Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice! Spiced Cocktails to Warm the Cockles

Cocktails, simple and rigid, or a chance to show creativity and flair?

For nearly 200 years, the imagination and experimentation of countless bartenders has driven the art of cocktail making to new heights - so much so that the term 'mixologist' is has been coined to draw the line between a lowly bartender who can serve 20 pints with same amount of head, and one who creates innovative cocktails, learning from cocktail historians, and adding their own twist and personality.

As a self confessed cocktail lover, and equally enthusiastic foodie, I see no reason not to let the two cross paths. A spice fiend, I have no greather pleasure than jazzing up a simple recipe with a concotion of spices - cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, chilli, to name a few. It's finding flavours which complement each other and enhance, without losing natural loveliness.

There's a popular trend for mixologists (and bartenders!) to borrow from the kitchen and use herbs and spices in cocktails and to combine their tastes and flavors to perfection.

Without realising it, you've probably already experienced this spice sensation - ginger, vanilla, basil, cinnamon and black pepper are already on the ingredients list for many cocktails and drinks.

No stranger to a scotch bonnet, a jalapeno or a bird's eye, I'm keen to try a fiery chilli potion. I've dug out this recipe from Mallika Basu, queen of spice and author of Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living, for My Mother's Vodka Chilli Cocktail;

4 fresh green finger chillies
½ tsp kala namak (black rock salt)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 single shots of vodka
4-6 ice cubes
1 x 350ml can of lemonade
2 slices of lime, to serve
2 Martini glasses

1. Make a 2cm (¾in) slit along the thickest part of each chilli, taking care not to cut right through. In a small cup, mix together the salt and pepper. With
the tip of your knife, stuff the chilli slits with the salt and pepper mix.

2. Now measure a shot of vodka into each Martini glass and place two chillies in each. Leave to soak for at least 10 minutes, while you crush the ice. Then add a handful of crushed ice to each glass, top with lemonade and a sprinkle of any remaining salt and pepper. Decorate with a slice of lime to serve.

Next on my list to try is a Spiced Buttered Rum from The Incredible Spice Men - Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala - and their Incredible Spice Men book. As the summer seems to have rapidly faded, I'm already in autumn mode and looking for something to warm me up! With cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla and cloves, this is a nice change from mulled wine and can be made to warm not just your own heart, but 8-10 of your friends!

80g (3 oz) demera sugar
570ml (1 pint) dark rum
10 cinnamon sticks, for stirring the drinks

For the spiced butter
150g (5oz) unsalted butter, softened
80g (3 oz) demerera sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (about 12 cardamom pods, seeds finely ground)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 vanilla pod, use scraped seeds only

Tiny pinch of ground cloves (optional)

1. To make the spiced butter, place all ingredients into a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Transfer the butter mix into a serving bowl and place somewhere coo but not in the fridge.
2. When you're ready to serve the drinks, boil 570ml (1 pint) of water and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Warm the rum in a pan; do not let it get too hot unless you want to lower the alcohol content. Do take care as if the rum gets too hot, there is a risk of it catching fire!
3. Pour the boiled water and sugar mix into the hot rum, then pour into glasses or mugs and pop a cinnamon stick in each one. Let guests add their own spiced butter and stir into the rum with the cinnamon sticks.

As the rain pours down, yet again, and the days seem to be getting shorter ever so quickly, the spicy deepness of this hot buttered rum is calling my name, so on that note, I must dash to my kitchen...!

 Cinnamon stick image from S.Diddy's photostream and cocktail image from gentleman joolz's photostream on flickr under the Creative Commons license.

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