Friday, October 10, 2014

Letter from Dubai: Tales from the Sand - by Ulric Nijs

Tales from the Sand…

So… Here I am; Ulric (Brand Ambassador for Tigre Blanc vodka, Jose Cuervo and a couple of other brands) in the United Arab Emirates and Asian sub-continent. I am blessed with working in one of the most rapidly growing metropolis of our age: Dubai. My line of work is pretty eclectic; as our nightlife universe is on a constant growth, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with the various prestigious establishments that are opening on a weekly basis, and, sometimes, closing even faster! What it means, however, is that I am constantly exposed to an influx of drink creativity and ‘wannabe-ism’ that is prevalent in an all-rapidly evolving megalopolis, I therefore have a certain amount of skepticism when exposed to a new drink menu, and my retorts can be as bitter as a shot of room temperature Cynar (a remarkably complex & wildly bitter, artichoke-based Italian aperitif!).

Ulric Nijs

However, after about 20 years traveling the world as a bartender and cocktail designer, I also think that I have the right to be! Not quite a given-right, but certainly starting to be a well earned one!
So, as I stroll around “my” city, I cannot help forming some sort of opinions about the various “wins & fails” of these outlets popping up in my work environment. I also feel –and it is perhaps slightly arrogant of me- that these opinions can be beneficial to my fellow epicurean, and thus lead to a better drinking experience in the long run; not because “I” know better, but simply, because my job has been a catalytic environment to these potential pitfalls that plagues the quests for good drinks!
What will follow on these pages is not “moan-fest”, but rather a primer of drinking etiquette in an ever-changing nightlife environment. I do have to be honest though; these words are very much aimed at people looking for a real drinking experience, rather than a quick alcohol-infused buzz… Always consider your environment!

The first word of the primer is “Creativity”. Creativity is the feeding ideal behind any ambitious chef and/or bartender (I do not dare using the oft-abused “mixologist” term), yet it is a certainly a double-edged sword! In the hands of a connoisseur, it will leads to many delights; in the hand of an amateur, it will be more likely be a disaster.  Let me expand and draw from my recent experience…
As I grow older, my palate has changed considerably; the “Negroni” which I once thought undrinkable, has become a staple daily drink. I love the way the botanicals and dryness of the gin marries with the vermouth and bitter-sweet Campari… It is not a difficult drink to realize; equal measures of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth; stirred harmoniously, and served as you desire. Furthermore, there are not too many variations possible on the drink: 1) The gin, 2) the vermouth 3) the drinking vessel (straight up, on the rocks or lengthened!).

Yet, this simple drink seems to stump many of the new establishments I visit on a regular basis! Worst of all, with the recent “classic cocktail” revival AND the gin explosion that we are witnessing, this drink has been well documented and supported by starred bartenders all over the world!  Yet, in spite of the above, this simple drink is often dismissed towards more exotic drinks. I understand it doesn’t have to appear on the menu, but it certainly should be common knowledge, yet it isn’t! The ingredients may be, but the rest is forgotten.

How does this tie up with my “drinking primer”? Simple… When you walk into a new establishment, and as you glance over the creative cocktail selection that may be highlighted on the menu… Don’t rush into them!
Consider the environment. You wouldn’t expect a Vesper to be properly made in an Irish pub would you?

If the environment is conclusive, order a “classic” cocktail before any others… The Negroni is my acid test… For other, it is the Mai-Tai or the Mojito. Order your “go-to” cocktail, NOT the signature.
If –and ONLY if- your first drink is well prepared and up to YOUR standards, then move along to one of the signature drinks on offer and be prepared to be delighted!

Why should you be using this methodology? Simple… Would you trust a 10-years old child at the wheel of a super-car?

Certainly not!

The age-old saying “walk before you run” is definitely applicable in the drinking world; these classics not only teach the basic methodologies, but also prepare your host (I much prefer this term to that of “mixologist”) towards more colorful concoctions through the basic rule of substitution.

