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11.13.10 by  

Desi Cocktailing. Om Shanti Yum.

5 Indian-inspired ingredients and a roundup of drink recipes designed to warm your bones (and liver) when cold weather keeps you indoors.

When the temps drop, we love a little comfort cocktailing. Check out our five top picks for adding warm, spicy Indian flavors to your autumn Happy Hour menu, plus bonus recipes to try them out.

1. Cardamom
Quintessentially Indian in aroma and flavor, cardamom seeds aren’t just for curries and teas anymore, but cocktails as well. They’re muddled, microplaned over foam and infused into spirits, mixers and syrups. The Design Sponge has the right idea, sipping Apothecary’s Cardamom Rose Cocktail.

Cardamom Rose Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s gin (this is a rose and cucumber-infused gin)
  • 3/4 ounce rose syrup (make at home with rose water and simple syrup or buy locally)
  • 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce fresh grapefruit juice (ruby red preferably)
  • 2 dashes of Peychauds bitters (Peychaud is credited with first creating the cocktail)
  • 1 cardamom pod
  1. Muddle 1 cardamom pod at the bottom of shaker (not too much muddling or it will overpower the drink).
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Add ice.
  4. Shake for 20 seconds.
  5. Strain over fresh ice to remove the cardamom pod.
  6. Add a splash of seltzer water.
  7. Garnish with rose petals or fresh lemon wedge (use organic if possible).

Muddle a cardamom pod or two to add depth of flavor in cocktails.


2. Mango
A natural way to add sweetness to drinks, mangoes can be muddled, pureéd, chopped and juiced. Mango-bellini, mango-mojito, frozen mango punch are all standard fare this day and age. A new twist we like: Eben Freeman’s frozen mango daiquiri.

Frozen Mango Daiquiri

This exotic frozen mango daiquiri from mixologist Eben Freeman is based on a version of the tropical fruit salad called Rujak, popular in Southeast Asia. To serve, Freeman suggests alternating sips of the drink with licks of the green mango.

  • 1 ounce white rum (Freeman suggests Flor de Cana 4 year old)
  • 1 ounce dark rum (Freeman suggests Ron Zacapa Centenario)
  • 1 dash Batavia Arrack
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 ounce chile simple syrup
  • 1⁄2 (about 1⁄2 cup diced) ripe Indonesian or champagne mango
  • 1 slice green (unripe) mango, for garnish
  • 1⁄4 cup crushed salted, roasted cashew nuts, for garnish
  1. Combine the rums, Batavia Arrack, lemon juice, simple syrup and ripe mango, plus 7 standard household ice cubes in a good quality blender. Blend for approximately 50 seconds. Pour into a frozen daiquiri/margarita glass rimmed with crushed cashews. Garnish with slice of green mango.

Chile Simple Syrup

  • 11⁄2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 sliced hot chile pepper, such as Indonesian or Thai Bird’s Eye
  1. Stir together sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Add the sliced pepper and let sit at room temperature to infuse until desired heat level is reached. Test after 1 hour.

The crushed cashew garnish gives this frozen cocktail added texture. Photo:

3. Saffron
Subtle spices can be added to drinks via pickling juices and garnishes. We love this savory saffron cocktail from Rori Trovato at

Saffron Scented Gibson with Pickled Cocktail Onions

For the Gibson:

  • 2 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Splash cocktail onion liquid
  • 2 or 3 cocktail onions
  1. Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Add gin, vermouth and onion liquid. Shake and strain into a glass. Spear 2 or 3 onions on a pick, and add to glass.

For the Cocktail Onions:

  • 1 cup white pearl onions
  • 2 cups champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  1. Boil 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Add onions and boil 1 minute; strain. Peel when cool enough to handle.
  2. Put vinegar, sugar, saffron threads, bay leaves, and juniper berries in the saucepan over medium-low heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Add onions, increase heat, and bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, remove from heat, and cool in pan. When room temperature, transfer contents to a container and chill in the refrigerator. It’s best to marinate onions for at least 1 week. They can be stored for up to 2 months.

Saffron-infused pickle juice? Count us in. Photo Rori Trovato

4. Tamarind
We made over the classic cosmopolitan earlier this year by giving it an international twist. The cosmo 2.0 highlights tamarind’s natural sweetness, and tamarind syrup can be splashed into other drinks once you’ve made a batch.

The Cosmo 2.0

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 2 parts tamarind syrup
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 1 part blueberry juice
  1. Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Tamarind Syrup

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 3/4 cup water
  1. Heat water stove top and stir in sugar and tamarind paste until dissolved.

Change up your cocktails by subbing tamarind syrup in for the sweetener your recipe calls for.

5. Coconut
Drink of the Week’s Marcia Simmons adds a Southeastern flavor to her twist on a classic rum daiquiri by adding coconut water to the mixing glass. Cooling and refreshing, this drink pairs well with spicy bar bites.

Put the Lime in Tea Coconut

  • 3 parts coconut water
  • 3 parts white rum
  • 2 parts green tea syrup*
  • 1 1/2 parts fresh lime juice
  • Lime wheels to garnish
  1. Shake all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into glass containing ice and top off with lime wheels.

*Green Tea Syrup

  • 1 part water
  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 green tea bag
  1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil, then reduce heat and put in the green tea bag. Let simmer for 5 minutes then turn off heat. Leave the bag steeping for an additional 10 minutes, then remove and store syrup in a glass container in the refrigerator.

Ahhh, just need a beach chair and an umbrella. Maldives, anyone? Photo: