If there's one place James Bond might be tempted to have a cocktail (or a 'mocktail' in this case), it's Kochi. He might have to ditch the tux as he hits the streets of Kochi where mixologists have taken the art of 'shaken not stirred' to a whole new level - usually a few feet above the counter. I'm surprised these mixologists haven't been poached by large bars for their 'shaking' skills that border on entertainment.
I'd spent a whole evening exploring Kochi's food scene with one of my friends, a local chef who knows her way around the city's tiniest hole in the wall establishments. Kochi's food scene has evolved over the last decades shaped equally by the preferences of locals as well as catering to travellers from across the world, many of whom use Kochi as a gateway to Kerala. Our street trails eventually led to Marine Drive where I was spellbound by the juggling act and showmanship of one of the city's many Kulukki mixologists.
The Kulukki literally translates to shaken. But the Kochi version is more vigorous than you will probably find in any bar. The stall owner in this case, flings the ingredients into a tall glass with an approach many folks in Delhi would dub as 'swag'. In this case it's probably where panache meets disdain. The glass and the larger end of a cocktail shaker are combined to shake up the drink. This is my favourite part where the glass and the shaker are tossed up in the air - at least a few times, and also swirled in the air a few times. All this in a tiny street stall where there's barely enough elbow room. There's no juice blender in the world that can match this.
Kerala's juice and shake shops are legendary. One of Kozhikode's famous beverages is the Sharjah Shake (packed with dry fruits) that most of the locals in UAE are unlikely to have heard of. The Kulukki or Kulukki sarbath's origins can be traced back to Kochi's busy streets in Fort Kochi and areas like Marine Drive where I watched this insane juggling act first. There are quite a lot of flavours on offer including refreshing summer alternatives with lemon and milk-based beverages with chocolate powders. The shake versions feature an extra element of showmanship where the mixologists squirt the milk directly from the milk packets to the glass that's a few feet away. Not surprisingly the rise in popularity of the Kulukki has coincided with the advent of platforms like Instagram. The newest sensation is the kudam kulukki served in a small earthen pot (hence the name kudam) or matka.
One of the best Kulukkis I tried in Kochi was at the Malabar Cafe, the all-day diner at the Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty that's not too far away from Fort Kochi, my comfort zone in the city. Local cuisine (from across Kerala) shines in their menu and the Kulukki is now one of their showstoppers. Malabar Cafe's range of Kulukkis take their name from popular spots in the city and feature an assortment of ingredients that range from cloves to curry leaves and green chilli. My favourite however is the Fort Kochi Kulukki that combines raw mango and ginger. A perfect fix for a hot summer's day. You can try this recipe at home but don't try tossing up the glass and shaker in the air. Let's leave that to the mixologists in Kochi who are truly in a league of their own.
Fort Kochi Kulukki
Recipe Courtesy - Rayson Joseph, Mocktail bartender, Malabar Cafe,
Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty
- Raw mango juice 120ml
- Green chili 2 slivers
- Ginger 2-3 small slivers
- Sugar syrup 45ml
- Ice cubes 8 medium size ones
- Raw mango slices 3-4 slices
- Red chilli powder a pinch
- Shake all ingredients together vigorously with ice and serve in tall glass.
- Garnish with raw mango slices and red chili powder
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.