The basic message of these words are pretty simple really… the relationship between a bartender and his guests is akin to that of the provider and his dependents; i.e. there must be a foundation of trust between the two parties involved; and if this trust is established, then feel free to wander in a weird, wacky and wonderful world of mixology… If you bartender knows his/her classic, you are automatically in good hands! However, if you get a blank look upon ordering an old-fashioned; then one should not expect a positive drinking experience.

On this happy note, I would love to leave you with a great quote from Troy Patterson (free lance writer for

“There's nothing you can do to gin that's worse than what it can do to you.”

Cheers – sipping a Negroni!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tulleeho Wine Experience with Noble Rot, a Delhi based group of wine lovers

A PLUNGE INTO THE WORLD OF FRENCH WINES - by Rakshit Khurana, Tulleeho
Setting the Stage...

If you have the palate for some of the best sweet wine in the world you might know that “Noble Rot” is the only naturally occurring grape disease that farmers are happy to have their vines affected with, as it helps them produce some of the most expensive wines in the world. As interesting as is this concept, so was the group of the Delhi based wine enthusiasts who call themselves “Noble Rot”.
I met Sandeep six months ago at a Tulleeho Wine Experience. He also expressed a desire to do a deep dive into the world of French Wines, along with his Noble Rot compatriots. Justifiably concerned about the quality of wine available in India, Sandeep visited France to get the wine for this French evening at his house. The evening was all set with French music and food from Rara Avis, one of the well known French restaurants in town. The idea was to give the members of Noble Rot a taste of France in the heart of Delhi.
As the guests started coming in, they were given a blind taste of a couple of white wines, one of which they had to guess if they wanted to win a bottle of wine. The wines served were a Riesling from Alsace and a Chablis. While most of them got one wine right the prize was given to a gentleman who nailed them both. The evening kicked off with a Louis Roederer, NV Brut which was relished with Camembert cheese. 
... and the Table
 Next up we were tasting an off dry 2011 Riesling from Alsace (a region caught in many cross fires between Germany and France in World War II) which was combined with Edam Cheese. Everyone of the 13 members were now warmed up and inquisitive about the next wine which was a 2011 Pouilly Fume. Much was expected of this crisp beauty with grassy aromas that complimented the Goat Cheese and Olive Tapenade crostini prepared by Laurent, the chef. As we moved on and appreciated the Chablis and Rose D’ Anjou, the noise level in the room had gone up a notch and now they needed something else to put their minds to.

 Just before we started off with the reds, we played an interesting game of guessing some wine aromas (needless to mention we had some very strange but funny answers). We started tasting the red wine with The Queen of Beaujolais, a “Fleurie”(stands for flowery) from the house of Georges Duboeuf. The crimson
coloured light and fruity wine was paired with chicken salami. After tasting the 2008 Pinot Noir from the house of Olivier Leflaive which was enjoyed with Gruyere cheese we got to the two wines I couldn’t wait to taste and see the development after decanting.
The first one was a 2006, Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf De Pape. This garnet beauty from Southern Rhone had berry and earthy aromas with a fennel finish on the palate. The participants enjoyed this wine with pepperoni salami and pate.  

While the Noble Rot members talked about and appreciated the sophistication of this wine we were served the next one which was a Chateau Laroque St. Emillion Grand Cru Classe, 2004. Even though it was 10 years old, Grand Cru Classe wines coming from this region in Bordeaux can go upto 30 years. This wine had spent just enough time in the decanter to get a full release of the red fruits, sweet spice and vanilla flavours. On the palate the wine had red fruit and compote flavours with well integrated tannins and a long finish which complimented the aged Gouda cheese it was paired with.
After an hour of wine appreciation the gentlemen of Noble Rot headed to the French buffet(but not without a glass of wine in their hand) to treat their bellies to some delicious and authentic French dishes created by Laurent. Even though everything about the evening was French it couldn’t have ended without a few toasts to the health and friendship of those present in a typical Delhi style.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Lift off: Russian Spirit and Kruto, 2 new vodka brands launch. Tulleeho's Sweta Mohanty was there, to taste and compete.

