Ranking #26 in the World’s 50 Best Bars list last year and #18 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars this year, Delhi’s Sidecar needs no introduction. Since its inception in 2018, the bar – helmed by veteran bartender Yangdup Lama and restaurateur Minakshi Singh – has constantly pushed the envelope in terms of cocktails. This mindset is perhaps most apparent in Sidecar’s latest menu called Arq. Translating literally to Essence, the menu will mesmerise cocktail enthusiasts and normal consumers alike. Wondering why we’re saying so? Keep reading to find out.
The inspiration behind the menu
“The idea for the new menu has been brewing amongst the team for over six months,” quips Minakshi Singh, co-founder, of Sidecar. It all started when the team visited Kannauj (a district in Uttar Pradesh) on the way to Lucknow in February. Kannauj is known as the perfume capital of India as it has kept the age-old tradition of perfumery, or attar, alive.
The team got back and started brainstorming on how they could bring such an essence (quite literally) to cocktails. Singh says, “We didn’t want to do cocktails with perfumes, as that has been done to death already.” Finally, after several discussions and tries, the team realised they could create a connection with aromas that have been associated with our memories and cocktails, which led to the genesis of Arq.
So, what are the cocktails about?
Each of the cocktails in the Arq menu has a peculiar smell that takes you to a certain place, be it rains, barley fields, mountains, and so on. It’s worth mentioning that Arq is Sidecar’s fourth signature menu and is a follow-up to their Dear Delhi menu, which won huge accolades. Deepali Gupta, COO, Sidecar highlights that “while Dear Delhi got praises from all corners, it wasn’t relatable to those who haven’t lived in the National Capital.” She went on to mention that “we wanted to use completely local ingredients with the new menu, including some that many people aren’t aware of.” To that end, cocktails curated under the Arq menu have ingredients like beetroot, curry leaf, coriander (yes, ‘dhania’), and so on.
Just like the Dear Delhi menu, there are 10 cocktails in the latest menu. But the team went a step beyond by showcasing the ABV and sweetness levels with each of the cocktails. Now, if you know your liquor, then ABV or alcoholic strength won’t be new to you, as it signifies how strong it is. But this is unheard of in the world of cocktails and ensures that consumers can make a better decision. We personally liked the scale of sweetness for cocktails too, as more and more people are becoming wary of eating (or drinking) sweets.
Of course, the world is moving towards NoLo drinks, i.e. no alcoholic or low-alcoholic beverages. The menu pays attention to this aspect too. Four such drinks on the menu can be ordered as a mocktail, or some can be ordered with a choice of alcohol, too.
Exploring the aromatic world of Sidecar Arq cocktails
Now that we’ve teased enough about the cocktails already, let us take a closer look at them. Note that the cocktails below are mentioned in the order of their ABV:
- Beet: you may dislike beetroot, but this cocktail will totally change your perception. First of all, it’s an intoxicating aroma of “first rain”, and tastes quite well with clay pot-aged Short Story rum, beetroot, parsley, balsamic vinegar, hung curd, and vetiver.
- Gondhoraj: also known as the king of lemons, this one’s an aromatic drink with a “backyard garden”-like aroma from Tanqueray, gondhoraj mix, and sparkling water.
- Kari: Kokum is a popular leaf in South India, and this cocktail uses its water with curry leaf gin and jaggery reduction. It also scores high on nosing with “canteen” vibes.
- Cilantro: Yes, the dhania cocktail we alluded to earlier. As much as dhania in a cocktail may seem odd, it’s currently the bestseller from the new menu and takes one back to “The Indian Kitchen” with its spicy notes, thanks to Jose Cuervo tequila, tomato, coriander, etc.
- Cacao: As the name indicates, this cocktail takes you to a “chocolate factory”. It’s a highball-style drink with Toki sous vide with cacao, cherry brine, and soda.
- Tea Leaf: Back in 2021, Sidecar launched a limited-time menu with Makaibari Tea Estate dubbed ‘A summer solstice’, and this cocktail seems to be an offshoot of that. With its anandini-smoked pinewood tea-infused Jim Beam white, ginger honey, lime, and froth, it’s like drinking “mountain pine forest” in a glass.
- Barley: At the risk of sounding biased, this is among our favourite cocktails from the menu – both in terms of its essence of “Barley fields” and the unique taste of Johnnie Walker Blonde, roasted barley, vetiver, and wheat beer reduction.
- Betel: With vodka, betel leaf cordial, and citrus balance, this cocktail achieves the “paan box” aroma perfectly.
- Myrtle: We haven’t come across many brandy cocktails in bars, so this one’s quite intriguing with the “Spice Market” aroma which is achieved via St. Remy VSOP, myrtle lead cordial, and lime.
- Titepati: Another cocktail that really impressed us and made us reminisce about mountains with a “mountain air” smell is the Titepati. It also has the highest ABV with the use of Bacardi Reserva, vermouth, and Campari.
These signature cocktails are accompanied by four low-ABV drinks where the strength is between four to seven percent. While we couldn’t try all of them, the no-alcohol version of Tomato Highball seemed like drinking salad with green tomato and celery shrub and soda (its alcoholic version offers white wine).
Overall, the cocktails achieve their stated objective, i.e., ensuring that each of them brings back childhood memories alive with their beautiful aroma and taste.
Bringing it all together…
It’s one thing to launch a new menu, but it’s another to look at oft-ignored aspects. While the Dear Delhi menu included postcards for every cocktail, this time around, there are bookmarks and coasters for each of the cocktails. Speaking of bookmarks, did you notice that the new cocktail menu looks like a diary? That’s not all, as the pages in the menu are made of organic paper. For this, Sidecar partnered with Kagzipura. Singh shares a funny incident about this collaboration stating “Kagzipura had a government-like office, and they had to explain for what purpose the recycled paper will be used for… printing cocktail menu!”
Going a step beyond, Sidecar not only collaborated with Naviluna – an artisanal chocolate brand – for using its cacao nibs in a cocktail but also launched a limited-edition chocolate. More importantly, completing the loop of Kannauj acting as an inspiration for the new menu, it has a special attar that smells like its namesake, the classic cognac-based cocktail.
Overall, it’s evident that Sidecar’s Arq menu is more than just cocktails, it’s a perfect symphony of scents and flavours that take you on a nostalgic journey.
#BevRev – short for beverage reviews – is a new series that will focus on cocktail bars and cocktail reviews of popular restaurants across the country to help you make informed decisions about what to drink. Stay tuned for more beverage reviews coming soon.