Three reasons you need to get out more this summer: The Cucumber Lemon Grass Cooler, The Polynesian Storm, and The Bella Donna. All three are cocktails created by Nishan Nepulangoda, the internationally renowned and award-winning mixologist at La Société. Here are plenty more reasons you should get better acquainted with a bartender as talented as Nepulangoda…
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
People know me as Nish (pronounced Neesh) – that’s my nickname outside of my professional life. At work I am a mixologist and a bartender but I also like to be a host. Since I was a kid I’ve loved interacting with people and being hospitable and showing them a good time. I learned this from my family. It’s who I am.
How do you create new cocktails for the LS cocktail list?
When I created these cocktails I sat and thought of what flavours people look for in the summer time. Is it smokey, sour, or sweet? I decided people are looking for a refreshing, light cocktail to sip – that is the key thing. From there I created categories within the refreshing and light theme. Some people are looking for something sweet, sour and spicy all in one cocktail, some are looking for semi-sweet but smokey. (Smokey is a very popular trend in the mixology world right now. It’s an interesting element that’s nice and well balanced in a cocktail.) And some like a lighter, refreshing but bubbly taste. All of this can be found in our LS cocktails. The Cucumber Lemon Grass Cooler has a light, citrusy, refreshing taste topped with Perrier for a bubbly kick, and the Polynesian Storm has a sweet taste with a cherry liqueur and ginger beer, which gives it a fizzy and bubbly flavour. The Bella Donna has Prosecco for bubbles, and lime/citrus and grapefruit for a slightly bitter taste.
Do you have a favourite ingredient to use when creating cocktails?
Jalapeno. I love that it’s not overpowering like a chili pepper, but can add a nice spice to a cocktail – like in one of my favourite creations, the Caribou Crossing which includes a Jalepeno syrup. People in Toronto like spicy food, especially in the summer, and you can find that jalapeno flavour in Mexican restaurants and Japanese restaurants and it’s really popular.
What do you think is the hottest (or coolest) drink this summer?
I think bittersweet cocktails are the hottest drinks this summer; on the LS menu that would the Bella Donna. It has grapefruit flavoured ice cubes and syrup that give it a slight bitter taste with the sweet.
When you’re not concocting cocktails, what are you up to?
When I am not making cocktails I am playing rugby or at the gym.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…this city inspires me. It is a cosmopolitan city that has global trends coming from all over. I think it is the center of North and South America. Lots of nationalities and cultures mix here – European, South American, Middle Eastern – and as I socialize I learn from the new people and cultures I encounter. I get my inspiration from this city.
What are three things you simply cannot live without?
For me I would chose my family – my 7-year-old son and my wife. I can’t live without sleeping – I like to take regular naps as they help me feel refreshed and ready for the next task. Also, my cell phone.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
When I was living in Dubai I worked at a restaurant called Sho cho for seven years. It’s the number one modern Japanese restaurant in UAE. It is so beautiful. It seats 700 people, with a beach patio and the interior is a restaurant and club atmosphere.
Who’s your favourite designer/brand and why do you sport their fashions?
I don’t really follow brands or designers. I like comfortable and fitted clothing so I have my clothes custom-made. All my shirts are tailored for me. I guess I am my own designer. I like simple colours and well-fitted clothing.
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date with all your globe-trotting?
I am on Twitter. I like to send out tweets of me at work and my latest creations. People can see what I am up to there. And I just started an Instagram account that I plan to focus on my work, showing photos of my new cocktails and other work like judging competitions.