India’s best bar is located in the upscale Greater Kailash II district of South Delhi, on a boulevard dotted with coffee shops and restaurants. The bar is named sidecar and is at the forefront of the growing cocktail bar scene in India.
Last year in October, sidecar was ranked 91st on the World’s Best Bar list, making it India’s only entry in the top 100. Additionally, the bar became the only second bar in India to be chosen all before its second birthday.
What makes Sidecar’s ascension surprising is that Minakshi Singh is one-half of the bartending team. Yangdup Lama, a veteran bartender, and Minakshi Singh co-founded the pub. However, when Singh began bartending private events and parties while studying hotel management in the early 2000s, it was actually prohibited for women to bartend in India.
Liquor regulations hindering a dream
Back in the 2000s, women couldn’t serve booze because of an antiquated British law. Despite the fact that the national law was overturned in 2007, each of India’s 29 states has its own set of liquor regulations. The law would not be officially repealed in Delhi until 2010.
During the 2000s, Singh had already uncovered her passion for the world of beverages. In 2003, she met Lama, who was already a well-known bartender. He was vital in helping her get her foot in the door, as her mentor. She sought marketing work in the beverages sector instead of bartending, spending several years with alcohol giant Diageo and Pernod Ricard.
The thought of opening her own bar lingered. It became a reality in 2012. Cocktails and Dreams Speakeasy, Lama and Singh’s first bar, is located in Gurugram, a city southwest of Delhi famed for its software and finance businesses. Early guests were perplexed by the cocktail menu and jazz music, which were far removed from the shots-and-club experience popular in India at the time. However, this was the first step towards establishing India’s best bar.
When Lama and Singh established Speakeasy in 2012, they wanted that central Delhi location and crowd, but couldn’t afford it. However, Speakeasy’s popularity and rising renown enabled them to raise cash for their dream bar.
Later on, the two opened Sidecar. Sidecar won three accolades at India’s inaugural 30 Best Bars Awards in October 2019, including India’s top bar, less than a year after opening. The bar has bottle-filled shelves behind the bar, the venue’s decor is suggestive of an antique library or billiards room. Its menu features a variety of classic drinks with an Indian touch. The G&T, for instance, combines gin, orange-infused water, and a tea concentrate that has been smoked with Himalayan pinewood.
From the beginning, issues like sustainability were incorporated into Sidecar. To reduce waste, the team makes its own bitters, tinctures, and syrups, and grows many of its components in its own backyard. Steel straws are used almost exclusively, and waste is composted for use in the garden.
But it’s not all about the drinks. Singh is in charge of programming and front-of-house, and Lama is in charge of the menus and bar. Through her position, Singh strives to get more women into the world of beverages. So far it has proven to be difficult, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying to change things.