I was invited to this launch a couple of days back at this quiet little joint at Bandra by the name of Nom Nom. A new vodka launch had got me excited, so I was at the doors of Nom Nom bang on time.
I was greeted by Neha Kapadia, Director MIRSpirits and Mahesh Chauhan, Founder Member, Salt Brand Solutions
Neha Kapadia

Mahesh Chauhan
We were all seated at a long table for the tasting, and to kick things off were given a beautifully designed handout.

Mahesh was at his wittiest best and started for off the conversation by saying “do you want me to take off my shirt??” While we looked on and were trying to figure out what he meant, he immediately explained – Isn’t that what you see in all Vodka promotions. Foreign ladies, skimpily clad girls ……… we do not want that for our vodka. We want it to stand out because of its taste”. Point taken Mahesh!
Neha and Mahesh were of the opinion that their vodka is all about taste. And they don’t need to have skimpily clad girls to promote it.
Mumbai is the 2nd city after Goa in India where they have launched. Russian Spirit as we were told uses golden wheat from the ecologically pure soil of Ukraine. It is 15 times distilled and undergoes a pure gold filtration to get the smooth finish. This is supposed to be drunk “Neat” as a sipping vodka. Here we did a comparative tasting with Grey Goose, Belvedere and Absolut. How it went, we leave it for you to taste and decide!!! Russian Spirit is competitively priced at INR 3200 in Mumbai.
Russian Spirit

Very interestingly the Russian Spirit tagline says “Introduce Yourself”, which to some might sound arrogant because it means the person drinking has to introduce himself/herself, as the vodka needs no introduction.
Nom Nom’s food was yummy…… My favorite out of the lot was Wasabi Prawns & Mushrooms and Crab Meat Sushi. A must visit to Nom Nom for everyone.
Kruto, the other vodka is priced at INR 1800/- in Mumbai and is 9 times distilled. The tag line for Kruto says “Chase Me”. This one is being promoted as a cocktails base. And they had some interesting cocktails like Guava Island (Kruto + Tabasco & Worcestershire + Lemon Juice + Green Chilli) and Bitter Sweet (Kruto + Orange Juice + Lime Juice + Lemonade + Angostura Bitters)

Kruto and Russian Spirits

When MIR Spirits had sent the invite, the first sentence said there would be a surprise element to the event. We had nearly come to the end of the evening and I was wondering where the surprise was and as if reading my mind, Neha announced an impromptu Cocktail competition, in which you had to make your own cocktail and name it too.
I volunteered to go first!! Something that I don’t do often….. Can you guess why I did it this time??
·      Kruto – 60ml
·      Kiwi – Muddled 
·      Lime Juice – 10ml 
·      Sugar Syrup – 10ml 
·      Tabasco – 4 to 5 dashes

Method: Shake and Strain into a salt rimmed rocks glass filled with Ice. Garnish with a Kiwi Slice.

Have you still not guessed why I volunteered to go first? :p

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tulleeho Wine Academy in conversation with Simon Cant, Wine making ambassador, Asia for Penfolds Wines

In the Australian outback, a dry day is not to be trifled with. Dry days however have a wholly different meaning in India, and unfortunately we’re on the verge of what turned out to be a historic elections to decide who would rule Delhi. And although we’re meeting in The Leela Gurgaon, the bar is still off limits, as we’re within striking distance of the Delhi border, and Delhi’s running scared of Gurgaon’s pernicious influence on its sobriety. Something which needs much explanation for Simon Cant, the Asia Pacific wine making ambassador for Penfolds wines. So the upshot is that the most we get to fuel our meeting is  water and hey wine is 85% water so its close!

Simon Cant
I start with a soft ball for Simon to lob out of the park.

