It’s not for the simple minded, its weird and fun and complex, as I like it!
I often hear that my recipes seem complicated. I also hear once given a chance and actually made, they are easily executable, work well and are enjoyable to make. In the kitchen (and maybe life) I teeter between the quick-and-easy and the more-steps-than-usual (but still easy). It’s kind of like walking many miles; the walking part is easy; the many miles part takes simple action and will.
This recipe is seemingly complicated. It has a lot of steps and many ingredients. It offers deeply exotic rewards, but requires will… and work. Sometimes I get a weird idea, and it unravels into something even more weird. But as my therapist always says about my unraveling, I always land somewhere pragmatic. This recipe is just that.
My inspiration was weirdly potent. It started with a local and fantastically weird gin and an abnormal notion to pair it with mezcal. As the idea further unraveled, I thought about the Mexico City eatery (currently operating as pop-up venture- I think), Masala Y Maiz. Chefs and owners, Norma and Saqib, fuse Indian and Mexican cuisine. The restaurant was unexpectedly shut down in 2018 supposedly because the owners refused to pay bribes to corrupt agencies. In my mind, these folks are more culinary artists than mere chefs. Masala Y Maiz… is one of the most creative affairs I have come across in food. They combine flavors of India and Mexico into dynamic food concoctions. And that might seem like a far stretch for many, but not for me, especially as I sit here, selling Mexican mangoes, which were brought to Mexico with the colonial invasion with other flavors from all over the world. Mangoes (as well as hibiscus and tamarind and more) made their way to Mexico from India and are now a staple in Mexican cuisine and in my life, so in a way much of my work is rooted in Indian and Mexican fusion. So really it’s neither a weird idea or a far stretch to pair these two.
This recipe, or cocktail experience may be more fitting , is my attempt to do what the creative geniuses from Masala & Maiz do daily but in cocktail form, using one of the most enrapturing gins I have tasted- Sipsong Spirits, Indira Gin. It’s a grape based gin made in Sonoma County, which I ran across while writing a gin piece for Edible Marin & Wine Country- The Alchemy of Gin. The gin, as I noted in the article is incredibly unique and I and others describe it as having a robust East Indian flare- nose and palette. It’s juniper potent like a gin is supposed to be but extra warm and savory, with notes of cumin, coriander and peppercorn leading the way to softer and more sultry florals like rose, hibiscus, and lavender. My thoughts upon my first sip — weird, I’m not going to lie. (If I’ve lost you here, I suggest you take a closer look at the definition of weird.) I haven’t tasted anything like this before. It tastes like gin, but it also tastes like India- which is how I imagine gin originally tasted around the time when gin was first developing and the Dutch East India company dominated global spice routes. Indira gin feels beautiful, exotic and rare.
In researching for my small-batch spirits writing work I have found, more often than not, the spirit of the alchemist is bottled up with the rest of the flavor. This is most definitely the case for Indira, where Indira beautifully captures (bottles?) founder Tara Jasper’s wildly creative and warm spirit. I find her self-taught history in becoming an alchemist refreshing and down to earth, which also represents the flavor of the gin…..even in its weirdness is down to earth. The gin evokes the spirit of experimentation and promotes curiosity, which is a highly enjoyable feeling- for me at least. Tara’s inquiring mind and nerdy attraction to understand the way things work coupled with a visceral need to bring her idea to fruition made this gin happen and as I sat with the gin for weeks and weeks, I had a vision of India, Mexico and mangoes and something inside of me was brewing, a wildly creative idea that eventually unraveled into my Sipsong magic –Mexican Indira Horchata
I had the same instinctual notions that Tara describes while I was concocting this cocktail idea. I had the instinct/desire to incorporate mezcal as well as spices, florals, flavors and textures of Mexico; which I knew was a bold move, but it felt courageous and right. I hope that the drink inspires readers to be bold and courageous in life and flavor pairings and in particular with cocktails. Tara Jaspar, the founder and maker of Indira, proves that experimentation and defying norms will yield both success and pure joy. She makes boundaries seem like chalk marks and I love that about her, she inspires me and thus inspired this.
Indira gin is incredibly cumin forward and full of robust east Indian spice notes reminiscent of India. Mexico’s Vida de San Luis Rey by Del Maguey, one of my favorite mezcals, is not only smoky and sultry like most mezcals, but it also has extreme vegetal-centric notes that pair well with the Indian spices. These potent Indian notes are balanced by sweet tropical Ataulfo mangoes and florals (via rose petals and hibiscus), which are brought in to enhance the mango’s perfumed flavors that complement the vegetal tone of the Vida. It’s reminiscent of a beautiful vegetable, herb and flower garden all in one.
