Bars

The lap of luxury

Sandeep Arora discovers and explores some of the best whisky bars in India
By Sandeep Arora
India has some of the most incredible bars in the most luxurious environments and we find out about a selection of the best of them.


The Piano Bar


at the Oberoi, Gurgaon

The Oberoi Gurgaon, recently introduced Japanese whiskies and added these to its charming whisky collection. This was the first bar to do a formal tasting, paired with Japanese food, it was a fitting tribute to some of the great whiskies of the world.

Since the hotel opened, it has been in the news for all the right reasons. Though admittedly, The Piano Bar, located on the third level and overlooking the central reflection pool has maintained a low profile and as such exclusivity. It opens at 11 in the morning and is great place for an early afternoon drink, before proceeding for an elegant lunch at the Three Sixty One. Evenings are another matter all together, when one can linger over some great whiskies, wines and cigars. Whisky cocktails are well prepared and offered with the finest presentation. The décor is contemporary with enhanced lighting lots of open space combined with service reminiscent of an exclusive club. Light snacks, afternoon teas or evening cocktails, all are enjoyed at leisure. The main bar is the Island bar counter, which is in pristine Botticino, simple yet elegant. In contrast is the gold leaf work on the wall just behind it, adding to the opulence while the indigo blue Grand Piano provides contrast.

An extensive beverage list includes premium spirits and liqueurs, in addition to a unique selection of classic cocktails and champagnes all served in handcrafted European glassware. The menu comprises of frozen cocktails, speciality martinis all shaken at your table. The adjoining Wine Room presents a connoisseur’s wine list, with more than 100 labels from the Old and the New World. Guests can see the floor-to-ceiling displays of wine and participate in wine tasting and sampling in the Wine Room before or after meals.


The Library


at The Leela Palace, New Delhi

It’s old world charm all the way. Chesterfield chairs, a wall to wall selection of whiskies, Cuban cigars and rare cognacs, all inspire a long and lingering evening, in a relaxed setting. The Library Bar is unhurried, elegant and has some great service. Defined as the quintessential English Gentlemen’s Club, the bar is hidden off the lobby and is accessed through a corridor, which itself could be straight out of a European palace. Rare whiskies, French Cognacs, premium single malts and a good selection of wines await the palate of the discerning. The Library Bar also offers non-smoking, as well as, a dedicated outdoor smoking area. Rich cigar smoke and aromas of old whiskies mingle with gentle conversations, amid artefacts handpicked from bygone eras to enhance the sophisticated old-world. Premium single malts like the Talisker 18 Years Old, premiere blends including Royal Salute 21 Years Old and aged whiskies, all have a beckoning presence. The food is well planned and is an able companion to the spirits, with spice levels complementing the spirits rather than being intrusive.

A throwback to easier times, the dark wood and leather interiors create an ambience which encourages one to slow down, unwind and enjoy the finer things in life.The Library has pioneered a large cigar, whisky and wine collection and offers innovative martinis. Adorned with a warming fire place and a collection of rare and first edition tomes handpicked from across the world. With a seating capacity of 100 and offering a selection of whiskies till mid-night, The Library Bar promised to be a rage in winter.


The Blue Bar


at The Taj Palace, New Delhi

Bring in the outdoors, soak in the ambience and romance the spirit. The Blue Bar with its international look, stylish interiors, feel and cutting edge design brings in a style statement to Delhi. A city, starved of refreshing outdoor venues, has found a great new watering hole. Facing the lush green gardens and a marine blue pool, it offers a unique indoor seating or the scenic outdoors. Guests can relax outdoors on the timber deck, which is greened with giant bonsai trees and large over-scaled seating with bespoke standing French baroque torchers. The Blue Bar’s alfresco dining pampers those who want to lounge on contented conversational sofas.

Located at the lobby level, it has a great collection of single malts, whisky cocktails and premium blends; enough to indulge your senses, reclaim yourself and soak in the environment.

Drinks including Mata Hari, Blazing Saddles, Thai Whisky Sour, Kiwi and Capsicum Martini, share space with The Glenlivet 21 Years Old, The Dalmore, King George V, Lagavulin 16 Years Old, Ballantines 17 Years Old, besides rare and vintage expressions. Uniquely designed drinks like infused martinis, frozen and forgotten cocktails, saketinis and signature vodka infusions catch the fancy of many guests. International bartender ‘Joel’ brings his decade and expertise of operating in bars across the world in his signature style creations.

Food is as much in demand as the drinks. The Blue Bar is about food as much as it is about drinks. The cuisine does not have boundaries. Guests are served fresh and premium ingredients, be it fruit purees, imported herbs, oysters, or India inspired spiced starters. The snack menu at The Blue Bar is a collection of very eclectic tastes. The menu has a delicate balance of liquor, fruits and delicious appetisers.
Great drinks, groovy music, scrumptious food, elegant décor set in a fine ambience defines a place to spend the entire evening and unwind yourself over great drinks, fabulous music and uninterrupted conversations. The Blue Bar is the favourite haunt of designers, the young, the romantic, connoisseurs of cocktails and whisky lovers.


