As we settle into spring weather and brunches, entertaining at home means being a mixologist, gourmand and setting a Pinterest worthy table, all at once. The pandemic forced most party goers into becoming imaginative with planning around limited resources. That included creating spirit forward beverages with what was available on hand. With the fog of the two-year pandemic just about lifting, the second edition of The Vault Home Bar Festival is all set to take place on February 25 and 26 and it will bring the best in the spirits business to the city.
Conceptualised by Keshav Prakash, founder, Vault Fine Spirits, the festival had its opening edition in 2019. The event which was initially scheduled to be a biennale, will now be held annually. The idea behind the two-day event is to create a space for spirit connoisseurs to engage with world-class distillers, mixologists, industry experts, all the while sampling some of the most premium spirits from across the world , and having meaningful conversations around entertaining.
Premium’s the word
Keshav Prakash has carefully curated premium whisky and rums for his exclusive Whisky and Rum Parlour, that allows guests with a ticket to taste never-seen-before spirits in India. He explains enthusiastically over a call: “Since 2019, domestic consumption of fine spirits has grown exponentially, with a large number of people in the 21-25 age bracket willing to try premium spirits. With the pandemic, there was a complete market reboot, and more people are entertaining at home now. In India, the discoverability of brands is important, and we are bringing some of the best spirits in each category to India this year.” Over 100 craft distillers will share their stories, speak of their terroir, and handpicked spirits from over 12 categories — whiskey, rum, gin, Cognac, tequila, Mezcal, vodka, Armagnac, Cachaca, sherry, vermouth and Calvados — will be on offer.
The day wise Festival pass (₹3,900) or the Season pass (₹6,900) allows visitors to sample spirits and gourmet food experiences, while the Mixology special requires a separate ticket ( ₹4,900). Keshav is excited about the mixology event, bringing Paradiso, a speakeasy style cocktail bar fro Barcelona, which took home top honours at The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022, to Mumbai. “We have the Indulge segment, where we have mixologists from Paradiso, Lost & Found Drinkery , Cyprus and Le Club, Matsuyama, Japan, each bringing their unique style and essence to the event, with three special cocktails for attendees,” he explains.
It’s not just about sampling spirits. The festival is keen on conversations. Speakers across the food and beverage landscape from India and abroad will provide insights into topics such as ‘What’s India and the World Drinking?’; ‘Home Bar Is The New Fancy Car’, with architects and designers discussing the aesthetic and functional aspects of setting up a bar space; ‘Gourmet Bar Snacks’ with chefs from famous kitchens across the country; ‘The Envious Whisky Closet — Build One Without Breaking The Bank’ — speakers from India’s whisky and single malt clubs and the ‘The Mad Gin Party — How To Keep It Cool’, with speakers from distilleries, a DJ, and The Gin Explorers Club.
Mumbai-based Rahul Reddy, Founder, Subko Specialty Coffee Roasters, will speak of coffee as the new must-have at a bar, and how the bean lends itself to great spirit collaborations.
“When it comes to specialty coffee, there’s a lot of scope for an immense amount of crossover, that can happen with coffee and different alcoholic beverages. We created a collaborative coffee dark lager a year back with Pune-based Great State Ale Works. We have also aged green, unroasted coffee within Moonshine meads( Pune-based meadery), then roasted that mead-aged coffee, and put it back into mead, and infused it again. This created this meta coffee mead. This year, we are getting granular about ageing coffee with spirits” says Rahul, adding that they have created ‘Spirit Series’, which essentially involves taking green, unroasted specialty coffee from Kalledevarapura Estate in Chikmagalur, Karnataka. “We go through experimentation, infusing and ageing coffee beans in whisky barrels or ageing within Indian gin, Indian rum and with a bespoke methodology of ageing with beer. After three months of ageing, we roast that coffee and present a unique-tasting, naturally-flavoured coffee, interesting in both iced and hot form,” he adds.
For those with a sweet tooth, at the event, there’s a spirit-chocolate pairing event with Chocolate by Ether Atelier Chocolat, and an Ice Cream Lab with Mumbai-based Sucres Des Terres (Sugars of the Earth). Yohan Dattoobhai and his wife Kunali Chandaria-Dattoobhai founded Sucres Des Terres, to offer Mumbai, artisanal ice cream made with local, natural ingredients . After a successful outing at the last event with Dirty Martini, Negroni Ice creams and Juniper-Tonic popsicles, Kunali says, she’s excited to present deliciously cold experiments with Indian brands.
“These are the kind of events that let us push our boundaries, and work with mixologists and distillers. We start our R & D two months prior to the event with various iterations and tastings with the brand partners. In addition to their tasting notes, we do our own, and this year we have collaborated with an Indian dark rum and gin brand that will be revealed at the event.” After selling close to 5,000 scoops at the 2019 event, Kunali is excited about this new collaboration with Keshav Prakash.
Keshav is buoyant about taking the event across the country. “Indians are now interested in conversations in this space, and a focus on premium world spirits, in addition to homegrown brands. The concept of ‘less, but better’ has gained momentum, as well, and I’m happy to bring the best in the world to this one-of-a-kind event in India.”