In April, we packed up our xantham gum and cocktail shakers and followed the sun to marvelous Cartagena, Colombia. Our dear friend Daniel Castaño, executive chef of Vera in the Tcherassi Hotel, invited Mayur to design a cocktail program for Aquabar, the hotel bar.
After a few days of exploring local markets and tinkering behind the bar, Mayur created 14 cocktails, many based on classic recipes, others inventions inspired by Colombian ingredients. Staples that the American barman takes for granted — bitters, eaux de vie, flavored liqueurs — are often unavailable; he substituted fresh exotic fruit juices, panela, and the Colombian national spirit, anise-flavored aguardiente. (Each state produces its own aguardiente; the best is from Daniel’s home, Medellín, in Antioquia.)
If your path should take you to Cartagena, and we hope it does, stop in for a cocktail and tell them we sent you. ¡Salud!
Vera, with a view of the hotel’s stunning vertical garden.
Aquabar, surrounded on three sides by running water.
Cocktail names were based on Ms. Tcherassi’s fashion collections.
Daniel and Mayur at a party to introduce the new cocktail menu.
Gaudi (gin, ginger, sweet vermouth, and cucumber), Fusion (vodka and corozo), Mosaic (whisky swizzle with pitaya and other tropical flavors), and Frida (tequila, tomato water, and basil).
Evolucion (vodka, fresh pineapple juice, and blackberries).
La Dolce Vita (tequila, jalapeño, and watermelon), Tcherassi (the house signature cocktail, a variant of the Pearly Gates), Alegra (a variant of the Horse’s Neck with whisky, ginger beer, and bitters).
3D (rum, mint, and panela).
Blue Moon (a variant of the caipirinha, with cachaça and grape), Silvia Royale (classic champagne cocktail with cognac and cinnamon), Kubus (whisky, coffee, espuma, and angostura).
We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled. We loved free bagels in the morning. They happened all to infrequently. Our benefits were astonishing in comprehensiveness and quality of care. Sometimes we questioned whether they were worth it. We thought moving to India might be better, or going back to nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands. No one ever acted on these impulses, despite their daily, sometimes hourly contractions. Instead we met in conference rooms to discuss the issues of the day.