Q. Penfolds is associated with the Americas Cup, via it’s sponsorship of Team Oracle, which mounted a historic turnaround (Team Oracle won the last 8 races to come from behind and win). Some comments on the same and your thoughts on beating the Kiwis.

A. Well I’d like to start by saying that we definitely didn’t do anything to inflate the bank balances of the Kiwi sailors!. As a sporting turnaround this was one of the most amazing comebacks I’ve seen though. As a brand association the Americas Cup is a great fit for Penfolds. Sailing is an old sport with a lot of innovation, and it’s the same with wine making, a centuries old art, in which there’s been constant innovation.

The audience for sailing, which is definitely a luxury sport and the Penfolds customer set also overlaps, so the association makes perfect sense. I might also point out that there were Kiwis on both teams!

Q. Penfolds has a massive portfolio. What’s the focus for India?

A. At the entry level, the Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet and  Chardonnay. Up the scale, the Bin 407 and the Bin 389. Down the road we would love to hear about serious wine drinkers in India with 6 bottles of The Grange (one of Australia’s most prestigious red wines and a National Trust -heritage listed wine) in their cellar. We’d also love to see some of our premium wines in an Enomatic (a device used to serve and dispense wine). We put the Grange in an Enomatic at the Grand Hyatt in Djakarta and sold 20 bottles in the first month.

Koonunga Hill Chardonnay
Bin 407
Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet

Q. That brings me to the subject of the Penfolds re-corking clinic (The Penfolds Re-corking Clinics offer the owners of Penfolds red wines which are 15 years and older the opportunity to have their wines assessed by a winemaker, and if necessary, opened, tasted, topped up and re-capsuled on the spot.). How does that work?

A. We just held our first re-corking clinic in China. We’ve found that typically it takes between 8 to 12 years in a market before we do a re-corking clinic there. The first 1 or 2 are typically more events to make people more widely aware of the service we offer. Since we’ve started this service in 1990, we’ve re-certified more than 120,000 bottles globally. This is applicable for any Penfolds red wine, from the Koonunga Hill upwards. If required, we open the bottle and top it up with a little bit of the current vintage (2008). The amount we top it up with is around 15 ml, so there’s no major impact on the wine.
A re-corking in progress for a bottle of The Grange

Q. Does Penfolds have any wine investments outside Australia?

A. No we’re unashamedly 100% Australian and in fact Penfolds is a national heritage icon of South Australia.

Q. Penfolds has been with several owners over the years, how does it feel now to be part of a large wine conglomerate like Treasury Wine Estates, which is one of the largest wine companies in the world. And how does it work as regards competition with other sub-brands in the Treasury portfolio in local markets, like Lindemans, Stags Leap or Beringer.

A. First off, it’s good to be owned by a pure play wine company but still be able to operate independently. There are wonderful benefits to be a part of such a large organisation. Two major benefits, we have a global sales force and secondly, we are able to make rapid technological advancements in the winery. Also to a large extent, most of the wine labels have their own unique offerings and distinct positioning. We’d like to believe that some brands are more equal than others though, and that we’re one of them!

Q. Last Question, what’s your desert island wine?
A. Penfolds St Henri. wonderful as a young wine, wonderful as an old wine, and a counterpoint to Grange, which is a wonderful concentrated wine. A bottle? Not enough. Maybe a jeroboam or two.

St. Henri Shiraz, Simon's desert island wine


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Penfolds Fine Australian Wine meets South Indian cuisine

Penfolds Wine Dinner @ Dakshin, ITC Maratha, with Tulleeho's Sweta Mohanty

I got an invite from Paras at Mohan Brothers, a leading wine and spirits import and distribution firm to join him for a Penfolds dinner at Dakshin at the ITC Maratha on 30th November. I was quite curious to know how they would go about the challenging job of matching some fine Australian wine, with a range of South Indian cuisine, and I got there well in time. As I entered Dakshin, Paras introduced me to Simon Cant, the Asia Pacific brand ambassador for Penfolds, and I had a chance for a brief tete a tete with him.

