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Mixology in Turkmen, or How to taste the Karakum sunset?

17.08.2023 | 19:19 |
 Mixology in Turkmen, or How to taste the Karakum sunset?

Everyone, of course, has their own exotic. For some, this is a desert landscape, stunning with the bottomless breadth of the sky overturned above it and the loud silence of the red-hot earth. For another – a noisy and cheerful sea beach with palm trees or snow-covered rocks and icy peaks beckoning with inaccessibility. Seasoned tourists from large megacities are not tempted by fashionable hotels – they like to get to know the life of local villagers in their villages and houses, and residents of provincial corners are fond of the urban crowd, where you can get lost among people like in a remote forest, and go out to the sparkling showcases and facades of the "stone jungle". And there are fans of mixing it all, the main thing is to understand the proportions and have a taste for life, to be able to celebrate it! The first cocktail bar appeared in Ashgabat as if suddenly and quietly, located in an inconspicuous place from the outside, but in the historical center of the city, almost adjacent to the alley "Ylham", where it may not be as crowded as in shopping and entertainment complexes, and passers-by are mostly permanent, from the surrounding houses. But a small stylish upgrade of the entrance door to the bar (it seemed that the door itself was not there before) was noticed even by "fickle" passers-by.

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A neon sign immediately behind the glass doors invites you to enter, and beyond the threshold the visitor appears as if in a long box with a set of all sorts of things. Despite the rather brutal name of the bar – "Bulldog", it is cozy here in a friendly way, the aroma of good coffee and the soft loft of the interior invite you to linger, looking at those same things. And so that this thought does not leave you, in addition to an invigorating drink, you will be offered board games.

A little intellectual warm-up or simple tasks for logic and ingenuity will not prevent you from tuning in for a relaxing holiday and finding an interesting topic for conversation with a friend, a bartender or other visitors, if they don't mind.

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Here you can keep your personal boundaries, being alone with your thoughts, or you can join the general company and meet new people. The club format is symbolized by two massive, but friendly bulldog muzzles that protrude on the wall from the semi-darkness above the metal lampshades illuminating the bar counter. Dogs, as it were, protect a certain space of "their circle" and are associated with sociability. In addition, these minor "bulls" as a breed are referred to as bodyguard dogs and companions.

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The Bulldog team has an idea to develop a branded dog theme by including hot dogs in the menu. But not necessarily. It can also be donuts as a quick and satisfying snack. This probably has more to do with the "takeaway coffee" service available here.

The situation inside the bar and its service "protocol" do not imply special feasts and noisy parties. It is rather an atmospheric place, combining a balanced mixture of delicate hospitality and unobtrusive communication, coffee, music and cocktails for different occasions and moods.

No, it's not that there were no places where cocktails were made in Ashgabat before. They have been doing it for a very long time, in many restaurants, bars and cafes. But this is the first place "sharpened" for cocktails. And its main feature is that in addition to traditional, classic recipes that can be found in other establishments of the city, here you will be offered original remixes and unique "author's" compositions developed by a professional cocktail maker, that is, put together with fine knowledge of the matter, with talent and soul. And with meaning.

Do you feel how something festive, festival, extroverted sparkles in the very word "cocktail"? And at the same time – intimate, romantic, nostalgic or, conversely, dreamy, something very personal that we can only share with a friend, or even not share, because he understands everything anyway.

Such a new cocktail culture for us is gradually entering the Ashgabat catering industry, where the culture of drinking coffee, not instant, but freshly ground, freshly brewed, is already quite firmly rooted. Now, more and more often, instead of the traditional "come in for a cup of tea", you can hear: "maybe we'll go somewhere, have a coffee?".

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It is also a universal trend of increasing the culture of consumption – in the case of coffee, it is a transition from "three in one" to high-quality drinks. And in the case of cocktails - to high-quality, well-thought-out options with low alcohol content or without it, providing an excellent variety of flavors.

The Bulldog team has a very interesting prospect to develop a cocktail direction with authentic products, such as herbs, fruits, berries and fruits of local origin and local tradition. We heard an amazing story on this topic from a senior bartender who recently, this summer, went to a competition in St. Petersburg, which was attended by his colleagues from more than 70 countries, including those representing Michelin restaurants and top bars in the world. He took 7th place, which can be considered a serious achievement, given the high-class level of rivals from countries where the cocktail business has been developed at a much higher level for a long time.


Our interlocutor spoke at the tournament with a purely Turkmen "story", for the embodiment of which he brought with him all the ingredients of domestic production. You'll be surprised what! But first, the story itself. It is based on the impression of a sunset once seen in the Karakum desert.

... The huge disk of the sun, which had rolled down to the horizon, acquired a red color and colored the sky and earth with it, and the lake, on the shore of which a tired boy was sitting, who was serving in the army at that time, acquired a bright purple hue. This fantastic landscape was etched into his memory, and later, when he was coming up with a recipe for a St. Petersburg competition, a picturesque picture surfaced. The idea was found!

And then the magic of Mixology – the goddess of bartenders - began. Mixing rules are a whole science, a field of knowledge related to the preparation of cocktails. To study it, you need to read a lot of professional textbooks and books by outstanding masters of this business, fill your hand, nose and taste, pour more than one liter of liquids into the trash, unsuccessfully arranged in flavor, consistency and expressiveness, accumulate the necessary experience for the courage of experiments…

Well, the color roles were distributed: tomato juice plays the role of a red sunset, the seasoning reyhan (basil) is responsible for the purple lake. The main character embodying the very air and the image of the Turkmen land, sweet fruits grown on it under the hot rays of the sun and therefore unique in taste, was the dessert wine "Yasmansalyk", a multiple gold medalist of the international exhibition of wines and spirits "Yalta – Golden Griffin".

But we needed another hero, the very hero of the second plan, who makes the whole picture a real explosive blockbuster, and not another remake. And he became... a fool! Who won the dispute with persimmon, precisely because of his greater "Turkmenness".

Naturally, all this is not just combined in a blender, but undergoes a certain preparation and transformation before forming a harmonious ensemble. So our govurdak was evaporated, and the fat-free moisture from the steam, which preserved the light taste and aroma of the national dish, became the very component that gave the cocktail a specific note, which was appreciated by the jury of the competition as a magnificent original find. In addition, the demonstrative preparation of this cocktail took place under the Turkmen folk music, which only added to the ethnographic perception.

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Well, this is, of course, from the world of high cocktail fashion, this is not "worn" in an ordinary bar. And yet, why do you think some bartenders bother with their own searches, when you can just shake "according to the classics"?

Probably out of love for art, in the best sense of this expression. That is, out of love for his craft and people who are ready to appreciate it. And this is, perhaps, the main "secret" ingredient in the recipe of the Bulldog cocktail bar.

P.S. The Bulldog Bar is holding its first tasting evening on Friday, August 18. Beginning at 19:00.




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