An accurate history of one of my favourite cocktails
Welcome to Nitin Pai’s cyberspace. You are in the structured section of my domain where I have my blog posts, newspaper columns, updates on my teaching and research, and other things you had always been warned about.
It was in April 2017 that I standardised my recipe of one of my favourite cocktails, the Moscow Maratha, a drink named in honour of the great Indian state of Maharashtra:
For many years, I believed I had both invented and named this cocktail. Last week, while looking at its internet history, I realised my memory was not very accurate and a more than a little self-serving. Given the importance of this issue to the future of human civilisation let me set the record straight for posterity.
Kokum (Garcinia indica) is related to the Mangosteen, and is a popular ingredient all along India’s West coast. Kairi panna made from raw mango juice and spices.
In the last week of May 2011, I found myself in Pune where Takshashila had organised a unique public policy unconference, and where I enjoyed the two local coolers: kokum juice and kairi panna. I am not exactly sure now, but I recall mixing these drinks with a miniature bottle of vodka and enjoying the results. I promptly shared this spiritual revelation on Twitter.
The record shows that Salil Bijur replied to this tweet informing me that this drink was called the Moscow Maratha. He has since clarified that it believes it was Kunal Sawardekar who first came up with the name. So I thought until I did an advanced search for “moscow maratha” on Twitter and discovered that, after all, it was I who had first come up with that name for a recipe posted by a Lithuanian living in India. Jurate’s post documents an existing recipe where kairi panna is spiked with vodka and chillies.
Thus it seems that the good people of Maharashtra, and Pune in particular, had already been consuming vodka-spiked aam panna, and my contribution was to give it the name. I do not recollect hearing of the name before, so Kunal must have seen my tweet, and Salil heard it from him. We were all part of a small extended circle of bloggers in those days, so it’s possible that important things like cocktail recipes diffused through our networks. That said, if it was Kunal (or someone he knows) who did the naamkaran then I will update this post to correct the record.
Hangyo G&T employs a small amount of kokum juice on your standard gin & tonic.
There is also the question of the kokum juice. My March 2010 tweet does not mention it. In May 2011 I included it in a drink called “In the Spirit of Pune” which was then mistakenly referred by some as the Moscow Maratha. I noticed that I have always referred to the vodka-spiked kairi panna drink by that name. My fork was to add kokum juice to it to obtain “In the Spirit of Pune” (which is a terrible name for a cocktail and a sure sign that I had not yet consumed it when I was thinking of a name).
Well, I could argue — especially if I had a good intellectual property lawyer — that adding lemon and soda is novel and the result is a different drink.
Kishi Arora then published a recipe in May 2014 to concoct the kairi panna from first principles. The first record of the addition of club soda is from the following year. The recipe had stabilised by May 2015, after the addition of lemon. It was around that time when I began to claim credit for ‘inventing’ this cocktail. As a dispassionate study of world history shows, that is not quite right. My own role was (perhaps) to give it a name, add lemon and soda, and then popularise it.
You can mix it yourself. It’s pretty easy to make and doesn’t need exotic ingredients. Or you can try it at the Bangalore International Centre bar.
© Copyright 2003-2024. Nitin Pai. All Rights Reserved.