Over the past decade, Delhi has transformed from a city with a nascent cocktail scene into a buzzing hub of world-class bars and lounges. Gone are the days when a cocktail in Delhi meant a simple whisky-soda mix. Today, the city boasts an impressive array of bars that have not only captured the imagination of the locals but also garnered international acclaim.
Delhi’s bar scene has exploded, thanks in part to the city’s high disposable incomes, a surge in tourism, and more affordable commercial rents compared to other major Indian cities. This economic landscape has allowed the city’s bars to innovate and elevate their offerings, drawing inspiration from global hotspots like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Europe.
Bars like PCO (Pass Code Only), Home, Hoots, and Sidecar have not only made it to Asia’s 50 Best Bars list but have also featured in the World’s 50 Best Bars, a testament to their quality and innovation. These accolades have instilled a new sense of pride and ambition in Delhi’s bartenders and bar owners.
At the heart of Delhi’s bar revolution is a community that thrives on collaboration and creativity. Santanu Chanda of Home Bar points to the exchange of culture and ideas between Indian and international bartenders as a key driver of the city’s dynamic bar scene. This exchange has led to a fusion of international mixology trends with India’s rich array of local flavours.
Moreover, the city’s cocktail enthusiasts are more knowledgeable and curious than ever. They seek unique experiences and are willing to pay for quality, pushing bartenders to continually innovate. This has resulted in a modern and sophisticated drinks programme across the city’s top bars, blending technique and tradition.
Tucked away in Vasant Vihar, PCO is Delhi’s first speakeasy bar. Since its inception in 2012 by Rakshay and Radhika Dhariwal, PCO has been setting the standard for classic and pre-prohibition cocktails. The bar’s ambience, reminiscent of a classic American lounge with its autumnal tones, plush seating, and jazz nights, complements its exquisite drink menu.
Signature cocktails include the Boulevardier, a delightful mix of popcorn Bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth, and the Bees Knees, a modern twist on the classic, featuring redistilled vodka with shiso leaf. PCO remains a testament to timeless elegance and quality in Delhi’s evolving bar scene.
Minaskhi Singh’s Sidecar has become a favourite for those seeking innovative cocktails. Sidecar prides itself on its homegrown approach, using local ingredients to create unique flavours. The bar’s success and recognition on the international stage have been a catalyst for the entire industry, proving that Indian bars can compete on a global level.
Hoots is another gem in Delhi’s bar scene, known for its vibrant atmosphere and creative mixology. The bar has gained a reputation for its unique concoctions that blend classic techniques with modern twists, making it a go-to spot for those seeking a lively night out.
Home stands out for its cosy, inviting atmosphere and a drink menu that reflects a deep understanding of mixology. Santanu Chanda’s vision for a bar that feels like home yet surprises with every sip has been realised beautifully here.
Delhi’s bar scene is more than just a collection of drinking establishments; it’s a vibrant community of innovators and enthusiasts pushing the boundaries of mixology. The next time you’re in Delhi, make sure to visit these top bars for an experience that blends the best of global cocktail trends with the unique flavours and hospitality that India is known for.