“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.” – Erma Bombeck
What would food be without spices? Bland. Every dish needs some seasoning, even if it’s just salt and pepper. And when we want to develop more complex flavors, we start delving into other spices and broadening the range of flavor. Typically, we only think of adding spices to food. But what about cocktails and other beverages? I asked myself this question today while planning a garden party for next weekend.
Are you tired of serving the same old drinks as well? I’ve searched far and wide to bring you some ideas for “spicing” up some basic drinks!
Cardamom: Commonly used in Indian dishes, this spice has a distinctive and strong, smokey taste. Think of Chai tea. So it pairs well with lemon beverages, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Use it in small doses though, so as to not overwhelm the drink.
Pepper: Everyone knows what this is. It’s hard to imagine pepper in a cocktail, but trust me on this. You don’t want to grind it into your drink, but rather, infuse the alcohol over a couple days with whole pepper corns. You’ll end up with a slight undertone of rich earthiness and a little bite!
Ginger: You can buy it whole and fresh at the grocery store, or use the dried spice sitting on your spice rack. Here’s a favorite go-to recipe of mine for a refreshing summer cocktail:
~1 Ounce quality Vodka, 1 Cup Fresh Lemonade, 1/2 Cup Ginger Beer,
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger, Dash of Bitters, Stir and Serve Over Ice~
Mulling Spices: A classic during the winter holidays. Usually contains a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice but some recipes will vary. Warm wine in a saucepan over the stove and drop in a bag of mulling spices. The best thing about them, is that you can use a cheap wine and people won’t know the difference.
Now, don’t feel intimidated if you’re not that familiar with spices. I’ve kept this to just a few simple ideas so as to not overwhelm you if you’re new to spices and only keep the basics in your kitchen. If this is something you want to get into, here’s what you do: get yourself a good spice rack like this Carousel Spice Rack by Fox Run. It has labels and an easy way to select and dispense seasoning. Fill half the spice jars with commonly used spices but be a little adventurous and fill the other half with more rare ones you want to experiment with. If you really want to do it right, buy only whole spices and grind them yourself. That’s how you maximize flavor and aroma!
I hope you enjoy experimenting with beverages and spices as I will over the next few days. Let your creative juices run wild, and discover the many ways to enhance and enrich classic drinks.