Monday, 14 November 2011

Kim's Review: The Tulleeho! Book of Cocktails

I first started writing (non-academic prose & to someone else's specifications and guidelines) way back in 1999, for a new dotcom venture called Tulleeho!.com. Chanty (Vikram Achanta), Venky (P Venkatesh) and I soon bonded online over our fascination for alcohol and penchant for drinking. I even met up with them while on a business trip (for my full time job) to Delhi and made it to the Tulleeho! Wall of Shame - the only woman to do so :)

The years passed by, Krishna Nagaraj joined them, Venky got back into the corporate world, they hired more staff, the website changed from being a set of reviews of places to drink at, to include cocktail recipes, coverage of new launches of alcohol related products in India and an online shop for bartending accessories among other things. They moved offline into cocktail workshops, wine and whisky tasting sessions and  wine trails in India. I moved from India to the US and back, then to Egypt and Dubai before coming back again. In between, I attended their Cocktail workshops in Hyderabad, conducted by Shatbi Basu and kept bumping into them at the JLF and in Delhi. while staying updated via Tulleeho!.com and facebook.

I was very excited, when I heard that they had finally compiled the cocktail recipes on their website into a book and were due for launch just around the time, I was moving to Guwahati. I did not order the book off flipkart, because I was hoping to buy myself an autographed copy at a book launch while travelling to Delhi or Bombay. However, earlier last week, I was contacted by Blog Adda to review this book and I jumped at the opportunity. Scroll to the bottom of this post for details on how to join their book review program.

I had to wait longer than normal for the book to arrive, because the whole of Assam was closed for almost a week for the State Mourning and funeral of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.The book came in the post yesterday and I eagerly tore it open to dive right in.

You can read this book like a regular book and start from page 1 and continue until the end or you can treat it like a cookbook and immediately jump to a recipe that catches your fancy. But its more than just a book of recipes, its a jewel of information regarding alcohol and all its attendant paraphernalia.

In the introduction, the authors say that they hope to make anyone who reads the book knowledgeable about alcohol, even if they have never taken a sip in their lives. I think they have succeded in this objective.

The Tulleeho! Book of Cocktails - instant karma, anarkali and other mouthwatering mixes starts with an introduction on different kinds of alcohol, barware, glassware, mixers, condiments and garnishes needed to stock a home bar. It then moves on to mixology - types of cocktails, bartending techniques, tips & tricks. There is a section in the middle which provides basic information about different liqueurs and other popular spirits. The bulk of the book is the recipes and the last few pages have valuable information, like where to shop for home bar requirements in the metros, alcohol calorie counter, hangover prevention and smart drinking.

The book is sponsored in part by Bacardi & Monin Syrups, so each get a few dedicated pages of cocktails revolving around their products in particular. Their logos also pop up across the book, but its easier to ignore than scroll bar ads on TV. However, their sponsorship also means that the reader only pays 395Rs (even less if you buy on flipkart or the Tulleeho website) for this bartending guide that is in full colour with an accompanying picture for each recipe, so its a great deal.

Grouped into different subsections depending on the primary alcoholic base (vodka, tequila, gin, rum, whiskey, brandy, beer, wine) each recipe includes its classification, the kind of glass that it should be served in, the skill level required to prepare it and the recipe. My favourite section most definitely is the dessert cocktails - cocktails that can be served instead of dessert. Most recipes also have a photo of what the finished product should ideally look like. There are also suggestions on which cocktails work best for particular occassions - holi, valentines day, monsoons, diwali and christmas.

The book has plenty of tips and trivia sprinkled across it, like how for the instant karma you can substitute 15ml Amaretto with 15ml almond syrup and up the vodka from 30 to 45ml. I especially loved the detailed information on tequila.
A lot of the recipes use fresh market produce - fruits and herbs.

The USP of this book is that almost all ingredients can be easily bought in India, of course some of them may be more reasonable if sourced from "duty free", but they are available in most well stocked stores too. There are a few recipes with Absinthe, Aquavit, Cachaca, Limoncello and Pisco which can only be bought from the countries of their origin. But these comprise hardly 5% of  the recipes on offer. The other difficult to source syrups/liqueurs come with good substitute options.

My other concern was that some of the recipes call for Monin purees. Monin syrups are easily available, but I've never come across Monin purees in a shop which makes me wonder if these products are only available to bartenders. (in case you didn't know, there are plenty of processed food products in India that are only available to bulk buyers) I'll need to check on that. However in the meantime, I'm sure home made purees will suffice and be fresher and healthier - the only problem is that they oxidise quickly.

