5 DIY Cocktail Recipes With A South Indian Twist

5 DIY Cocktail Recipes With A South Indian Twist

Fresh turmeric is an integral part of the Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu. The mouth of the Pongal pot (Pongal paanai) is tied with turmeric leaves and bulbs. It’s easy to find this ingredient in Chennai’s major markets in January during the Pongal season. I discovered that it also makes a wonderful cocktail ingredient (see recipes). As we go beyond classic cocktails and look for new experiences and flavours, local ingredients are the new stars in the mix. From a karuvapellai (curry leaf) martini to sambar thrown into the cocktail shaker, mixologists are not shy to ‘shake’ things up.

You can play around with these cocktail recipes with a South Indian twist as you turn mixologist in your home bar:

(Also read: 11 Best South Indian Curries You Can Try At Home)

1. Gulabo Sour:

Recipe courtesy – Rohit Pandey, Executive Assistant Manager – Food & Beverage at The Leela Bhartiya City Bengaluru.

The Library Bar at the Leela Bhartiya City Bengaluru is a throwback to the city’s colonial past. I first tried this cocktail with a strong presence of cardamom at this bar. Cardamom is sometimes referred to as the queen of spices in the Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka where some of India’s best cardamom comes from.

Ingredients: Dry Rose & Cardamon Gin – 60ml Lychee juice 30ml Egg white – whole Sugar Syrup – 20ml Lime juice – 20ml


Infuse gin in dry rose (50 gm) and cardamom (50 gm) and keep it away for 24 hours

Pour the infused gin, lychee juice, egg white, sugar syrup and lime juice in a cocktail mixer and shake hard

Served in a whisky glass

Garnish with dry rose petals

2. Red Kremlin


Recipe courtesy – Rohit Pandey, Executive Assistant Manager – Food & Beverage at The Leela Bhartiya City Bengaluru.

Star Anise is a key element in the five-spice powder that is used extensively in Chinese recipes. It’s also an integral element in Chettinad cuisine from Southern Tamil Nadu. This recipe combines Star anise and hibiscus tea.


Hibiscus and Star Anise infused vodka -60ml ( Infused Hibiscus tea 50gm |Star Anise 100gms in vodka for 24-48hrs)

Lime juice 20ml

Sugar syrup 25ml

Ginger Ale – top up


Add Hibiscus tea & Star Anise Infused Vodka, lime juice, sugar syrup and Ginger Ale in a cocktail shaker and shake hard.

Serve in a highball glass.

Garnish with Mint leaves or Kaffir lime leaves

3. Neer Mortini


By Devyani Nath, Mixologist at Merak, JW Marriott Bengaluru

I normally finish breakfast with a South Indian style buttermilk or neer more (thin buttermilk). It was refreshing (literally) to see my everday fix reimagined as a cocktail during my last visit to the JW Marriott Bengaluru.


Vodka – 45ml

Curd – 60ml

Mustard seeds ,Curry leaves, green chillies and Asafoetida (for tempering)

Chopped Ginger

Chopped Mint


Add Curd and whisk it with water to make a thin consistency

Add a pinch of salt, ginger and mint into it and whisk it all together

For Tempering:

Add oil curry leaf, green chillies and asafoetida

Add the ingredients into the buttermilk

Strain the butter milk into a shaker

Add Vodka with ice

Shake till it’s chilled

Serve in a chilled Martini glass

Garnish with Coriander/Tempered curry leaf

4. Kuchipudi


By Devyani Nath, Mixologist at Merak, JW Marriott Bengaluru

Sambar in a cocktail? Why not. This is the equivalent of a South Indian meal packed into a cocktail glass


Rum – 30ml

Sambar – 60ml

Kokum – 10ml

Coconut water – 15ml

Kori Roti

Gun Powder


Cut the kori roti into small pieces

Pan sear it with gun powder till it gets golden in colour

Blend the sambar without the vegetables

Strain it into a shaker, add kokum, coconut water to it

Add Rum and shake it with ice

Strain it into a stem glass

Garnish with mini Idli

5. Curry leaf margarita


Recipe courtesy – ITC Grand Chola, Chennai

This might well be the cocktail that James Bond might order in Chennai. While this recipe uses pineapple juice, I’ve tried making a similar drink with jasmine (bela sharbat) instead of the pineapple.


Curry leaves – 5-8 Tequila – 45ml Lime -15 ml Pineapple juice- 20ml


Combine the ingredients in a shaker. Strain and serve

Recipe – Pongalo Pongal


Gin: 45 ml

Fresh turmeric

Lemon juice: 15 ml

Jaggery syrup: 15 ml


Crush the turmeric and then add to the shaker with the other ingredients with a pinch of turmeric powder. Garnish with a lime slice. I used Gondhoraj Lemon but you can try this with any other lemon.

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