Walk into Bengaluru Marriott’s lobby-level, M Bar, and for a second you just might think that you’ve wandered into a buzzing laboratory. Voluminous flasks, giant jars and beakers sit pretty, while mixologist Jinobin Thomas goes about business in a lab coat. Before you are tempted to beat a hasty retreat, a cocktail shaker does a graceful somersault in the air and lands in Jinobin’s expert hands, encouraging you take a seat at the posh bar counter. We did. And before we knew it, Jinobin lined-up an impressive line-up of cocktails for our sipping while sharing the winning formula that goes into becoming a master mixologist.
What’s on offer?
M Bar, the genial bartender informs us, experiments with liquor infusions to add an extra zing to its cocktails. For example, the M Bloody Mary is served up in a beaker, with a thick crusting of salt on its rim. While this drink involves tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce just like most Bloody Marys around the world, what sets it apart is the chilli-infused vodka. For three months, carefully measured out vodka sits on a shelf with an equally carefully measured number of green chilli slices in a jar. Before you make an emergency call to the health inspector, note that the chillies are fished out and replaced with fresh ones regularly. In the end, it’s the chillies that lend the M Bloody Mary that extra hint of heat.
These flavour infusions are used in most of M Bar’s signature cocktails. A favourite of Jinobin – crimson pearls of red pomegranate seeds stain the vodka pink and lend an undeniable sweetness to the Pomegranate and Basil Martini. Similarly, the vodka in the M Cosmopolitan is infused with cranberries and the Tequila Colada has a blend of tequila and Malibu rum with a pineapple infusion that gives you a potent tropical hit.
Tell us about some of the biggest challenges a mixologist faces at the bar?
The biggest challenge would be consistency and the availability of fresh ingredients. For example, the fresh tomato juice used in an M Bloody Mary varies due to the quality of tomatoes. To achieve consistency despite varying quality is quite a task.
It is also important to understand what customers want. When I started off as a mixologist, a customer at the bar asked for a martini. I promptly made her an Espresso Martini and she hated it. I understood then the importance of gauging what the customer wants in those few minutes I interact with them. In this case, I realised a little too late that a Green Apple Martini would have been perfect.
What must you never do while making a cocktail? Never use melting ice cubes, you wouldn’t want to sip on a diluted drink. Also, always use the freshest of ingredients. The quality of the ingredients invariably determines the quality of your drink.
Which liquors do you like to work with the most?
Vodka is the easiest to make cocktails with and it’s also a favourite with cocktail lovers. Baileys and Kahlua are perfect for dinner shooters and drinks.
What according to you is an underrated cocktail?
The Daiquiri is a very underrated drink. It’s a delicious drink that’s simple to make and uses just three ingredients – white rum, limejuice and syrup. I wish more people would order it.
If you had the opportunity to mix a drink for someone famous, who would it be?
Rajinikanth! He is like God to me.