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    We like it Spicy!

    Mixing up some Indian cocktails for Mixology Monday.

    Every month a group of adventurous spirits gathers for an event called Mixology Monday where each participant offers up a blog post featuring a cocktail recipe that fits within the monthly theme. This month’s theme is Spice and it is hosted by Craig at Tiki Drinks and Indigo Firmaments. His basic guidelines were as follows:

    Spice should give you plenty of room to play – from the winter warmers of egg nog, wassail and mulled products to the strange and interesting infusions of pepper, ceubub, grains of paradise, nutmeg — what have you! I would like to stretch the traditional meanings of spice (as the bark, seed, nut or flowering part of a plant used for seasoning) to basically anything used for flavoring that isn’t an herb. Salt? Go for it. Paprika? I’d love to see you try. I hear that cardamom is hot right now.

    It turns out that this couldn’t really be better timed for me as I have been obsessed with spices in cocktails recently. About a month ago some friends and I planned to go see Slumdog Millionaire, the new Danny Boyle film about an Indian kid who ends up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and spends the film reflecting on his past in the slums of Mumbai. We were all getting together before the film and I was asked to come up with some Indian themed cocktails. Well, after a bit of research, it turned out there weren’t really many non-lassi based drinks out there that were Indian themed. This surprised me considering how flavorful indian food is. Scott Beattie had a few recipes that were inspiring in their use of coconut milk and cilantro and pickled hearts of palm but they were all really more southeast asian than Indian, and I wanted something with cumin, and coriander and turmeric.

    We only had a short notice to prepare for the party so I took the quick and easy route and made some syrups that would allow me to Indian-up nearly anything with some strong flavors. I made a coriander syrup and a cumin syrup. The cumin syrup turned out amazing and outrageously flavorful and only a small amount was needed to give any drink a hint of the spice route. The coriander syrup was much more subtle but intriguing to mix with as it added a flavor that was at once familiar but mysterious.

    The following week though, it was like the Indian-cocktail rosetta stone was recovered. That was when Jonny Raglin introduced his Spice Route cocktail menu at the new southern indian restaurant Dosa in San Francisco. It was like a trip though a new world of cocktail flavors, darjeeling tea cordial, mango gastrique, curry nectar, hell-flower tincture, yogurt. It sounded amazing, and after a visit, I was not disappointed. The next day I took a trip to Berkley bowl, one of the greatest produce markets i have ever been to, and picked up some kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, celery root, cilantro, sweet limes and fresh tumeric and began experimenting.

    Out of that came two drinks that worked pretty well, the first was based loosely on a gimlet recipe using pisco and the coriander syrup. It is called the Dhaniya Nimbu. Dihaniya is Hindi for coriander and nimbu is Hindi for lime. The second drink was inspired very much by the drinks at Dosa, and is called the Cumin Get It, which is admittedly a pretty lame name but I couldn’t avoid such a golden opportunity for a pun.

    Dhaniya Nimbu
    • 1.5 oz Pisco
    • 1 oz lime juice
    • 1 oz coriander nectar
    • 1 sprig cilantro

    shake all ingredients except cilantro and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cilantro sprig.

    Coriander Nectar
    • 1 tbsp Coriander seeds
    • 1 cup water
    • .5 cup sugar

    Heat coriander seeds in a hot skillet for a minute or so to release the aromatics. Add the seeds to a sauce pan and crush them with a muddler. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. simmer for 5 minutes and add the sugar stirring until it is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool and strain out the coriander seeds from the mixture, bottle and refrigerate. Mixture should keep for about a week.

    Cumin Get It
    • 1.5 oz Gin
    • .75 oz Light coconut milk
    • .75 oz Lime juice
    • .75 oz Cumin syrup
    • 2 kaffir lime leaves

    Place all ingredients except for one of the kaffir lime leaves in a shaker and shake very well as you would a drink with egg white. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with remaining kaffir lime leaf.

    Cumin syrup
    • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar

    Heat cumin seeds in a hot skillet for a minute or so to release the aromatics. Add the seeds to a sauce pan and add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. simmer for 5 minutes and add the sugar stirring until it is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool and strain out the cumin seeds from the mixture, bottle and refrigerate. Mixture should keep for about a week.

    Spice Route Cocktail Menu at Dosa

    A delicious new Indian themed cocktail menu.

