Bottled cocktails and coffee liquor: what’s trending this holiday season in India

From ready-to-drink cocktails and cold-brew coffee liquors, brands are upping their game for the party season

December 22, 2023 04:35 pm | Updated December 28, 2023 08:18 pm IST

Bira 91’s new introduction for the festive season

Bira 91’s new introduction for the festive season | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As you plan Christmas themed brunches or a New Year soiree, look towards India’s vibrant crafts spirits to stock your bar for a change.

For those of you cutting back on your annual tequila shots, there are a host of low alcohol ready-to-drink beverages now available. Bengaluru-based Salud Beverages has launched Salud Fiesta, an invigorating agave soda that boasts an 8% ABV (alcohol per volume of the beverage) in each 275 ml bottle, with agave’s crispness balanced with the sweet grenadine, complemented by zesty orange and lemon. Ajay Shetty, CEO of Salud, says, “Indian consumers are becoming more adventurous with respect to their taste preferences.”

 Salud Beverages’ Salud Fiesta

 Salud Beverages’ Salud Fiesta | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Bengaluru-based World of Brandshas also launched Disco Panda, its foray into the ready to consume segment, with Disco Panda Hoppy Magic and PilsenPunch, available in 375 ml bottles, using 100% natural ingredients.  

For those who enjoy tart in their tipple, try New Delhi-based Bira91’s line of Hill Station Hard Cider ales. The craft beer-forward company’s Himalayan Apple Original, Himalayan Apple Berry (5.3% ABV) and Himalayan Apple Strong (7.5% ABV) are dry with a hint of mountain barley, bursting with the full flavour of orchard-fresh Himalayan apples. Ankur Jain, CEO of Bira 91,  explains, “Over the last few years, the preferences of young Indian consumers have shifted drastically, and they are now keen on exploring newer categories. Ciders help us become a part of wider occasions as they can be consumed throughout the year and are perfect for afternoons as well as evenings.

New Delhi-based Bira91’s line of Hill Station Hard Cider ales

New Delhi-based Bira91’s line of Hill Station Hard Cider ales

Bira has also launched Grizly Hard Seltzer ales, all-natural, low sugar drinks, available in three flavours across Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Thane and Bengaluru in 330 ml cans and bottles( price varying by state). The Peach and Black Tea (4.5% ABV | 120 calories) combine the ripest peaches, steeped in brewed black tea, lending a sweet-sour flavour profile with a hint of musky tea. The Blueberry and Rosemary (4.5% ABV | 120 calories) blends luscious blueberries and fresh rosemary, with more earthy notes  and the Pineapple and  Okinawa Sugar with a higher ABV and calorie count  (7.5% ABV | 180 calories) has Okinawa sugar – a unique caramelised sugar from 17th century Japan, blended with ripe pineapples, yielding a light seltzer with caramel notes.

Also read: How Christmas celebrations in India may have spread out of Fort Kochi

For those who prefer light and citrusy notes, Pune-based Moonshine Meadery’s flagship Lemon Tea Mead will hit the spot. Made with Vahdam’s Earl Grey tea, the mead harmonises fresh lemon and multi floral honey and is light on the palate, with an ABV of 4.5%, available in Maharashtra (₹199) and Karnataka( ₹250) for a pint . 

If you plan to shake up vodka cocktails at parties this week, try making martinis with Beam Suntory’s Haku Vodka. Launched in September, across  Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana, (₹3,950 to ₹6,140), Haku, means ‘white and brilliant’ in Japanese, and pays tribute to ‘Hakumai’, a white Japanese rice, milled and polished, then filtered through bamboo charcoal.

Haku pays tribute to ‘Hakumai’, a white Japanese rice

Haku pays tribute to ‘Hakumai’, a white Japanese rice

Zoran Peric, brand ambassador of The House of Suntory, and a mixologist by profession says, “Indians have developed a palate for rice-based spirits, and Haku yields umami notes in chilled martinis. It makes good highballs and sours as well. The climate in India is suited to light, refreshing drinks and adding coconut water or local, tropical ingredients works well too.” 

Rampur-based Radico Khaitan launched Magic Moments Remix Pink Vodka last month to cater to the growing demand for coloured and flavoured categories. Crafted with 100% natural flavours of black mulberry, elderflower, and raspberry, the variant promises a nuanced taste experience, and is available inthree sizes (750 ml, 375 ml, and 180 ml) across Assam and UP.

