The Make In India spirit has taken over India's spirits market. That's not an outlandish statement - over the past year, many start-ups and established booze makers have oiled their innovation engines. So much so that India now has premium stuff, ranging all the way from single malts to vodkas, to gin and beer.
Here's a short booze guide for 2020. This does not, of course, include every Indian brand that made its mark in 2019 and could shine in 2020. This is more directional.
Single malts: In popular folklore, there are three-four countries where the more exquisite single malts come from. There is Scotland, Ireland, Japan. Taiwan has risen in reputation, too. Nevertheless, India now makes some of the world's best single malts. Paul John's single malts are among the top rated in the world now; so are Amrut's, a Bengaluru-based distillery that was the first to change the game for India. Amrut's Fusion, in 2010, was recognised by English critic Jim Murray as the world's third finest whiskey, after Sazerac Rye 18 Years Old (American) and Ardbeg Supernova (Scottish). Apart from Amrut and Paul John, three companies have come up with single malts recently. There is Radico Khaitan, Mohan Meakin, and the Khoday Group.
Gin: The spirit has made an astounding revival globally. Gin cocktails are a rage and so are gin bars. It is not uncommon to come across gin snobs, just as you see wine snobs. International spirits companies are therefore launching premium expressions in India. Beam Suntory was the last, introducing Japanese craft gin Roku. The made-in-India premium gin to try would be Radico Khaitan's Jaisalmer. It hit the Indian retail markets in December but is already available in over 16 countries and duty-free outlets. The gin uses 11 botanicals during the distillation process - seven of them are from India.
Beer: Winters are not the time for beer, particularly if you are in the North. For the rest of the country, there is a wide range of craft beer to choose from. 'Craft' implies being manufactured in a small, independent brewery with high quality malt and water. By saying craft, many small companies want to make a distinction from 'industrial' or mass beer. Natural ingredients such as orange peel can be introduced during the beer making process to make it aromatic. Bira is the largest of the new lot of beer start-ups. Then, there is White Owl Craft Beer, Simba, and Kati Patang, among others. You know Indian craft beer has arrived when one of India's best chefs, Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent, makes a dashing use of them. At a recent dinner hosted by watch maker Favre-Leuba, Mehrotra paired Yavira Premium Basmati Lager with Chandni Chowk Puri Aloo, sweet pumpkin, and pickle. That was the dinner's first course. The second course had Bira Pomelo IPA paired with Ker Sanger Paneer.