Food has been an integral part in the journey of Delhi over the past millennium. Invaders from different parts of the sub-continent and beyond came and settled in the northern plains of the country. Over time, their lives intertwined and assimilated with the local life and flavors, leaving a lasting impression and redefining culture and cuisine of India in every aspect. One Delhi borough that has been a witness to its share of history is Hauz Khas. To meet the water supply needs of his newfound capital, Siri, Allahudin Khilji ordered the construction of a reservoir and called it Hauz-i-Alai. Following rulers, especially Feroz Shah Tughlaq, played a significant role in restoring the water body and built several monuments on the eastern and southern banks of the reservoir. Somewhere along the passage of time, it came to be known by its modern day name, Hauz Khas. Encroachment reduced the size of the reservoir over the years, but the monuments stand tall, bearing witness to a bygone era of Delhi’s history.
Overlooking the magnificent historical structures in Hauz Khas village is Smoke House Deli. Among the various locations of the restaurant, the one by the lake at Hauz Khas is by far the best in the narrator’s opinion. No other location in the modern day city of Delhi has the same sense of tranquility associated with it; a place where a meal or a drink can truly be enjoyed without the onslaught of a modern metropolis on the senses. Every visit is an experience, thanks to the habit of attention to detail by Executive Head Chef, Shamsul Wahid.
Like the kitchen staff, the bar staff under the very capable Vijay Prakash (henceforth VP) at Smoke House Deli have been hiding an ace up their sleeve – their uncanny attention to detail in understanding of flavors and pairing in their drinks. I admit, visits to Smoke House so far have been about food, with Shams guiding the taste buds to culinary nirvana with his food paired with base drinks like beer, wine or whiskeys. With the new summer cocktails menu, things now appear to be heading in a different direction.
Berry Julep, VP’s take on the classic mint and whiskey cocktail is a window to the old school way of making cocktails – simple and refreshing. No snazzy, exotic ingredients, only spirit, a sweetener, lime, bitters and water. Jim Beam forms the base of this drink along with a liberal smattering of cranberries and strawberries giving it a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and bitters. Served in a heavy silver glass, Berry Julep is a whole new level of cool, old school charm from the days of Gone With The Wind or Casablanca.
Chamomile Sour, a fresh new take on the classic whiskey sour, misses out on the cool factor after Berry Julep, but scores decent on the taste factor nonetheless. Ballentine’s whiskey with chamomile tea and orange skin infused ice cubes give it a good balance of sweet and bitters on the palate, but not enough to score over the previous drink. This drink felt mildly subdued on the palate owing to the tea perhaps, but still makes a good addition to the bar menu.
The Earl-y Gin, another tea infused drink with Earl Grey tea and Beefeater Gin scores better on the taste as well as the presentation fronts with its brighter, colorful appearance. Beefeater Gin has a liberal dash of orange in its taste profile, owing to the orange peel that goes into the making of the drink. Earl-y Gin, with its reliance on orange bitters enhances that refreshing orange flavor on the palate in spite of a very delectable house-made cranberry reduction jam that goes into the concoction.
Cosmopolitan is considered to be a very feminine drink; Lt. Cdr. Bond would not care for one. However, the Cosmo Divine that VP dishes out may have another story to tell. Very subtle on taste, and extremely flavorsome, this drink made with citrus vodka, triple sec, and cranberry juice makes an excellent company for a quiet evening. It also scores high on presentation with a cranberry and orange infused ice cube that sits in the glass and releases the flavors slowly over the drink, making it that much more interesting while you sip it over a relaxed evening. You may not stop at one, but that’s something no one can help you with.
There are Piña Coladas, and there are Piña Coladas. The one at Smoke House is the latter. It is very difficult to find a well-balanced dessert drink, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to make one. If you are in a mood for dessert after your meal, ask for the Piña Colada and you will not regret it. Rum, coconut cream, pineapple, orange, cranberries give it the well-rounded taste profile that will make you forget any other drink in this segment.
Overall, the summer cocktails menu at Smoke House scores well above the competition and is a must try. One hopes that the drinks featured in this promotional menu will find their way to the regular menu as well. They will make a worthy addition to the drinks menu of the restaurant.