste is composted for your own backyard.
Through events such as the yearly Pride Day parties, Singh expects to leverage Sidecar’s platform to produce social triggers”more visible.”
While more women are going into the profession, it is nevertheless a male-dominated distance, states Achanta, including that”alcohol has always been a taboo topic in India from a household standpoint.”
This social mindset is slow to change, he says, and practicalities like safety create additional barriers that chemical this mindset — but the big resort and hospitality teams are in a position to alter this.
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