Love vodka? Mumbai mixologists share recipes for unique cocktails

The last few years have seen a variety of premium Indian homegrown gin, rum and whiskey labels have their moment and rightly so for all those who love them. So where does vodka stand in this sudden flurry of demand? Indian bartenders, bar managers and mixologists believe it is very much here and has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so, come what may. Since vodka is tasteless, colourless and odourless, bar experts say it is a bartender’s best friend because they can easily play around with its flavours, to produce something absolutely new. In fact, it is this very ability, they say, that has led to its evolution in India over the years and made it an important part of the country’s craft cocktail revolution.

Every year, International Vodka Day is observed on October 4 to celebrate the spirit in all its forms. Unfortunately, for as long as this writer can remember wanting to order vodka at a local bar or even a vodka cocktail, he has been met with the stereotype by several male drinkers of it being a “women’s drink”. While that can be attributed to preconceived notions, bartenders and mixologists have been serving different kinds of cocktails. These are not only your classic cocktails like Bloody Mary, Vodka Martini, Screwdriver or the Moscow Mule but evolved versions of them, and other newer ones that are being drunk at restaurants and bars in the city.

To celebrate vodka, spoke to these bartenders and mixologists about the perception and use of vodka in cocktails, and they even shared the recipes. Being some of their personal favourites, they even serve them at the bar in and around Mumbai.

One In Melon
If you love vodka, then move over the classic cocktails made with the spirit, and try One in Melon, which Kiran Pawar, bartender at Saz American Brasserie, has created with a clear intent to use the spirit as his canvas. He explains, “The choice of vodka in this cocktail was deliberate because it offers a clean and neutral canvas that allows the other ingredients to shine.” Having worked with a variety of spirits over the years, he observes that vodka has evolved, especially in India, where whiskey, rum, and gin have long been the preferred spirits. He explains, “Vodka`s versatility, mixability, and the growing trend of craft cocktails have propelled it into the spotlight, appealing to a wide range of palates.”

Vodka 45 ml
Amaro 20 ml
Watermelon juice 40 ml
Green apple syrup 15 ml
Lime acid 15 ml
Sour candy for garnish 

1. Use the clarification method with the help of a coffee filter paper.
2. Serve with a sour candy garnish. 

Raspberry Sour
At Jamjar Diner in Bandra, restaurant manager Dhires Poojary says you can make a delicious cocktail with vodka and raspberries to create the Raspberry Sour, which also has lime juice, sugar syrup, and vegan foam, called Stillabunt, that is easily available in the market; people can alternatively use egg white. He explains, “Vodka is the bartender`s best friend. It easily mixes with any flavour we wish. It has a very light body which enhances the Raspberry sour on our menu making it one of the most delicious and popular cocktails in our bar menu.”

Vodka 60 ml
Frozen raspberries 6-8 nos
Lime juice 15 ml
Sugar syrup 15 ml
Vegan foam (if available) 5 drops or egg white

1. Muddle the raspberries in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add ice and all other ingredients and shake vigorously till it`s foamy.
3. Pour over in an old-fashioned glass and garnish it with an orchid flower.

Green Apple Plum Martini
If you love sipping on a martini, then Bharat Sharma, bar manager at Woodside Inn, says you can make one with plums, Granny Smith green apples, fresh lime and simple syrup. The sweet and sour cocktail is perfect to celebrate International Vodka Day, as it combines vodka with fresh fruits to give it a delicious flavour.

Smirnoff Vodka (or any other vodka) 60 ml
Fresh plums 25 gm
Fresh green apple 25 gm
Fresh lime 15 ml
Simple syrup 10 ml 

1. Put the vodka, plums, green apple, fresh lime and simple syrup into a glass.
2. Muddle it all together.
3. After muddling, shake it well.
4. Serve with a garnish of fresh plums.

Sparkling Thai
Love sipping on refreshing cocktails? Shishir Rane, who is the national head for beverage and innovation with Speciality Restaurants, which runs Mainland China, says making a Sparkling Thai is ideal. Rane says, “Since vodka is colourless and odourless, it adapts to the mild and delicate flavour of cucumber and mint thus it is an apt partner to marry the flavour of this cocktail.” Being the only spirit where the distillation goes to about 95.75 per cent alcohol volume, he says it is among the purest tasteless, bland and the most neutral form of spirit, which makes it the best friend of any mixologist of the world to adapt to the desired flavour or colour they want. “Chinese flavours are very robust and many times the colour of the cocktails matters in Chinese beverage programme. Additionally, vodka is the only neutral spirit which has this quality of not hampering the robust Chinese flavours thus it is the first option while designing a Chinese bar menu,” he adds.

Vodka 60 ml
Fresh cucumber 2 pcs
Fresh mint 4 leaves
Lime 30 ml
Sugar 10 ml
Sparkling wine 90 ml

1. In a cocktail shaker mix vodka and muddle fresh cucumber pieces.
2. Add a few fresh mint, lime juice and sugar syrup.
3. Shake well.
4. In a wine glass, take ice, put sparkling wine and top up the cocktail from the shaker.
5. Garnish with fresh slice lime and mint.

Italian Affair
The versatility of vodka, says Niketa Sharma, made the team at Blah! In Bandra Kurla Complex focus on making cocktails with the spirit while blending Aperol and fresh watermelon juice with it. She shares, “In India, vodka’s evolution reflects its adaptability to shifting consumer preferences. With a neutral profile ideal for cocktails, a premium market presence, and strategic marketing, vodka has carved a niche among whiskey and rum drinkers. Its versatility and lower calorie content resonate with health-conscious consumers, making it a key player in India`s evolving spirit’s landscape. It is like the chameleon of the spirits world. It adapts to any flavour, style, and occasion.”

Coconut fat washed vodka 45 ml                   
Aperol 15 ml                   
Fresh watermelon juice 30 ml   

1. Take all the ingredients and pour it into a coupe glass.
2. Stir it well.
3. Serve after garnishing with a small round cut coconut leaf.

If you love fruity cocktails, then Sumit Chalke, mixologist at Dobaraa in Powai, says you can make ‘Oops’. The vodka-based cocktail is a heady concoction of the spirit with litchi crush and juice, coconut syrup, lemon juice and cranberry juice that produces a burst of flavours that anybody will definitely love. 

Vodka 60 ml
Litchi crush 20 ml
Litchi juice 30 ml
Coconut syrup 15 ml
Lemon juice 15 ml
Cranberry juice 15ml

1. Mix the vodka, litchi crush and juice, add the coconut syrup, lemon juice and cranberry juice.
2. Shake it well.
3. Add ice in a Collins glass, pour and serve.

Kuwa Sour
If you don`t like raspberries, then Priyanka Rath, mixologist at Yakii in Pune says you can simply make a Kuwa Sour with homemade Kuwa syrup and vodka, along with fresh lime juice and vegan foam. She explains, “Vodka is the only spirit, which is versatile as well as neutral in its characteristics, blends well with all the flavours. Being a mixologist, I believe in the flavour and characteristics of my cocktail, all other spirits have their own characteristics like peaty, smoky, herby, sweet and more but vodka is tasteless, colourless and odourless, which helps me keep my main ingredient in shine.”

Vodka 60 ml
Homemade Kuwa syrup 30 ml
Fresh lime juice 15 ml
Vegan foam 4-5 dash 

1. Put all ingredients together in a shaker and shake well.
2. Pour it into a glass and serve on the rocks with three mulberries.

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