From time to time I like to experiment with the concept of converting flavors from the culinary world to their counterpart equivalent in the glass. Recently, this led me to the exploration of one my favorite cuisines, the fragrant dishes of Thailand. Possessing character that spans sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, the bright layers of herbs and piquant spices lend themselves well to how I envisioned a parallel universe of Thai flavors in a cocktail.
Among some of the more prominent ingredients that I felt would not only best represent the foundation of the cuisine, but also lend themselves well to their ethanol-based brethren were kaffir lime leaves, galangal/ginger, Thai bird chilies, lemongrass, cilantro, lime, and coconut milk. And while many of these components can often be used together in the same dish, doing so in the glass seemed to border on overkill. As a result, I chose to focus on kaffir, lemongrass, and galangal as the basis of my self-composed ingredients.
To kick it off, while my approach in this cocktail was to pair the Thai aromatics with a citrusy gin, I certainly wanted to be able to adjust the relative balance of the rather potent botanicals independent of the gin. It seemed to me the best approach was with the creation of a fragrant kaffir lime and lemongrass-infused vodka.
Kaffir and lemongrass-infused vodka
16 oz Sobieski vodka
8-10 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
Finely sliver/julienne the kaffir; remove the papery outer layer from the lemongrass, crush with the side of a chef's knife or mallet, and cut into 2-3 pieces. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive container and let macerate for 3-4 days, shaking 1-2 times per day. Strain into a fresh bottle and store in the fridge.
This base neutral spirit took on a very nice greenish hue and the fresh, distinctive herbal characters came thru exceptionally well...all in all, the start of a solid foundation when paired with a gin such as Citadelle. From here, since I was planning to integrate a bit of lime juice, a touch of sweetness would come from a galangal syrup. Much akin to the related ginger root, galangal is a common ingredient in many Thai dishes, but is perhaps most well known in soups such as Tom Kha Gai and Tom Yung Koong.1/3 cup fresh galangal root*
8 oz water
8 oz sugar
Peel and finely slice the galangal, add to the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature, strain into a fresh bottle and store in the fridge.
*ginger can be used as a substitute
With the homemade stuff out of the way, I was finally ready to get mixing. After a couple of attempts messing with relative ratios of the vodka and lime to gin, I had the base down. I paired this with small dose of hum (botanical liqueur flavored with kaffir lime, ginger, cardamom, and hibiscus) to further accentuate the herbal notes and a dash of Peychaud's to emulate the anise character of Thai basil...this was the result.
The Floating Market
1 oz kaffir and lemongrass-infused vodka
1 oz Citadelle gin
1/2 oz galangal syrup
1/4 oz hum
1/4 oz lime juice
1 dash Peychaud's
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir until well chilled. Double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Chok dee! (cheers)
|The Floating Market|
Having incorporated a number of the fragrant aromas of Thai cuisine into a cocktail, I was rather pleased with the end result. But the bigger truth often lies with the impressions of others. During a recent laid back night at home with a few friends, I rolled this cocktail out to gather some initial impressions...and was definitely glad to see how well it was received, so it's a keeper.