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Calling The Shots

by Webmaster Masala

Three Indian mixologists shake it up with their intoxicating stories.

By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales

New York might be the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, but Bangkok is the City of Angels – by which I mean the magicians behind our favourite thirst-quenchers that keep us going during the famed Bangkok nights. We raise our glasses to these Indian mixologists who, when our life is on the rocks, give us the perfect concoction to keep us going – sometimes also on the rocks. Kishan ‘Kish’ Rampersad, Naveen Kundu, and Deepak Soni share their journeys to Bangkok, their inspirations, and a tipple to try at home. Sometimes, great minds do drink alike.

Kishan ‘Kish’ Rampersad

30, Beverage Manager at SO Sofitel Bangkok

“Most importantly, a drink shouldn’t be overly pretentious, and should incite interest and allow the guest to learn.”

In Bangkok for just over two years, Kish– fondly dubbed SO Kish at SO Sofitel Bangkok– was born in Durban, South Africa. Being a fourth generation South African of Indian origin, he came by his love for hospitality honestly, through the fusion of both cultures, which he holds very dear. A graduate of the University of Johannesburg, he studied Industrial and Organisational Psychology before finding his true calling in mixology.

Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a Bar Manager in Thailand.

My student job was bartending events, and I fell in love with the industry and the ever-evolving nature of beverages. I then worked for Diageo as an African Reserve ambassador, which allowed me the opportunity to travel around Africa, through which I developed my passion for travel, adventure, and the expatriate lifestyle. I started consulting in the UAE, Maldives and SE Asia, and loved the latter so much I decided to make it my home, finally and proudly settling at SO Bangkok.

What do you consider special about Thailand?

The city is like no other, with a mix of modernity and culture which I love, appreciate, and learn from every day. Being part of many countries’ beverage industries, Bangkok is special as the fraternity is extremely supportive, welcoming and humble.

Are there any Indian influences that you’ve brought into your creations?

I’ve brought a South African and Indian take on a few of the creations at SO. I use classical Indian spices with South African savoury flavours, and I tie both together with modern cocktail methodologies.

What are the key factors in making a drink?

Concept, sustainability, and the local touch. Most importantly, a drink shouldn’t be overly pretentious, and should incite interest and allow the guest to learn or take something from the experience, such as the discovery of a new spirit or a story that inspired the cocktail.

Recommended home recipe: Classic Negroni

I am a fan of iconic cocktails – and drinking them in the proportions I enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • Plymouth Gin 45ml
  • Carpano 30ml
  • Campari 25ml

Instructions: Add ingredients to a glass and stir

Additional advice: to get the right taste in any home cocktail, get the sweet or sour modifiers right

  • Use only fresh squeezed lime/lemon, or citric acid
  • Use 1kg of castor or white sugar to 700ml of water, and boil it while on low heat. Reduce to a simmer while stirring

Naveen Kundu

28, Mixologist at Rembrandt Hotel & Suites Bangkok

“It’s like a piece of a bartender’s soul goes into the drink each time, more than just the ingredients.”

Born and raised in Sonipat, a small town in the north of India, Naveen moved to New Delhi for his professional studies in aviation. However, life steered him towards the hospitality industry and eventually mixology, and seven months ago he moved to Bangkok to experience the buzz of Bangkok’s bartending scene.

What got you into mixology, and how did that lead you to Thailand?

I initially never thought of becoming a mixologist, as I always wanted to become an actor. However, after working in hotels I found that I really liked the idea of bartending, as I found it glamorous and fascinating.

My eagerness to learn more and experiment with new ingredients brought me to Thailand after spending a few years in Dubai. I‘d heard that the bar scene in this part of Asia is doing great, with a lot of inspiration and ideas coming from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and that appealed to me. As well as that, I had a few friends here already and that made it easy to settle in as they’d already taught me about the Thai culture and the way things work here.

Do you feel that your Indian background has influenced how you make your concoctions?

A lot, actually. In India we have a lot of herbs and spices, as well as teas, fresh fruits, and vegetables, all of which I try to balance in my drinks. I try to mix in things that I liked a lot as a kid and that remind me of my childhood, such as jaggery, dried mangoes, tamarind, jam, Rooh Afza, and more.

