Arijit Bose has been in the F&B industry for more than 10 years. He has worked across some of the finest bars in the “land of spices”, India, as well as running his own consulting business back home. Arijit is currently working as Brand Ambassador for Monkey 47 Gin with Singapore as his base.
What was your first job in the industry?
In 2003, I was hired as a Management trainee for a boutique hotel called The Park New Delhi which housed a nightclub. Agni, which is the hindi term for fire, is where I professionally started banging drinks from behind a 36 foot bar till the wee hours of the morning. It was incidentally the place where I met my then boss and current business partner Vaibhav Singh who along with two others and I opened India’s first speakeasy style bar called PCO and now helps run Bar Back Collective back home.
What are your favourite 3 bars around the world?
How would you describe India in flavours?
Though famous for its spices around the world, India has a lot to offer with its indigenous agricultural produce. Traditionally we always have liked bolder flavors. It’s difficult to pinpoint as the language changes every 200 km and with it, the culture and food habits. The south of India uses a lot more subtle flavours compared to the north with its mix of spices and cooking techniques which is completely different from the west where the food is influenced by the Iranian settlers from days gone by. While the magical city of Goa populated by 3rd generation of Portuguese and its influence, French influenced cooking style around the settlements in Pondicherry just a few exotic ones to mention.
Inspired by culinary happening around the world Indian chefs and bartenders are re-discovering the beauty of the spices and flavors that are locally grown.
What is your personal favourite ingredients from India to work with, and why? Can you share cocktail recipe for our readers?
“AAM PANNA”. It is a syrup made from a combination of roasted cumin, mint, black salt with roasted raw mango. It’s really nostalgic for me because it’s a guilty pleasure from my childhood. Aam Panna is popular across north and east of India for its cooling properties, when served with cold water during hot days as well as for indigestion. I used to make a rum fix called Raahat (roughly translates to Relief):
15ml Aam Panna or Roasted Raw mango syrup
10ml Lime juice
Fresh pineapple juice
Shake and serve over crushed ice in an old fashioned glass.
Can you name a few of the obscure local spirits and beers we may have never heard of?
Feni: Distilled white spirit made in Goa from cashew nuts and coconut and comparable to Arrack in some cases.
Toddy: Local palm wine, a bit harsh but consumed quite a bit by the labourers and fishermen along the coast.
Mahua: Initially consumed in large numbers illicit distilleries started producing this as moonshine flavored with the ‘ Mahua’ Flower used for its fragrance and medicinal qualities. The fermented liquor was consumed in the old days by the tribes of north India.
Handia: Rice beer made in clay pots.
Chaanng: Made from millet or rice, it’s fermented in bamboo and flavored with ginger and Aconite. Some species of aconite are super poisonous so the producer needs to be very careful while making it.
Can you describe the Indian F&B industry?
Fast growing, quickly learning and constantly evolving.
The business owners want to provide better quality service to their clients and are getting competitive. We have seen a lot of the guys now not only investing in ambience and music, but also on ingredients, equipment and above all, talent. Many professionals from overseas are brought over to develop our local talents up to speed and global recognition.
I remember an instance where I took a famous Global brand Ambassador for a Japanese meal a few years back and he quipped that it was one of the best meals he had, I consider that incredible. Also, the number of such places where you get high end service is growing, but they are balanced by a lot of mid level local bars popping up that offer POP-Indian food and beverage experiences, along with chef-led joints promoting quality drinking.
Speaking of cocktails, my favourite watering holes in India include:
- Perch Wine & Coffee Bar in Delhi
- Bastian and One street over by chef Kelvin Cheung in Bombay
- Social by Riyaaz Amlani in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore
- Bombay Canteen set up by Sammer Seth in Mumbai
- PCO in Delhi
- Speakeasy in Gurgaon.
High-end dining experience has a long historic tradition in Indian F&B industry, however many chefs are also paying more and more attention to beverage programs at their restaurants. A lot of mid range price points with good quality offering establishments are spreading across the whole country.
The craft beer, coffee and wine industry is also attracting a lot of attention and investment which has been a very good evolution in the beverage sector, which makes it a great market to be a part of.
Overall, the whole F&B development increases new job opportunities.
What is your favourite drink to make and to enjoy?
Vieux Carre (bourbon, cognac, vermouth, benedictine), it is simple, yet complex twist on classic Old Fashioned cocktail with a great history. I love drinking them as they guarantee a 100 % guest satisfaction.
In your opinion, what is lacking in the global F&B scene at present?
I think the global scene is pretty rock solid with so many innovations and things happening that it is often mind–boggling yet inspiring and I often get left with the feeling of ‘ why did I not think of that’.
However if I was pressed I would say that it is lacking in self confidence and patience at times where business owners/chefs/bartenders are cornered into the social media gambit and pressure from unbelievable expectations leading to many a crash and burn and short life cycles spans.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
Always hustling. Consulting with a few bars in India, setting up a training squad for beverage brands. I am super excited about role I took on a while back as a Monkey 47 gin Regional Brand Ambassador. Hoping to see you for quite a few gin fuelled shenanigans.
Thanks Arjit! We look forward to seeing you out and about town!