Excerpts from the Interview:

Sweta:  How do you consider India as a market?
Simon: Really interesting. Young Indians want to know more about wine and wine culture. In fact women are becoming more aware as it naturally appeals to them.

Sweta: Where is Penfolds available in India?
Simon: Its available at International Hotels and at Ellipsis in Mumbai. A good job by Mohan Brothers to have placed us at all the 5 stars. And yes we are open to more distribution in the future.

Sweta: Which are the strongest markets for Penfolds in India?
Simon: Mumbai and Delhi. 
Simon ends out chat on a lighter note with a comment on the excise, taxes and bureaucracy in India, which lead to logistical hiccups while importing the wines.

After this we move on to the more fun stuff, Wine tasting, and wine and food pairing. Simon, Paras (Sales Head - North & West) - Mohan Brothers Pvt Ltd, Yodissen Mootooswamy (Regional Business Manager - South Asia & Pacific) - Treasury Wine Estates and myself sit at one of the tables. The first wine that comes to us is a Chardonnay from their Koonunga Hill Range, which is a modern clean interpretation of the Australian Chardonnay. Its crisp, citrusy and has an elegant approach. This was paired with "Kodi Roast", a chicken preparation in South Indian style and Threesome of Rice Dumpling, Mini Sweet Banana pancake and Mini Uttapam with 3 different styles of chutney - coconut, coriander and "Malli Chutney"(mix of red chilli and coriander powder.

The second wine that came to our table was a classic Australian blend, a Shiraz Cabernet (60/40) from their Koonunga Hill Range again.  

Not to forget at Dakshin, they do not give you spoons and forks unless you ask for it. The idea is to eat by your hand as the South Indians do!!! So Simon was game to try it out....

To end the evening we tasted a Red from the Penfolds  Bin Range - Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. As Simon pointed out its a style that could be enjoyed for immediate drinking or could develop well in the cellar too.

This being the last wine for the evening, the dinner was also served at the same time. And what did we have for dinner..........Here you go!!

Originally this dinner was supposed to be a sit down for all the guests together with Simon taking us through the course of wine and food pairing. However, it couldn't be worked out at Dakshin. Hence, Simon had to go to each table to answer guest’s queries.

All in all I enjoyed the wines, but I found the food to be ok. I personally feel the dinner would have worked better at Dum Pukht, ITC’s signature Indian restaurant, featuring the cuisine of Awadh India.

I bid Adieu to Simon and wished him a successful event at Delhi.

About Me
Works @ Tulleeho, Love Junk Food, Timepass Photographer, Travel freak, Mixing Drinks, Love my Bags and Shoes...In short love all da good things in life...


Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Judgement of Delhi - Stag's Leap and Beringer wines are launched and tasted

Have you been to Roosevelt House before? I haven’t! After being personally greeted by the U.S. Ambassador, Ms. Nancy Powell and Allan Mustard, the Minister for Agricultural Affairs,lf at the entrance of the Ambassador’s house we were escorted into another room. This is where the main event of the night was taking place, a formal introduction to two of Napa Valley’s finest wine makers, Beringer and Stag's Leap who were joining the small but rapidly growing Indian wine industry.
Nicole Carter, Global Brand Ambassador and Ambassador Nancy Powell

It was just a matter of time before we were doing what the Tullees at Tulleeho do best, appreciating some world class wine. We were welcomed with a refreshing glass of sparkling rose from Beringer which gave my eyes the sparkle it needed for mingling with some rather well known faces from the beverage and hospitality fraternity in the city.

After a few handshakes and my first round of introductions with the people from the trade we headed straight for the white wine counter to kick off the wine tasting experience. The first one I tasted was a 2011 Beringer Sauvignon Blanc. With aromas of lemongrass and a hint of grapefruit it was a very well balanced wine as far as the acidity goes.