What are your biggest influences when creating drinks?

Here at 1826 Mixology & Rooftop Bar, where I work, we’re known for our storytelling cocktails. They inspire me as I enjoy creating drinks which have a story behind them. It’s like a piece of a bartender’s soul goes into the drink each time, more than just the ingredients.

As a mixologist, you must meet people from all walks of life. Any interesting stories to share?

It’s always a great experience meeting people from different parts of the world, and learning about their culture and traditions. In fact, I have a ‘treasure box’ that’s full of visiting cards given by the guests I’ve met during this journey.

It’s especially inspiring when guests come up with their own recipes or write down the recipe of a drink I created for them, and my favourite moments are when guests love my concoctions so much they try and offer me a job in their home country. Those things motivate me to do my best everyday.

Recommended home recipe: London Quencher

Simple yet elegant, the London Quencher is a smooth, refreshing, easy-going drink for everyone. It’s not just a cocktail, it’s a glass of experience.

Ingredients:

  • Shiso-infused gin 30ml (can replace with mint, which can be bought in any grocery store)
  • Triple sec 10ml
  • Pineapple juice 30ml
  • Lime juice 20ml
  • Honey 10ml
  • Egg whites 30ml
  • 1 slice of cucumber
  • 1 shiso (or mint) leaf
  • 4 dashes of Angustra bitters
  • Dried lime (garnish)

Instructions:

  • Mash (with a muddle or a pestle) a slice of cucumber and a leaf of shiso together
  • Add the rest of the ingredients into a shaker and give it a hard shake
  • Double strain into a chilled glass

Deepak Soni

34, Beverage Manager at Banyan Tree Bangkok

“Every part of India has different tastes, flavours and colours to showcase, and I always keep this in mind whenever I create a new recipe or drink.”

Born and raised in Ajmer, Rajasthan, Deepak moved to Mumbai at the age of 21 to attain a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality. While there, a chance seminar on bartending caught his attention, and the career’s uniqueness convinced him to, well, give it a shot. The rest is history.

Fate led him to Bangkok in 2014 when the Bar Consultancy firm he worked for opened a branch in Thailand, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Are there any Indian influences that you’ve brought into your creations?

Well, Indian cuisine is a great foundation because it’s full of flavour, aroma, and spices. Every part of India has different tastes, flavours and colours to showcase, and I always keep this in mind whenever I create a new recipe or drink.

I also always try to use something local and inspired by Asian and Indian flavours. I consider myself very lucky to be in Thailand because this country has so much to offer in terms of unique flavours, spices and indigenous ingredients.

What would you consider your biggest drink inspirations?

The people who taught me and supported me in my personal and career growth, making me the person I am today, are my biggest inspirations, but aside from them, I get inspired by my surroundings, the environment,  the culture…and of course, my family, who are always by my side.

Do you have an inspiring anecdote that you’d like to share from your time as a mixologist?

This is more to do with personal inspiration, but while working during a consultancy project in Bangkok, I met Sanam Deepak Soni, the person who made me what you see today. She motivates me, guides me, stands by me in good and bad times, and now she is my life partner and also the mother of my beautiful daughter.

What would you consider your signature drinks?

Irish Chai Latte and Amber Tiki-Tini. The former gets inspiration from Cutting Tea in Mumbai with Assam tea and Irish whisky, while the latter was born with Asian savoury items in mind, so I am use green cardamom from India and pandan from Thailand to create sweetness.

Recommended home recipe: Mojito

It’s a classic; I have never met anybody who does not like a mojito. You can master it in a few easy steps at home, with a few small twists, and look like a rock star!

Ingredients:

  • 3 lime wedges (can be replaced with lemongrass or Kaffir lime leaves)
  • Fresh mint (few sprigs)
  • Honey (or maple syrup) 15ml
  • White rum 50ml
  • Soda water

Instructions:

  • Squeeze in the lime into a highball or long drink glass
  • Add the mint and honey
  • Muddle all the ingredients together to get the lime and mint to release their flavours
  • Add rum
  • Stir all the ingredients
  • Fill up the glass with ice
  • Top up with soda

Additional Advice: During the summer season you can also impress your friends by adding some fresh fruit juice in it, like watermelon, pomegranate or strawberry.

 

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