The Royal Drams

The Royal Drams

Drinking in the Palace experience

Whisky & Culture | 23 Mar 2018 | Issue 150 | By Sandeep Arora

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India has a rich culture and history, dominated by kings and emperors, who built dynasties showcased through imposing palaces and mighty forts. Some of these are more than a 100 years old. During the years, many of these have been converted into luxury hotels and witness high end global travellers. Integral to “The Palace Experience” are fine bars, offering a great selection of premium whiskies and spirits, as well as whisky experiences.

We invite you to join us as we appreciate a dram at some of these bars in India as we explore ‘the royal drams’.


Trophy Bar


Jodhpur

Umaid Bhawan Palace is one of the world’s largest private residences, home to the royal family of Jodhpur. Creation of this edifice started in 1928 and was completed 15 years later in 1943 with 347 breathtaking rooms which were erected over a space of 26 acres out of which 15 acres were occupied by lush green gardens.

The palace oozes grandeur and has been welcoming its prosperous clientele since 1971, when it opened its doors to invite people to experience its scenic beauty. The most distinctive feature of the palace is its 105ft high cupola which has drawn inspiration from the Renaissance. Rajput heritage has also been delicately inculcated in the design which has been done by the architect, Henry Vaughan Lanchester.

The Trophy Bar at the Umaid Bhawan Palace gets one face to face with royalty with the pink sandstone and marble floors, surrounded by exquisite artifacts like Tiger skin cushions, gazelles, bears, large wild boar tusks, binoculars and a collection of fishing gear. The couches are capable of engulfing a person in its velvet like softness. What is truly overwhelming is when a butler walks in with a ‘safa’ on his head & a dram of Johnnie Walker King George V, in a Baccarat Crystal old-fashioned glass to offer you, while you absorb this dream-like reality by pinching yourself.

The Trophy Bar consists of a selection of aperitifs, whiskies, cognacs, tequilas, liqueurs, martinis and Bellinis, as well as Cuban cigars.

A truly Maharaja-like experience and lifelong memories are the two things that the No. 1 hotel in the world leaves you with.


Rajwada Bar


The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur

Designed in a colonial style, Rajwada Library Bar, literally meaning royal residence, is a library bar offering an intimate setting to relax and unwind. It is decorated with colonial memorabilia, hung with lithographs of ancient Maharajas and filled with polished wooden dressers holding leather bound classics. The bar is dominated by a white, Italian marble fireplace with fitted, leather, corner stools, there are also dark wooden dressers laden with leather bound classics, rich suede ottoman and black leather chairs that sit on its dramatic Burmese teak floor.

Rajwada has an extensive collection of rare books on history and literature, old manuscripts, books on poetry and various coffee table books including ones on arts and crafts of Rajasthan. The library has a classic collection of books on history of Europe, India and the French revolution, along with books on Royal India, costumes, and Indian textile and architecture.

Guests can enjoy a fine selection of cigars, wines, rare single malts, cognacs and contemporary as well as traditional cocktails as they leaf through books on various topics, or challenge friends to a game of chess or backgammon.

Twice a week, acclaimed historian Ranbir Sinh conducts an interactive session on the adventurous exploits of the Rajput dynasty, the splendors of the Mughal era, the British Raj and events leading to the Independence of India.


Hookah Lounge


Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

‘Mirror of the sky’ is the literal meaning this palace in Hyderabad spread across an area of 32 acres that took 10 years to build and 22 years to perfect. Taj Falaknuma Palace, designed by British architect William Mard Marret, is a rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture.

The Palace has been home to Sir Vicar-Ul-Umra, PM of the State of Hyderabad, Nizam Mehboob Ali Pasha and Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur.

It fell silent after the 1950s. Since 1995, The Taj Group of Hotels has sensitively restored the palace to accommodate the privileged in 60 glamorous rooms and suites.

The luscious Hookah Lounge, with an eternal fragrance of jasmine, mood lighting, instrumental music, sumptuous upholstery, is reminiscent of an era when believe it or not smoking was an art in itself.

