Get out of your comfort zone and push your limits — that’s what this competition is all about. Glenfiddich is looking for innovative bartenders to collaborate with a master from another field to come up with a new and unique concoction. For the India leg, bartender Soumyadipta Pachal has been selected and paired with perfumer Rajiv Sheth to compete in the finals and go on to represent India in the global competition. Other finalists from different cities have been paired with veterans in magic, art, writing, music and fashion.
The winners from Australia, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America, the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, Colombia, South Africa and India, will be invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Glenfiddich Experimental Bartender Academy, Scotland, where they will battle it out for the ultimate title.
Talking about this one-of-a-kind collaboration, Pachal says, “I’ve participated in many competitions, but this sort of a collaboration is a first for me. When we work with edible fragrances and whiskey, it’s a given that we’re going to come up with some aromatic cocktails. But the plan is to take this to a whole new level.”
The Indian finals will be held on September 1, and that puts the duo on a rather tight deadline.
“Pick any drink, if you come to think of it, the taste is very limited. As a perfumer, my challenge here is to get the nose involved. We want to go beyond the fragrances that the palate is used to, like citrus-sy flavours such as lime or orange, and coffee. I am trying to figure out how the olfactory experience can be extended to the flavours which don’t exist in the cocktails we know today,” says Sheth, who is a recipient of the prestigious Prix de Jeune Parfumeur award.
Fragrance and flavours
Though they’re tight-lipped about their research and their work, they share that they’ve narrowed it down to a few fragrance and flavour combinations they are confident of. “We had a few hits and a few misses. But we’re trying out some coffee aromas, some black pepper flavours, a couple of fruity pairings with vanilla. We are working on a way to find a way to match the undertones so we can contrast, or use them to push out the dominant flavours in another way. We’ve ruled out a few combinations and a few of them are in place,” says Sheth.
Pachal cannot be more thrilled. “Experimenting is the best part of my job. Before you serve a cocktail, you must know what the ingredients are and what the purpose of each ingredient is in the cocktail. You should know what can go wrong and how. You have to keep experimenting to learn,” he says, adding, “We can’t use something which doesn’t fit the story of the cocktail. We are experimenting with a lot of variables — spices, herbs, tea, and so on.”
It was his innovative cocktail called The Shining Star that helped him bag a spot in the India finals. “I used Caramel butter washed whiskey, Ginger agave molasses, and spiced orchard fruit puree. I tried to balance the spicy taste with a soothing flavour. It also has a unique aroma.”
He talks about cooking his cocktails. “Bartenders serve toddy and think that is all that warm cocktails can be. But toddy involves addition of hot water to the alcohol. I have worked on making a new cocktail by cooking ingredients together and then adding alcohol to it before pouring it into a glass,” says Pachal.
He has also tweaked classic cocktails and made signature ones. “When you’re making a whiskey sour, you need to stick the ingredients — egg whites, lemon juice, sugar and Bourbon. You can’t change the recipe. But what will happen if you change the base alcohol? Swap the Bourbon for gin? Tweak it here and there, add some caramelised sugar instead of sugar syrup, or substitute it with ginger-honey syrup, or a honey-saffron syrup for that matter and see what comes of it. Always keep experimenting,” says he.