The Cookbook Approach To Cocktail Design

Culinary cocktails, homemade mixers and fresh, local ingredients have been trendy in the bar industry for the past few years, and there is no reason you can’t take the same tack at home after work or hosting a party for friends.

I most often resort to the “cookbook approach” when creating new cocktails.  When I have an idea or ingredient that excites me, I generally start by digging around in my kitchen library for traditional and exotic recipes for meals that include the flavors I am considering.  Essentially, if ingredients jive well together on a chicken, they may work together with bourbon, rum or gin.  Obviously, remove the chicken from the recipe, as well as garlic, onions, and the other ingredients you wouldn’t drink by choice, but don’t dismiss anything too quickly, because many savory herbs and seasonings will work surprisingly well in a cocktail.

You’ll likely want to play with the proportions and measurements, and you may need to experiment quite a bit to get the right balance, but the result will be well worth your effort.  If you don’t have many cookbooks at home, I recommend Epicurious and the Food Network as starting points, as each site is an encyclopedia of recipes.

Below is a drink inspired by one of my favorite snacks, Chicken Tikka Masala.

Drinkin’ Tikka Masala

  • 2 ounces Crop Tomato Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 10 cilantro leaves

Shake all ingredients with ice and double strain into a glass.  Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and, if you like it spicy, dust with cayenne pepper.

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