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Mixologists mixing cocktails at AER bar at Four Seasons, Mumbai

India’s coolest cocktail bars

From Delhi to Bangalore, India’s mixologists have marched on to the world stage, with many of the country’s vibiest spots ranking among Asia’s 50 Best Bars. We’ve cherry picked nine that you won’t want to miss


India’s bar scene has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years, thanks to a flurry of brilliantly innovative watering holes founded by mixologists who blend a passion for local ingredients with a double shot of creativity. But don’t take our word for it – the country’s bars are making regular appearances in the World’s Best 50 Bars list, and they fared even better in Asia’s 50 Best Bars rankings last year, in which outfits from New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai made the cut. Here are the top spots from which to toast this flourishing cocktail scene.

AER provides a lofty perch over the city (also opening image)

AER, Four Seasons Mumbai, Mumbai

Got a head for heights? You’ll love Mumbai’s highest rooftop bar, found atop the Four Seasons Mumbai. The cocktail menu here is inspired by clouds – an approach that strangely makes sense. The Clear Skies section of the menu, for example, is dominated by gin- and vodka-based concoctions, while the Thunderhead cocktails are strong, dark and packed with ingredients that pay homage to India. These include the Foghorn, made with dark rum, Fernet-Branca, dark-roasted Arabica and cinnamon.

Loya’s cocktails use indigenous botanicals and potent Indian spirits

Loya Bar, Taj Palace, New Delhi

Within the illustrious hotel, you’ll find this bar in the restaurant of the same name, and both pay tribute to Northern India’s cuisine. The Masala Whisky is a brilliant winter warmer on Delhi’s colder days, and we’re loving the unusual touches, such as the sandalwood dust sprinkled around the rim of the rum, mint and blueberry-based Jammu Julep. This innovative approach is down to former head mixologist Hemant Pathak, who hails from Uttarakhand and has honed his craft in various cocktail capitals, including New York. One of the most popular creations is one made with gin and mulethi, an Indian herb traditionally used for treating coughs, and which Pathak’s mother would give to him as a child. See? Mothers really do know best...

A ‘tree of life’ installation sits at the heart of Eau Bar

Eau Bar, the Oberoi Mumbai, Mumbai

Known for its explosion of Art Deco opulence, its reputation for serving up Mumbai’s best martinis (we recommend the chili-infused version inspired by the city) and the outdoor terrace offering stunning ocean views, Eau Bar is a great place to toast Mumbai. The cocktail menu, created by British mixologist Andrew Pearson (a former winner of the UK Bartenders Guild’s National Cocktail Competition), is a tribute to Mumbai. Examples include Marine Drive, a gin and orange bitters-based cocktail named after the city’s oceanfront boulevard, and the Mumbai Mule, made with vodka, cinnamon and sweet lychee.

Boteco’s sunny interior

Boteco, Bangalore

Boteco is, perhaps unsurprisingly, inspired by traditional Brazilian botecos – no-nonsense bars where locals go for casual drinks and catch-ups. The version in Bangalore (officially now Bengaluru) is just as famous for its cuisine (the barbecued dishes, grilled over charcoal, are fantastic) as its drinks, so there’s plenty of food to soak up the ridiculously delicious cocktails. These include Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha (made with imported Brazilian cachaça), the Summer Punch, made with cachaça, lime and pickle brine (sounds weird but it works) and the Batida De Co Cachaça, made with coconut cream. Boteco is also one of Bangalore’s prettiest bars, with colourful glass mosaics, internal archways inspired by Copacabana’s sidewalks and beautiful tiled flooring.

Mixologists at work at Americano

Americano, Mumbai

An achingly hip bar in Mumbai’s trendy Kala Ghoda area, Americano was founded by chef Alex Sanchez and restaurateur Mallyeka Watsa. Sanchez is regarded as a pioneer of India’s farm-to-table food scene, and this approach extends to the drinks, too. Cocktails strike a balance between quirky and cool, and the menu doesn’t leave drinkers wondering what certain ingredients might taste like, but offers clear, concise tasting notes for each one. On sweltering days, nothing beats the Malabar Cooler, made with gin, melon, cucumber and amaretto. We’re also huge fans of the décor – step inside this Tardis-like venue, tucked down a leafy by lane, and you’ll find soaring ceilings, a jewel-green marble bar and mood-boosting pops of colour courtesy of the cornflower-blue furniture.

Retro-futuristic Comorin Bar

Comorin Bar, New Delhi

Even the fussiest of imbibers will find something to love on Comorin’s menu, which lists dozens of types of whisky (including 27 single malts and seven Indian whisky brands), ten types of vodka and 12 varieties of gin. But the stars of the show are the cocktails, made with carefully curated combinations of ingredients that might seem unusual, but are perfection. Examples include the Fennel Paloma, which relies on grapefruit juice and tequila to transform fennel’s aniseed notes, and the Comorin 75, in which a rhododendron-infused gin is blended with lavender. The dimly lit, museum-like displays of spirits bottles are a reminder that the cocktails are taken seriously here, while stripped wooden floors and walls painted in calming hues of mint-green lend a fabulously home-style feel.

Grab a drink here

A PCO-style negroni

PCO, New Delhi

PCO stands for Pass Code Only, and while you’ll definitely need a password to enter this chic Delhi bar (a top tip – look out for the phone booth). Email the bar to obtain it (although bear in mind the code changes every week). Once inside, you’ll find a fabulously cosy venue that feels more like a British pub – think faded photos on the wall and marshmallow-like sofas. Cocktails are delicious, quirky and made with passion, and the most popular tipples include the Bond-inspired Vesper Martini and the agave-based Papa Don’t Peach.

Sleek circular bar at Dashanzi

Dashanzi at the JW Marriott Mumbai, Mumbai

A popular hangout for Bollywood types (due to the JW Marriott’s location in Juhu Beach, one of Mumbai’s wealthiest neighbourhoods), this stunning bar serves up a hat-trick of stunning views, gorgeous cocktails and delicious nibbles for when hunger strikes. Nab a seat at the circular bar, if you can, and watch the team of expert mixologists work their magic with a wide range of Asian-inspired ingredients. Sake, green tea and various spices all feature heavily, and there are regular guest bartenders. Recent examples include Yangdup Lama from Sidecar and Jakaria Yahya, head mixologist at legendary Jakarta restaurant Henshin.

Sidecar comes in at 18 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list

Sidecar, New Delhi

A slick cocktail bar close to the hip, street art-filled New Delhi neighbourhood of Hauz Khas, Sidecar currently resides in 18th place on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. The ground floor, with its stacks of books (curated by publishing house Hachette), has a fabulously relaxed vibe, but most visitors head to the first floor. Here, a stunning wooden bar, which brings to mind Himalayan tea houses, stretches almost the entire length of the room. Bitters, syrups and tinctures are all made in house, and bartenders have a serious passion for local ingredients. Try the Sadar Bazaar, a heavenly blend of Cognac, areca nut and orange blossom water.