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Completely lit by candles and offering a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean, Mumbai’s MasalaBar offers a space ambitious enough to match its cutting-edge cocktail program. Opened in March of this year, the bar takes a laboratory approach and also focuses on indigenous ingredients from the Indian subcontinent. It’s part of the larger family of Massive Restaurants, which runs six upscale restaurant brands based in Mumbai.
All of the drinks at MasalaBar are intended as riffs on Indian culture and customs. The Bollywood Bhang—made with vodka; a house-made mix of milk, mascarpone cheese, basil, saffron, sugar, rose water and almond; and vodka-basil dragon smoke—pokes fun at two Indian traditions: Bollywood and bhang. The first, according to the bar’s Australian mixologist Zac Abbott, is the over-the-top excess of Bollywood films in terms of both content and costumes. The second is a reference to the edible hallucinogenic substance bhang, produced from the Indian hemp plant.
The drink is served in a rather dramatic clear skull-shaped glass with smoke billowing from the top. To make it, Abbott heats the vodka to the point of evaporation so guests can breathe it in before and while enjoying the drink.
He believes no one takes their food as seriously as the Indians, and so all of his drinks are inspired by the subcontinent’s ingredients. The Mumbai Matinee, a mix of gin and grapefruit and orange skill oil, is topped with house-made sattu fizz. The fizz is made from a mix of flour and cereals often used to make traditional Indian porridge and pancakes that’s infused with citrus peels with carbon dioxide in a soda siphon. It’s then served in a pipe-inspired glass.
The Sunset @ Carter cocktail is a reference to the bar’s location on Carter Promenade and is made with whiskey and a reduction of rosemary and orange that’s topped with almond foam, paying homage to how frequently the nut turns up in both savory dishes and as a topping for Indian desserts. It’s served in a triangular glass over dry ice that pushes up billows of smoke.
The Sasson Dock cocktail is a mix of vodka and thyme makrut leaves, which are often used in Indian curries, served with a smoking beaker of thyme-orange fume. Abbott says this drink, like many others at MasalaBar, appeals to his guests on multiple sensory levels and combines a balance between sweet and sour. Many of the drinks have smoke components that are inhaled before tasting the drink and vary in flavor from cinnamon to the vodka basil used in the Bollywood Bhang.