Most of the recipes in the book are easy or moderate and can be fixed by anyone who knows how to pour stuff out of a bottle and shake or stir. A few recipes are categorised difficult and this usually means that some form of fire or heating is involved. So they are still quite easy to fix at home.

The recipes in this book are completely geared for the home bartender and is such a huge and welcome improvement from the imported cocktail books I've seen in bookstores here. Those imported books are normally really thick and huge, but once you start scanning the list of ingredients, you realise that you can barely try to make even 25% of them at home. Either the ingredients are unavailable in India or the techniques involved require much higher skill levels.

So go ahead, pick this one up, who knows the bartending bug may bite so hard, that you may find yourself registering for a flair bartending workshop with Tulleeho!
Rating: 4.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Also available at The Tulleeho Online Shop

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Kim's Review: Madame Tussaud

After reading The Heretic Queen, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud. However, having just visited the Madame Tussauds waxworks in London, I was also quite keen to learn more about how a woman in 18th Century France, became such a famous craftsperson whose legacy lives on today in multiple museums across the globe.

Madame Tussaud is a brilliant piece of Historical Fiction, that I really enjoyed. It could be because my knowledge of the French Revolution is sketchy, unlike Pharaonic Egypt which I have read so much about. (I felt that The Heretic Queen, was constantly contradicting what I had come to accept as facts, so it was a disconcerting read for me)

The book spans a quarter of a century beginning with Madame Tussaud in London in 1812, and promptly regressing in flashback to 1788. Here Madamoiselle Marie Grosholtz is an accomplished wax modeller under the tutelage of her uncle Philippe Curtius.

Times are tough, money is tight and food shortages are widespread throughout France. Madamoiselle Marie and her Uncle Curtius's waxworks are on display in Paris, for an entry fee. They model royalty and rogues. However, in a bid for credibility and recognition, Marie promises Queen Marie Antoinette's favourite dressmaker and confidante Rose Bertin that she will prepare a wax model of her, if she can convince the Royal family to visit their museum.

The ploy works and the visit by the Royal family induces a lot more people to visit their waxworks. An unexpected fallout of the visit though is King Louis XVI's sister Princesse Elisabeth invites Marie to her palace in Versailles to teach her, her craft.

This puts Marie in an unusual position. As a businesswoman she needs to display models that the public will enjoy and fit in with stories printed in the scandal sheets. But her work with Princesse Elisabeth shows her the truth of the Royal family. However, in a bid for profit, she continues to provide what the public clamours for, rather than the truth. This in a way outlines the media frenzy that we see in India today and the waxworks could very well be considered a precursor to todays 24 hour "news" channels.

Once the Revolution begins, Marie is forced to use her skills to make death masks of those executed by the rebels. Inspite of her revulsion, this is the only way she can keep herself, her family and her business safe from being pronounced traitors.

This ghastly duty continues until she refuses to make death masks of her friends who were executed and then she herself is thrown into prison with her mother.

The book is unusual as Marie has a unique perspective. That of a commoner, yet talented businesswoman who has a tight grip on the pulse of the mood of the moment, but who is also afforded behind the scenes insights into the Royal family and why they behave the way they do.

The way France falls apart during the Revolution is a cautionary tale for those blindly seeking freedom from "dictators" in their own countries. Often the replacements are more despotic than the original incumbents.

Madame Tussaud is a brilliantly woven tale, with a lot of attention to details. This is a book I'd definitely recommend.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, 4 November 2011

Kim's Review: Cat vs Human

I've been following Yasmine Surovec's blog: for quite awhile now. She is so bang on, in her observations about cats, that I often just forward the days cartoon to all my animal loving friends. Most of them have subsequently signed themselves up for her newsletter too.

Yasmine is hilariously funny. Her cartoons capture the humorous moments of living with cats just so brilliantly.

When I heard the book was out and available on flipkart, I just had to order my own copy. As soon as it arrived home, my husband and I literally were fighting over who would read it first. We ended up reading most of it together, while taking breaks in between to stare at our own cat and say "Oh MY God! That's just like Bacardi"

I had of course seen most of the cartoons before on her blog, but its lovely to have them all compiled in one book. This is my new favourite "goto" book to bring a smile on my face, no matter how bad the day has been.

It's Bacardi's favourite bedtime reading material too, as you can see in the picture above.

Yasmine even has an online Cat Vs Human Shop from where you can buy the book, postcards or tee shirts with the cartoons printed on them.

If you love cats and can see the humour in sharing a living space with them, you will love this book. Take a look at Yasmine's blog: if you want a sample of what to expect in the book.

Rating: 5/5
Because I identify with so many of the situations and the book made me smile and laugh

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...