Just as I put the glass down the Ambassador officially welcomed all of us and introduced us to Nicole Carter, the Global Brand Ambassador at Beringer vineyards. I loved the two ladies not just because they were so courteous but also because they kept the introduction short & sweet, so that I could get back to my next wine, a 2009 Stag's Leap, Viognier. This elegant and well balanced wine exuded aromas of pear and orange and was very well complemented by a wide selection of finger foods. The cheese ravioli was just fine, as I took a sip of my next wine, the Stag’s Leap Chardonnay. This 2008 medium bodied wine had aromas of peach and melon with some vanilla at the finish and also combined well with the grilled chicken served along with a sweet chilli dip.

We then headed for the counter serving reds.

First up was the Beringer Founders Estate , Zinfandel, which showed flavors of black berries with a jammy character and a hint of spiciness.  A few sips of water and I was back at the bar this time for the Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. The deep red colour and full body made this tannic wine a perfect match with the Lamb chops on offer. 

While exchanging wine drinking experiences in Europe with Sue, from the Ambassador’s office I started to sip on the Beringer Founders Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This 2011 vintage with its deep colour and complex character seemed fairly easy to drink and was easily the pick of the night for me. The next time you try this luscious wine try it with some chocolate truffle and you might love it just as much as I did.

It was time to go and the party was nearing its end. As we said the our final goodbyes for the evening and headed for the exit we were all given Beringer corkscrews as souvenirs.

Ah! Well what can I say this evening and the whole experience was a just the kind of welcome a beverage enthusiast like me can wish for at Tulleeho. My second day at work had been well spent.


Rakshit Khurana, Manager, Tulleeho

After 5 + years at sea, Rakshit returns to Delhi, his home port.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Tulleeho Blog - A Visit to Fenny's Lounge and Kitchen, Bangalore

Fenny's Lounge and Kitchen

115, 3rd Floor, 7th Block, Opposite Raheja Arcade, Koramangala, Bangalore

Ph: 080 30412940 ext:590

I've never seen a tree in a bar before, and that too a humongous one, like the one next to our table, and it's not the only one, there's a Topiary Ficus, a little distance away which is 80 years old. And this begs the question. What's a 80 year old tree (and it's companions) doing on the 3rd  floor of Raheja Arcade, and how in heaven's name did it get there?

These are good questions to ponder, as you gaze at the wraparound bottle display around the bar counter, which the owners claim to be in the running for the most number of bottles in a display.

Fenny's as the name would suggest has a Goan feel to it, and is designed on the lines of a large beach shack, albeit a beach shack on the 4th floor of a building. It stays true to it's design by being open from 3 sides, and we were fortunate enough that it wasn't raining that night, but I can imagine that when it does rain, the wind and the water are going to make customers beat a hasty retreat to huddle around the bar.

I'm here for an after work drink with our Bangalore team, and there's an alumni of our bar tending school (Tulleeho Bartending Academy), who's hard at work at Fenny's, but he's not bold enough to tell us what goes in to Fenny's secret mix, which features in several of the cocktails on the menu. The most he can tell us is that it's a non alcoholic mix. Intrigued all the same, we order a Fenny's Mai Tai, a London Sour and a Peter Pan, and a mix of pizzas, from their wood fired oven, the BBQ Chicken, the Beef and the Lamb and sun dried tomato. The Pizzas were very good, but the cocktails when they made their appearance, were a touch over sweet.

Fenny's has a young crowd, with a mix of ages from 20 something to 35. The music was a medley of songs, from the 60's to the 90's. Given it's Club Med meets Baga beach look, we would have expected possibly a more  reggae feel to it. My colleagues, disappointed by the first cocktail, shift to beer and Old Monk and coke. I decide to stay the course, and order a Vicky Donor. Hoping that it doesn't contain Vicky's seeds, I sit and listen to Scatman John, moaning away about his days as a taxi driver in Calcutta. I am thinking, Fenny's is worth a revisit when it's raining.

Vicky Donor

Labels: ,