Aneesh Bhasin, an expert in the Indian mixology space, shares his insights from a trip to Singapore spent uncovering innovative trends and unique ingredients that may shape the future of the Indian alcohol space.
Of all the metropolitan, multicultural hubs that shape the F&B trends across the world, Singapore is the one we have been sleeping on for too long. While everyone’s trend trackers are trained in the West, Singapore’s flourishing culinary landscape has made it a destination that’s not just showcasing local flavours but also sharing them with the world. Through ongoing collaborations with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Indian audiences have been getting a taste of local gastronomical delights and the latest partnership sees Svami, one of India’s leading bespoke mixer and tonic brands showcasing Singaporean flavours in their new Pandan Tonic Water.
Svami co-founder and industry expert, Aneesh Bhasin travelled to Singapore to learn first-hand how the flavours of the island city can be celebrated in different ways so that the Indian alcohol space can be reinvented because he believes that it is ripe for a change. As he puts it, "New-age Indian consumers are creative, curious, and also well-aware, as most of them travel across the world. They have evolved palettes and seek high-quality cocktail experiences, whether during a night out, experimenting at home, or while travelling to a whole new destination.”
We caught up with Aneesh to find out more about what he learned on his trip, how he’s brought those experiences home and what it means for the future of Indian mixology.
What were some things you observed on this trip about how Singapore is shaping drinking trends?
I’ve visited Singapore many times in the past but this was the first time I went with the intent of creating something inspired by Singapore. And to me, Singapore has always been an F&B hub, especially for drinks. And I think out of all the places in Asia, I think Singapore has been the pioneer in the cocktail scene, you know, and elevated cocktails and Mixology. I do think Hong Kong and Bangkok in a lot of other places have been taking a lot of cues from Singapore bars.
Even the Singapore Cocktail Festival has been there, right? So a lot of these things have always been there in Singapore. So it's always good to go to Singapore to see what's happening. On this trip, I think though, we intended to find an ingredient Rather than ingredients. I did go to one of my personal favourite bars and went to a few new places, for example, I encountered a cool coffee shop that had a secret champagne menu.
What are some innovations to watch?
I think Singapore has inspired a lot of trends in Asia, how there’s the Bangkok Bar Show and a few festivals in India. I think a lot of that has been inspired by Singapore. I think there are a couple of trends I think that are becoming very popular, which are again seen a lot happening first in Singapore. One is a combination of coffee and cocktails. And I don't mean like a coffee, cocktail but like the cafe like places that have a very good coffee programme and coffee programmes. I think that's something I think a lot of places are gonna take cues from that.
And there's another place which has become a personal favourite of mine called the Cat Bite Club which only does agave and rice-based spirits. Tequila, Mezcal and we have Shochu, and these are the sort of spirits that they work with the cocktails are just phenomenal whether it's a basic martini or something more complex, the selection you get and the execution is impeccable.
Speaking of agave and rice, another bar is just that across called Kanpai which is a Japanese bar that just does a lot of Shochu based cocktails and even for example their Vodka Martini is Shochu Martini and it’s such a different flavour profile and I think a lot of bars are gonna start adopting to rice and agave across Asia.
What are some flavours that you think will be next to take over the cocktail world?
There were two main flavours that caught my eye, one was Gula Melaka, and the other was Pandan. Pandan was something that's always been exciting for me. Pandan is a very superstar Singaporean ingredient and desserts have Pandan and a lot of cocktails have Pandan as well, And for me, Pandan is also a very familiar flavour to me because it reminds me of boiled basmati rice or kheer that sort of aroma. No matter where you are there were things with Pandan and Gula Melaka, and ultimately Pandan worked out for us.
How do you feel about pairing East Asian flavours with local Indian ones?
So all our products are a little lime forward, they’re pretty citrusy products which makes the drink a bit more refreshing and sippable, like even our ginger ale is a bit more lime-forward and the idea here was that Pandan is a little grassy and aromatic and I wanted to elevate the citrus that we use a little bit also. I just love Gondhoraj on a cocktail, even if you just zest a little bit on top, it tastes so different from a regular lime or lemon. I think I was also looking for an excuse to use Gondhoraj and this is how it found its place. Something that bugs me a lot is when you go to the supermarket in India and you’ll have Italian limes for 400 rupees a lime and all of this but you can’t find Gondhoraj limes. So you can import limes from Italy but not get them from another state? So I think highlighting Gondhoraj somewhere is the right thing to do.
Do you have any predictions for the alcohol space in 2024?
I think my prediction for 2024 is gonna be just I think a lot of gimmicky stuff is somewhere going away and I think there will be a lot of focus on these well-executed drinks rather than things with 10 ingredients and things. Another pet peeve I hate to see is dry ice and that sort of gimmicky stuff, I think there's some starting to go away and there is more focus on actual taste and flavour.