The Polo Lounge


at the Hyatt Regency

Perhaps the busiest bar in New Delhi, filled with in-house and walk-ins, expats and Indians, malts and blends, cocktails and champagne, movers and shakers, this bar has it all.

Traditional English decor, leather Chesterfield chairs and wooden panelling greet visitors, ideal for a perfectly relaxed evening. The overall concept of the Polo Lounge reflects an English colonial look: a fireplace, a library and an elaborate woodwork with artefacts in the bar showcasing the bar’s name – Polo. The display counters, walls and floors are made of teak, while designer furniture gives the touch of an authentic English bar. Wooden Venetian blinds cover the windows facing the pool. The Polo Lounge offers its guests a vibrant and energetic ambience, well supported with a range of whisky’s and single malts, well matched with small eats. The idea of small eats is that most guests should thereafter enjoy the fine dining restaurants in the hotel. Most guests also enjoy a late evening night cap, prior to retiring.

The mid-sized bar has rare malts, older blends, whiskies including the JW range, Ladyburn 1973, Girvan 1964, Glenmorangie range, Jura and interesting whisky cocktails. A relaxed whisky with a good friend is quite an experience.

Recently, the bar has been in the news for another reason. Every day, from 7pm onwards guests can listen to the musical styling’s of Monia Lamarche as she performs jazz, pop, lounge and current hits at Polo Lounge, thus adding even more vibrancy and intimacy. Popularly called ‘Monia’, she completed a bachelor’s degree in political sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal and dived into show business. Enjoy a Aberlour and sing along with her.


Nero


at Le Meridien

A stylish bar, it is the only one which can boast a women`s whisky club attached to it. Located at the lobby level, with dark Gothic interiors, Nero is appreciated by folks who like an elegant setting for their meetings. The whisky selection is quite large and has most of the popular brands. Whisky cocktails are an interesting offer, especially the ones with Indian ingredients. The advantage of a smoking room attached to the bar, makes it a favourite with most guests. Music is elegant and in the background thus enabling quality conversations. Situated in the heart of Delhi, also makes Nero easy to access. Food is interesting and Indian selection is well enjoyed by most guests.


Highland Nectar


ITC Gardenia Bengaluru

Deviating from tradition, occupying pride of place in the ‘Grand Arrival Court’ of the ITC Gardenia is the Highland Nectar bar. Offering the finest range of whiskies and single malts, the spacious lively ambience of the bar is complemented by avant-garde design that is both contemporary and minimalist.

Smart lighting, back-lit colour panels and classy cocktails, sets the tone for an exuberant experience at Highland Nectar. Showcased in an impressive ‘Malt Vault’ is an exquisite collection of premium whiskies and single malts, flanked by a first-of-its-kind, whisky museum and library with a tasting kit and sundry collector’s items. The whisky menu is excellent featuring tasting notes, alcohol by volume and ratings by whisky connoisseurs. At Highland Nectar it’s a ceaseless process of elevating the Scotch experience to the next level, pairing your dram with the waters of the world.


Bombay High


ITC Maratha, Mumbai

Named after the oil rigs of Mumbai, ‘Bombay High’ is a 72-seater, spacious lively bar serving the finest collection of spirits and hors d’ oeuvres. From the some of the most expensive champagnes and malts to some of the finest wines, Bombay High has it all. Rare photographs of bygone Bombay adorning the walls, add to the charm of this sprawling bar.

Bombay High breaks away from the traditional norms of bars with a very spacious, open and lively ambience. The place is as hard to define as the city it is named after, cause the Bombay High is a character actor, changing personalities during its 16 hour day. Call it a bar at noon and you’d be wrong, term it a lounge at sunset and you’d be wrong again and if you dare call it as a disco at night, you’d be way off the mark. Honestly, the place is multifaceted, effortlessly blending the preceding three definitions into each other as the day goes by. Needless to say, the bar is well stocked, with more than 200 brands and varieties. Lighting and music are two important facilitators and they go hand-in-hand, so much so, that often it is actually an event in itself.


Rick’s



One of the most famous bars in the city, Rick’s is situated at the lobby level, designed on the lines of the legendary movie Casablanca where the lead character showcases the finest of the wines. The Wokkerie set in contemporary Morocco along with the innovative cuisine from South East Asian Chefs brings a unique concept to bars in the city. The entertainment is eclectic ranging from progressive jazz to blues, retro music oldies and light dance music towards the evening. The style of service adopted here is trendy, chic and spirited. The city’s swish set brushes shoulders at Ricks, made famous by its cocktails.


Harbour Bar


at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

This bar first opened its doors to the discerning Mumbai gentlemen, in 1933 and has since played host to decades of high-powered rendezvous. Harbour Bar has the distinction of being Mumbai’s first licensed bar. The design and décor is heavily influenced by its rich history, with echoes of its Art Deco legacy seen in the furniture and finishes.

Rediscover the prohibition cocktails unique to Harbour Bar. The intoxicating list includes From the Harbour ‘since 1933’, a classic recipe which is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Or let the mixologist surprise you with some delicious cocktails.

Harbour Bar introduces several single malts and the best of whiskies from around the world, a connoisseur’s delight. Indulge in the ‘Global Tapas’ menu, with influences of flavours from across the world.