Welcome to 2021. We are starting this year with a nod to all things new, like the brand new cocktail menu at Sidecar, India.
Towards the tail end of last year, at a time when the hospitality industry was seeing its most underwhelming and underpromising lead up to the holiday season, the team at Sidecar decided to go right ahead and keep their creative spark alive. Launching a new cocktail menu in a pandemic is not just brave, it’s clever. Here’s why.
At a time when footfall is at an all time low, the teams behind these bars have a bit more time on their hands to pursue ideas. There is no better time to indulge in trial and error than when business is at its quietest. A bar’s “down time” (if there is such a thing) is an excellent time to re-evaluate existing menus, assess key takeaways from normal business operations, and put the best foot forward to channel a team’s creative energy.
The team at Sidecar seem to have done just that.
The new menu, A Desire Called Sidecar, is an ode to literary greats and their chosen libations, inspired by a book called A Sidecar Named Desire, authored by Greg Clarke and Monte Beauchamp. For those wondering, the book was an illustrated history of alcohol and its literary imbibers, including the likes of James Joyce and Philip Larkin.
Sidecar’s new cocktail menu borrows heavily from this book – complete with little anecdotes about the 19th and 20th century writers and an illustration to match – akin to the original publication.
The muses chosen by Sidecar for the menu inspiration, while picked from the original book, range from counterculture wordsmiths like Joan Didion to flamboyant novelists like F Scott Fitzgerald – the mood board of personalities they have chosen is curious and eclectic, save for a predictable appearance by Ernest Hemingway. Each writer has been chosen as a muse and represented by a specially crafted drink that is meant to best represent them.
The drinks sound like carefully designed, inherently “Sidecar” expressions on somewhat classic drinks. Don’t get me wrong – this menu isn’t quite a twist on the classics but more of a menu that uses classic flavours with an added local twist. Some drinks stand out for boldness, like the lush ode to Walker Percy using Bourbon, Sidecar Raisin Sherry, and Campari, while others like the Dostoevsky, which uses date infused Vodka, tamarind, and rose limeade, gently lure you in and pique your interest.
The hero of this menu though, is the Summer & Smoke, attributed to Tennnesee Williams. I’ll admit I’m biased to this drink because of its sheer creativity and presentation. Using Tequila, Scotch Whisky, Smoked Pinewood Tea, and egg white, this drink is dramatically presented with an edible rice paper mandala garnish. A treat for the eyes and the palate, I was able to try this drink at home, thanks to a very neatly put together cocktail kit and recipe card sent over by the team. The drink is perfectly balanced with elements of sweet, saline, sour, and smoke – a powerhouse of flavours that leaves you hankering for more. It is safe to say that this drink is the piece de resistance of this little book of treasures.
Alright, so what’s wrong with this menu? Nothing really – it checks all the boxes and covers a good scope of styles and flavours. Perhaps what it could use is a slightly more coherent way to highlight the local ingredients used in the drinks. The introductory page of the menu claims that they have used one traditional Indian ingredient in each drink and made that the hero of the drink, yet to a non-Indian (or even Indians unfamiliar with these things), it may not be very evident what that ingredient is. It could be worth re-structuring the format to emphasise the hero ingredient of each drink.
The other minor inconvenience is the font used for the main text – while the cursive style most certainly fits in with the concept, it is in some parts illegible and a tad hard to read. This isn’t a deal breaker but in a dimly lit bar, it may pose some challenges.
On the whole, A Desire Called Sidecar has all the makings of a great drinking experience – thoughtfully crafted drinks featured in a menu that tells a wonderful story and speaks volumes of the teamwork that went into it. Special mention must be made of the genuine love of literature that comes through in this menu – it is evident that this wasn’t a passing whim and the team have invested a part of themselves and their love for literature when putting this together.
If you live in Delhi, drop in to Sidecar, work your way through this literary bar crawl, and let us know your thoughts.
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