I add my obsession- Monarch Bitters Wild Flower Syrup for a little extra floral sweetness and another dose of my own local area. Mexican anise and cinnamon mix with Indian spices like black pepper, coriander, and cardamom. These are macerated into a mango shrub with ginger and citrus zest. I go weird and authentic Mexico ‘hard’, attempting to create a slight horchata vibe, using a little of my Mango & Coconut Rose Horchata. The Ataulfo mango, which I recommend for this libation is rooted in both India and Mexico, which is perfect for this cocktail adventure. They also happen to have a delightful caramel sweetness with a tinge of habanero spice essence and a buttery and creamy consistency that will make the shrub and thus the drink, even silkier. The final result is a weird exaggeration of both a Mexican horchata and an Indian Lassi but with a much boozier, silkier and spicier finish. Yes, the drink has a lot going on, but, once it settles, it masquerades like a beautiful (unlikely) couple holding hands and walking down the streets of New Delhi or Mexico City. It’s simultaneously refreshing and intoxicating and feels very much like love!
Mexican Indira Horchata
Makes 1 drink
The best way to make this drink so it doesn’t seem too cumbersome with all the steps is to plan on having and using the horchata, the spice mix and the shrub separately as well. The components of this drink all make fantastic non-alcoholic beverage and cooking options perfect for cooling off in the summer time.
1½ ounce Sipsong Indira gin
¾ ounce Vida mezcal
¾ ounce Mango-Masala Shrub (directions below)
1 ounce Mango & Coconut Rose Horchata (directions below)
½ Monarch Wild Flower Nectar (sub simple syrup)
¾ ounce lime juice
Mexican Garam Masala (directions below)
Monarch Cayenne Ginger Bitters (sub any spicy, chili based bitters)
Make the Mexican Graham Masala using the recipe below, about a week ahead and use that for the shrub as the instructions indicate. Once the shrub is ready (about 4-5 days after making it at the earliest), you are ready to make the cocktail!
Combine the gin, mezcal, shrub, horchata, nectar and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. Vigorously! Strain into a higher volume glass (short or tall) filled with ice and top with a big pinch of graham masala on the top and finish with a few drops of chili bitters.
*When cold coconut milk coagulates, but I don’t mind this look considering the great flavor it imparts.
Mango & Coconut Rose Horchata
Makes 1 pitcher
I love this with coconut milk but you could also make it with almond milk, which would make it more authentic to a Mexican horchata, tossing in a few pepitas is also a wonderful idea. This coconut version feels ultra refreshing and healthy and deeply tropical.
2 cups boiling water
1 ½ cups white rice, long-grain
1 tablespoon rose petals or rose tea
1 can (12-14 ounces), approximately 1 ½ cups coconut milk
1 cup chopped Ataulfo mango
2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
3 cups water
Combine the water, rice and rose petals (or tea) in a bowl and let stand overnight or at least 12 hours. Add the soaked rice, the coconut milk, ripe mango and sugar to a blender and starting on the lowest setting begin to grind and chop. Slowly turn up speed on the blender to high speed and blend well, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and water and blend another 3 minutes. Chill and serve over ice.
Mexican Graham Masala
Makes ½ cup of seasoning
Once I made this spice mix and had it around I found myself using it in everything. Toss it into your favorite mango BBQ sauce if you really want to be wowed.
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon green cardamom seeds, removed from pods (about 4-5 pods)
2 sticks Mexican cinnamon
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1tablespoon dried rose petals (sub rose tea)
2 teaspoon dried hibiscus petals (sub hibiscus tea)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Lightly toast the seeds and flower petals in a thin bottomed pan. Crush 2 tablespoons in a mortar and pestle. Set these aside for the shrub. Take the remaining spices, and crush them in the mortar until they are finely pulverized. Mix them with the salt, the ground ginger and sugar. Set aside in a sealed moisture-free container. Store unrefrigerated for up to a month.
Mango-Masala Horchata Shrub
Makes 2 cups of shrub
This shrub was one of our favorite new discoveries in the Crespo Organic Kitchen. We love mixing it with sparkling water. The sultry spices and sweet mango with a slightly starchy edge from the ground rice wowed us time and time again. Its our new summer desk drink for sure.
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Mexican Graham Masala spice mix (only slightly crushed)
¾ cup white rice (pulverized in a spice grinder)
1 cup fresh mango chopped
1 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 cup sugar cane vinegar
Combine all ingredients, except the vinegar, in a quart mason jar, and shake vigorously. Place in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, shaking vigorously a few times a day and stirring, as to completely dissolve sugar with the fruit juices. After 4-5 days, add the vinegar and shake a few times. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain and discard solids, making sure to extract all possible juice from the mangoes. Chill before using.