    I briefly mentioned it in the elsewhere links in the sidebar a while back but Dosa, the southern Indian restaurant in San Francisco has just opened a new place and with it comes a fascinating new cocktail menu. When Camper English over at Alcademics posted the menu, that really got me excited about checking this place out. Jonny Raglin, the bar manager from Absinthe, has created a menu that is very unique and full of crazy spices, herbs and gastriques that don’t normally find their way into cocktails.

    We got to try 9 of the 10 cocktails on the menu (they were out of something in the Mood Indigo) and all of them were at the very least conversation worthy and tastebud provoking. Several were total standouts, like the Juhu Palm, the Batsman and the Smoked Cup. The Juhu Palm was the crowd favorite with a blend of Gin, coconut milk, lime juice, Kaffir lime leaf, bird’s eye chili tincture and a spanked curry leaf. The Batsman contains Gin, Darjeeling tea cordial, lemon juice & ginger beer with a sprig of mint. The Smoked Cup was incredibly flavorful with Mezcal, Pimms, black cardamom tincture, ginger beer, cucumber and smoked sea salt.

    In addition to being great drinks, they also pair fantastically with the food, one of the drinks, the Laughing Lassi, contains Genever, yogurt, cucumber, grains of paradise, agave nectar and Angostura bitters. The yogurt and cucumber are a great counterpoint to the spicy ingredients in the food.

    If you are in the bay area, take the time to check out Dosa. For anyone with even a passing interest in good cocktails, the bar menu here is inventive and exciting, and tasting through the menu is as entertaining as it is delicious.

    Cooper’s Cocktail

    Finally a delicious use for one of the world’s strangest bitter substances.

    I read recently in the Atlantic that of all of the Fernet Branca sold in the US, 25% of it is sold in San Francisco! For a drink that makes so many people gag on their first sample, it is pretty remarkable that so much could be sold in one place. For anyone not experienced with Fernet, it is a super bitter amaro that is made from a bewilderingly large number of spices and herbs including myrrh, chamomile, and saffron, and it tastes a bit like a mixture of toothpaste and cough syrup. Generally speaking most bartenders I know enjoy it. My guess is that dealing with an increasingly cocktail-aware audience of bar patrons, bartenders have to like something pretty weird to stay ahead of the curve. Either way, count me in – I love Fernet. I enjoy pretty much all bitters and amari, but there is always a special place for Fernet with me.

    Though try as I might I could never find a cocktail that it would work in. At one point I was feeling like I was homing in with an unnamed combination of honey, fernet and rye but it just wasn’t perfect… the fernet is just so shouty and overpowering nothing else could compete with it. But then one evening while flipping through the 2008 Food & Wine Cocktails book and came across one of what is presumably Jamie Beaudreau’s concoctions called the Cooper’s Cocktail. It is a blend of Fernet, Rye and St Germain, and the St Germain and orange twist really do their job to balance out the Fernet.

    Cooper’s Cocktail

    • 2 Oz Rye
    • 3/4 Oz St Germain
    • 1/4 Oz Frenet Branca
    • Orange Peel

    Stir all ingredients except orange peel with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel over the glass and then drop it into the drink.

    Trader Vic’s Final Resting Place

    The final resting place of one of Tiki’s giants.

    I was surprised to find the grave of Trader Vic at mountain view cemetery in Oakland.

    There are many things to say about Trader Vic and his contribution to cocktailiana, but one story that has always stuck with me is about his acquaintance with Ernest Lawrence, one of the architects of the atomic bomb. Lawrence was a huge fan of Trader Vic’s in Oakland and spent a good bit of time there, reportedly holding many meetings there regarding the development of the bomb.

    Shortly after the war ended, when all of the world knew of the newly created atomic bomb, Lawrence returned to Trader Vic’s as described in this quote from the book “Brotherhood of the Bomb”.

    With peace also came the return of familiar customs. On December 7, 1945, Lawrence hosted a cocktail party for the Rad Lab’s returnees at Berkeley’s elegant Claremont Hotel, Followed by a dinner at Trader Vic’s. (Ernest’s favorite restauranteur invented a new drink for the occasion-a lurid, smoking concoction of rum, blue Curacao, and dry ice dubbed the “A-bomb cocktail.” “It was ghastly,” Molly [Lawrence] remembered.)

    It’s interesting to think that Vic Bergeron might have been one of the first people to establish the pop cultural obsession with the atomic future, and for the people who created the bomb none-the-less.

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