On the day of The Runway Project's official launch at Phoenix Mills, Mumbai, we found ourselves in front of their bar, ready to watch two-time winner of Diageo's world-class bartending competition Varun Sudhakar, rustle up two wonderful wine cocktails.
Sonal Holland MW, India's first wine master was present with us as well, in order to taste the cocktails and decide whether Varun was truly a great bartender. Of course, now he has moved on to bigger things. He is the Head of Innovation & Operations (Beverages) for Gourmet Investments, the company behind The Runway Project, The Bandra Project, Pizza Express and the recently launched The Market Project at Kurla, Mumbai.
It only takes a minute to make a cocktail
Varun was to make two wine cocktails - one with sparkling wine and the other with red wine. While the staff got busy setting up the paraphernalia for the cocktails, Sonal decided to suddenly change the rules of the game. "Let's have jaggery in the red wine cocktail instead of sugar!" she piped up.
Her rationale was sound - most of us have resolved to lose weight in the New Year and sugary cocktails aren't going to help our cause. Jaggery, on the other hand, has multiple health benefits and a unique character. I had the jaggery cake at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf recently, and loved the texture and flavour. Varun was momentarily flummoxed but he rallied quickly. "All right, let's do it!" he agreed.
Sonal clearly loved the red wine cocktail more
According to Varun, it takes only around a minute to make a cocktail, as long as you have all the ingredients at hand. He didn't take much longer than that to make Storm, inspired by a traditional champagne cocktail. It was truly stunning, both in taste and appearance and my personal favourite.
The red wine cocktail with jaggery was "more uncomplicated and would pair with most dishes," according to Sonal. But don't be tempted to try it out with cheap leftover wine. "The raw material has to be of the highest quality, even in a cocktail," is Sonal's expert advice.
Recipe for "Storm", also available at The Runway Project:
Sparkling wine – 150ml
Ginger honey syrup – 15ml
Angostura soaked sugar cube – 1nos
Ginger jullienes – 2 nos
Pour sparkling wine in a chilled champagne flute. Add ginger honey syrup and angostura soaked sugar cube. Garnish with ginger juliennes and serve!
Recipe for "Made for You", a name Varun concocted:
Red wine – 60ml
Sweet vermouth – 30 ml
Jaggery syrup – 10ml
Perrier – top up.
Pour red wine in a glass and combine with sweet vermouth and jaggery syrup (replace with elderflower syrup if you don't like jaggery). Top up with Perrier and add an orange slice. Garnish with mint leaves and enjoy.
Still confused? Watch the maestros demonstrate how to churn up these cocktails on our Facebook page.
About The Runway Project
Part of a series of conceptual bars being launched by the Pizza Express group, The Runway Project features a runway and decor that is reminiscent of gastrobars in New York. The fashion theme reflects in the menu as well, with dishes being named "Wardrobe Malfunction" and "Show Stopper". It's on level two at Skyzone, Phoenix Mills, Mumbai.