In early 2013, when Shalini Kumar, Editor Spiritz magazine discussed with me her vision of organising a mega trade and consumer event for the Alcoholic Beverages (Alcobev) domain, memories of a mammoth event organized by the IT giant IBM at hotel Rennaissance, Mumbai came afresh to my mind. The IBM event had a similar concept- of having something for everyone, and I could literally visualize the scale of Shalini’s perspective. But like any major endeavour, cusecs of proverbial water had to flow under the bridge before Spiritz 2014 could became a reality on 9th and 10thMay 2014 at Hotel Leela Ambience, Gurgaon, setting a benchmark for the years to come.
The fixture, spread literally across acres of floor area, saw some stimulating discussions by industry think tank, euphoric beverages showcasings and multi course food pairing meals that culminated into a Filmfare style awards nite and a gala dinner. My contribution to this extravaganza was in the form of two pairing lunches– one each with Beer and Cocktails, that were attended by a select group of enthusiasts. More on that later, but first a bird’s eye view of those electrifying two days:
Organization of Spiritz 2014
Spiritz Think Pad: A stimulating forum where discussions and motivating talks by Industry think-tank provided a deep insight into the latest developments and current issues facing the alcobev industry.
Pop up bars: Day long tastings and innovative cocktails showcasing a diverse range of alcoholic beverages.
Tasting Tables: Focussed beverage tastings by competent mixologists highlighting the niche of respective products.
Pairing Lunches and Dinner: Two lunches- one each with Godfather beer and Pitterson cocktails from France, and a dinner with Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky.
Culinary Workshops: Hands on workshops by celebrity Chefs Kunal Kapur, Saby and others.
Awards and Gala Dinner: A glittering awards function where the who’s-who of the society descended . These comprised of Ambassadors of nations, achievers from different professional domains and Industry veterans.
The Pairing Lunches
These were select gatherings of beverages enthusiasts drawn from different walks of life and were an outcome of several rounds of tastings and sittings with chefs to arrive at an optimally paired menu. The whole premise of the lunches was to tread beyond the realm of Wine and Food pairing and explore compatibility of food with different alcoholic beverages.
Lunch # 1
Date : 09 May 2014
Theme: Pairing with Godfather Beer (Devan Breweries)
Godfather Electra (ABV 5.3%)
A light lager with delightfully refreshing palate and aromas of citrus fruits and malt.
The refreshing acidity of the beer complemented the creamy texture of food by cleaning the palate like a blank slate before the next bite. The crunchy greens too, supplemented the freshness quotient.
Godfather Strong (ABV 7.5%)
A full bodied intensely malty lager with spicy and floral highlights.
The steely structure and complex flavours of the beer stood up famously to the robust texture of the food owing to protein predominance and rusticity of cooking methods.
A special cocktail formulated by our team using Godfather Elektra, Crème de Cacao, Lemon Juice, Angostura Bitters and garnished with roasted coffee beans.
The citrus hints and good levels of acidity of the beer melded well with the lemon sorbet. Similarly, the crème de cacao and pleasing bitter balance of Angostura bitters complemented the chocolate mousse and nutty chilly chocolate tart.
Lunch # 2Date : 10 May 2014
Theme: Pairing with Pitterson Cocktails
(Cocktails from the house of Marie Brizard, France, brought in India by Belvedere Vodka)
William Pitterson Vodka Orange (ABV 15%)
A well proportioned mix of Vodka and Orange juice which is extremely refreshing. This preparation is also famously known as the classic « Screwdriver ».
The freshnness of food imparted by elements like salads, delicate tartar preparations and creamy coulis married well to the uber fresh and peppy nature of the cocktail.
William Pitterson Cosmopolitan (ABV 15%)
A cocktail made world famous by the TV series “Sex and the City” its constituents are Vodka, Orange liqueur, Cranberry juice and lemon juice. This RTD version was perfectly balanced with evident use of quality ingredients.
The light palate of the consommé contrasting with the creaminess of cheese and olive ravioli created a continuum of textures that made the complex flavours of Cosmopolitan stand out distinctly.
William Pitterson Mojito (ABV 15%)
Another classic, Mojito encapsulates the distinct flavour of white rum with the zestiness of crushed lemon and mint . This RTD version conveyed all these traits quite well.
The crusty surface of food yielding into its entrapped juiciness and varying textures of the accompaniments was a perfect match for the strong and refreshing character of Mojito.
William Pitterson Asian Spirit (ABV 15%)
An innovative cocktail with a dominant litchi flavour and a Vodka base emphatically conveying its Asian orientation- and hence the name.
Every sample of the dessert platter had something to go along with the cocktail. While the creamy Cheese Cake and Phirni had good company in the acidity of the cocktail, the Kesar Pista Kulfi was the recipient of an extra dimension in the form of its intense litchi flavour.
Summing it up
Being the first ever event of its kind, Spiritz 2014 has been a welcome development for the Indian alcobev industry. Apart from facilitating B2B and B2C interaction, the mega show also acknowledged industry performers and afforded a direct consumer connect to producers for a real time market feel. The start with a bang is bound to follow up with wider avenues of beverage bliss!