A demand for nuanced flavours and local ingredients drives the creators of Quaffine, India’s first cold brew coffee liqueur, which is celebrating 2023 with a Christmas edition. Isaac Vivek Mani, founder and CEO, of Chennai-based Indie Brews and Spirits, creators of Quaffine, says, “It’s our expression of gratitude to the consumers, distributor, retailers and bars who have shown tremendous support to Quaffine in its first year. Every year, we wish to create an expression, rooted in Indian provenance, in a limited batch.”

Quaffine, a cold brew coffee liqueur from India

Quaffine, a cold brew coffee liqueur from India

The original ( 25% ABV, ₹1,850-Goa, ₹1,650 Gurgaon) is made with 100% Arabica beans sourced from 3,500 feet above sea level in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, roasted to a medium dark and cold brewed.  The Christmas edition (Goa - ₹3,050 )  with a limited batch of 492 bottles is made with  preserved cold brew from previous batches, matured for nine months and macerated with 15 spices and fruits including almonds, cherries, cranberries, figs, lemon and orange zest, prunes, currants, raisins, cinnamon, dry ginger, vanilla, nutmeg. “It tastes like Christmas in a cup, and is best enjoyed over ice,” adds Isaac, while a traditional eggnog can be made with the original Quaffine (60 ml),  with 7.5 ml simple syrup, 30 ml fresh cream and one egg. 

Goa-based John Distillerieshas its own annual Paul John Christmas edition (46% ABV), available in 750ml and 50ml gift friendly bottles in Mumbai ( ₹7000/ ₹500 ), Bengaluru(  ₹7,700 / ₹525) and Goa ( ₹7000/  ₹467). Master distiller Michael D’Souza explains, “This single malt is unpeated, matured in ex-bourbon casks, thereafter finishing in single vintage Colheita port casks, yielding a tawny colour with aromas of vanilla custard, dark chocolate and dry fruits with a rich and fruity finish.”

Longitude77 has been crafted in small batches in a distillery in Dindori

Longitude77 has been crafted in small batches in a distillery in Dindori

At Pernod Ricard India, they launched its first premium Indian single malt, Longitude77, this month. Paying homage to the country’s diverse culture and terroir, Longitude77 has been crafted in small batches in a distillery in Dindori, Nashik. It derives its moniker from the longitude that runs through the length of India at 77° East and is double matured in American Bourbon barrels and wine casks.

Kartik Mohindra, chief marketing officer and head of global business development, Pernod Ricard India, explains, “Longitude77, our first Indian single malt, is perfectly tailored to the Indian market and caters to the diverse palate of the Indian consumer.”

Sula’s holiday range

Sula’s holiday range

The other whisky making an entry is Michigan-based Shankar Distilleries’  Varchas Rye and Straight Bourbon (created in the US, available in  Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra ranging between ₹8,500 and ₹12,000). Using a mash of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% barley, with  water from the US Great Lakes, Varchas Straight Bourbon Whiskey (40% ABV) is honey gold with the aroma of heavy caramel, vanilla and oak. It makes a good old fashioned and a winter favourite hot apple surprise with hot apple cider, cinnamon sticks with a sugar and nutmeg rim, while the Varchas Straight Rye Whiskey, made with a mash of 95% rye and 5% barley, creates a sweet initial taste with a long dry finish of complex spice, nuts, smoke and oak and is great in a New York style whiskey sour with simple syrup, lemon juice, egg white and red wine.

For those keen on high-end gifting, Beam Suntory’s centennial editions, Yamazaki 18-year-old Mizunara comprising selected malt whiskies aged for a minimum of 18 years in solely Mizunara casks, and The Hibiki Japanese Harmony are options available in Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi NCR, and Rajasthan. The 100th Anniversary Edition of Hibiki Japanese Harmony is priced at ₹40,000 per bottle while the Yamazaki 18-Year-Old Mizunara is steeper at ₹3 lakh per bottle. 

Finally, as no celebration is complete without wine and a little bubbly, Sula Vineyards is offering their Pinot Noir (₹1250 in Maharashtra) and The Source Moscato (₹1,495 - Maharashtra and Karnataka). The latter is lightly sparkling with notes of lychee, citrus and peach, while the Pinot Noir is crafted from carefully selected Pinot Noir grapes in Nashik,  and aged in French oak barrels for five months, with aromas of red cherries and raspberries. 



Karan Vasani, COO and chief winemaker at Sula Vineyards, concludes, “The Source Moscato is the perfect accompaniment to appetisers with a hint of sweetness, or an add-on to your favourite dessert like warm custard. If your holiday feast includes a spicy dish like vindaloo, opting for the Pinot Noir, with moderate alcohol content is always preferable to a high ABV wine, which would increase the heat perception and even bring some bitter notes.”

So whatever you are serving at your year-end parties, make sure they end on a spirited note.  

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