Marking a historic moment for the Indian bar community, Sidecar (India) has just been awarded the 40th place in Asia’s 50 Best Bars, 2020.
This is momentous for a few reasons: it puts the Indian bar community on the global map, bringing some well deserved focus to the region which is slowly but surely seeing a growth in the craft cocktail experience. It also highlights Sidecar’s commitment to the craft through years of focus on the right things – training, quality ingredients, technique, and above all – humility and an eagerness to educate.
A “bartender’s bar” founded by Yangdup Lama and Minakshi Singh, Sidecar stands on the shoulders of Cocktails & Dreams Speakeasy, a 7 year old venture in Gurgaon, which one might say is the older sibling in this family. The entire beverage programme is helmed by Yangdup, a well recognised and revered figure in the community in India and globally. Yangdup is known to be a bartender’s bartender – incredibly knowledgeable and one of the country’s finest mentors.
Walking into Sidecar, in Delhi’s GK II is like coming in from the biting cold and into a warm hug. A quaint little spot, Sidecar is reminiscent of a cabin in the woods, beautifully lit, complete with a stunning, long wooden bar and a back-bar that you wish you could take home. There is an element of escapism one feels when perched at the bar here – smack in the heart of a busy megapolis, yet so far away from it all. This is what a great bar should be – a momentary escape from reality.
The team at Sidecar keeps things pretty simple – a tight cocktail menu with just about enough food to ensure nobody goes hungry. The focus is always the drink – as it should be. There is no grandstanding or pretension in the serves and the menu is easy to navigate and far from intimidating – which a lot of menus tend to be to a cocktail novice. This is how Sidecar manages to educate and induct its patrons, old and new, into craft cocktail culture – by making it approachable, relatable, and accessible.
But something ails this little happy family, much as it does the wider hospitality community today.
In light of COVID 19, the hospitality industry in India (much like the rest of the world) has taken a massive hit. As an emerging economy, every day lost makes a huge dent in the pockets of small, independent establishments. Recovery from such a long dormant spell is bound to be a tedious and inevitably long journey, with no relief in sight from authorities and possibilities of re-opening looking like a distant reality.
But it is unlike the Sidecar team to be a passive bystander and wait for a miracle and so they have proactively taken the reins on this one, cracked on with small, humble, but meaningful initiatives as they continue to stay strong and share these initiatives with anybody who will embrace them.
At the start of the pandemic, the Sidecar team rolled out intensive training programmes to engage their teams as well as focus on skill-building and improvement. These trainings include sessions on sustainability, which is a key focus for the team going forward. In a market where training of bar staff is usually limited to liquid trainings by brand ambassadors, training programs focused on skill and technique go a long way in instilling confidence in teams as well as realigning their priorities behind the bar, and gives them the skills to think beyond competitions.
Yangdup and his beverage manager Rohan Matmary also offer regular cocktail workshops via Zoom for a very affordable fee. The workshops are well planned, keeping in that mind the end consumer isn’t necessarily a bartender and home bar supplies are limited. These workshops lay it out simply, encouraging the use of simple techniques and understanding the basics of building drinks. The team has plans to solidify this offering with a 10 day consumer certified course, a first of its kind to be offered in the country. This workshop model follows a series of well timed trial runs they have been hosting via Instagram live, gauging the response from trade as well as consumer – it is evident that there is an appetite and an eagerness to learn.
However, the harsh reality is that while these initiatives take care of a void that COVID has created, the bar will soon be dipping into personal reserves to be able to sustain and keep the staff on their payroll. Cash flow is the only failproof solution to the larger problem. Keeping this in mind, Sidecar and a few others have partnered with a listing platform to sell gift cards for both their venues (the other being Cocktails & Dreams Speakeasy), redeemable upto March 21st, 2021 at either bar.
This is an affordable and effective way to ensure the team has liquidity now, so we can go see them for a drink later. The gift cards can be purchased here .
We hope that Sidecar’s efforts pay off and that the world will be able to enjoy what they have to offer one day. It is heartening to see them receive all the love and respect they have earned through patience and commitment. There is no shortcut to success and Sidecar is exemplary of this belief.©
Support Sidecar, buy a gift card here.
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