For those who appreciate a good drink, India offers up plenty of temptations. From award-winning Indian wineries to impressive whisky distillers, the Subcontinent has never had such a wide array of tippling possibilities. And now, that’s true of its newly thriving cocktail scene, too. From swanky hotel lounges to cosy drinking dens, these five cocktail bars in India are destination-worthy for their mixology, their ambiance, and their hospitality. Pull up a stool and get ready to indulge.
Pali Bhavan, Mumbai
Lively Bandra has long been one of Mumbai’s best neighbourhoods for nightlife, and for revellers seeking amusement as well as exceptional mixology, Pali Bhavan is a worthy destination. Amidst its distinctive décor—antique chandeliers illuminate communal wooden tables, and the walls are covered in a jumble of framed antique photos and artworks—guests pick from the cocktail menu, which features both classic and more experimental serves. Note as well that Pali Bhavan is ranked amongst Mumbai’s essential eateries, so it’s worth sticking around for dinner.
Toast & Tonic, Bangalore
Inspired by the energy and grit of the East Village in New York, Toast & Tonic is a cocktail lover’s dream destination. Sip seasonal specialities like the wintery Cranberry Gin-ger Fizz, order up classics like their impressive Negroni rendition or Spanish-style gin & tonic, or opt for house serves like the Ms. Betty Rose, which mingles vodka, fennel, pomegranate and, yes, rose. The dinner menu at Toast & Tonic is no less ambitious; pair dishes like tuna tataki tostadas or crispy softshell crab with your drinks to really set the mood.
Ek Bar, New Delhi
Venture to the trendy neighbourhood of Defence Colony in New Delhi and you’ll find one of the best cocktails bars in India: the buzzing, eclectic Ek Bar. Its looks are impressive—including a parquet floor, vibrantly hued furnishings, and colourful wall murals—and it has an ambitious cocktail programme to match. Try the Es-sense, made with a base of vodka, basil, lime, and honey, and served with almond, strawberry, and rose fragrances that guests can apply to change the flavour. A Marigold Fizz, meanwhile, sees marigold-infused gin mingle with lime, honey, and frothy egg white.
House of Nomad, Mumbai
Hidden away within the Taj Lands End in Bandra, House of Nomad bills itself as a “gastro bar” that serves tapas alongside some of the Subcontinent’s most skilfully mixed cocktails. The drinks programme is spearheaded by Andrew Pearson, a 20-year industry veteran who’s been described as “the Jamie Oliver of drinks,” and the experience shows: whether you order a Smoke & Mirrors (made with Old Monk rum, apple juice, gingerbread syrup and homemade bitters, and then infused with hickory smoke) or a refreshing Bramble Sour, it’s difficult to make a poor selection here.
If you like your drinks with a side of live jazz and a laidback feel, then Cantare is certainly one to add to the list. Tucked away in Saligao, the bar and grill has a sultry, low-lit ambiance that pairs well with the heat. Appropriately, its drinks menu veers towards the tropical (think fruit-forward margaritas and a refreshing Sugarcane Surprise), with cocktails that taste even better when languorously sipped on the verandah.
Feature images © s-cphoto/iStock; Toast & Tonic, Ek Bar, Taj Hotels, Cantare