As you enter, you see a wide selection of flavoured Hookahs, served from beautifully handcrafted apparatus. The bar is lined with the finest rare whiskies, hand picked single malts, along with premium cognac. This place submerges you in the nostalgic allure of Nizam’s lavish hospitality.


The Peacock Bar


ITC Grand Bharat, Haryana

Set amidst a vast expanse of 296 acres, ITC Grand Bharat is an epitome of ‘modern style palace’. Launched in 2015, the architecture and detailing of this stupendous structure is such, that the moment you set foot in this property, it takes you back a 100 years to an era of royalty.

This is an all-suites luxury property with 104 suites out of which four are presidential villas, and for those that indulge in the ancient game, a 27-hole golf course designed by the renowned ‘Golden Bear’ Jack Nicklaus.

The Palatial feel of the Peacock Bar makes time stop when jazz echoes in the ears and the vivid blue of the chandeliers and chairs block the eyes. The mixologist delivers his signature cocktail in a stained glass with peacock motif, inspired by the fables of India, like a ball of fire whose theatrics will leave you enchanted. The cocktail is a Cigar Smoked Old Fashioned Chivas Regal 12 Years Old stirred with sweet orange bitters in an Absinthe rinsed glass which leaves a smooth and balanced mouth feel.

ITC Hotels calls this magnificent structure an oasis of unhurried luxury, which it truly is.


Polo Bar


Rambagh Palace, Jaipur

‘The Jewel of Jaipur’, Rambagh Palace built in 1835, has stepped gracefully through many royal transitions, from the home of the Queen’s favourite handmaiden, to royal guesthouse and hunting lodge, and later as the residence of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and his queen, Maharani Gayatri Devi.

Today, this jewel in the Taj’s crown offers 78 stunningly restored grand luxury rooms and suites which were the chambers of the former Maharaja. During the years, it has played gracious host to several illustrious guests, such as Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Rambagh Palace is home to the legendary Polo Bar. The glamour of the princely sport is masterfully captured in every little detail at the royal Polo Bar which is adorned with trophies & memorabilia of yore. The shelves are lined with the finest rare whiskies, signature cocktails inspired by the sport, single malts, cognacs, wines and liqueurs, underlined by a hand-picked selection of Cuban cigars. This is the ideal opulent venue to unwind and soak in some royalty.


Amrit Sagar


Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

The palace which became world renowned when the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed at, was once the lair of the young prince, Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur. After Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur, was caught frolicking at moonlight picnics with ladies of the ‘zenana’ (the private chambers of the court), he built his own pleasure palace on Lake Pichola in 1746. The Maharana called this palace Jag Niwas.

This heritage hotel has 66 luxurious rooms and 17 grand suites. Its location on an island in the midst of a lake affords every room breathtaking views of the neighbouring palace, Aravalli Hills, Machla Magra Hills and Jag Mandir. The incomparable location provides the perfect backdrop for the exquisite bar, Amrit Sagar. The name aptly translates to ‘sea of nectar’.

This earthy bar is well renowned for its signature martinis, a selection of vintage wines, premium spirits, smoky single malts, cognacs and cigars which can be relished with sumptuous kebabs, brochettes and antipasti.

Isn’t a 40-years-old single malt in a well cultivated bar in a palace in the middle of lake a thing fairytales are made of? Oh yes!


The Bar


The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra

The bar, located at the lobby level of The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra is the only bar in the world which has a direct and uninterrupted view of the splendid Taj Mahal, where the ambience takes you back in time to the grandeur of the Mughal reign. The highlight of the bar is a selection of single malts and cigars. Indoors, soft Indian instrumental music forms a suitable background to lively conversation, while the bar terrace is an ideal location for an enjoying an evening cup of tea or a post meal drink or cigar while gazing at the monument. The signature cocktails, the Mumtaz and the Blue Mughal, pay tribute to the history of the Taj.

The outdoor terrace area, as well as the Tea lounge at the opposite end of the lobby, offer similar views and act as extensions of the bar, providing
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