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From Cardigans to Cardamom: It’s Cardamom Weather

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Now that we've moved beyond sweater weather and into summer (although here in the Northeast we hardly had what might be called a traditional spring—45 to 90—in Porsche-like acceleration), a Hendrick's Gin martini with a cucumber twist, like the one pictured below from the charming Red Hat Bistro, certainly makes a great warm weather drink.

The beautiful restaurant, housed in what was the factory boiler room of the Lord and Burnham Company, 19th-century manufacturers of greenhouses, is perfectly summer-situated on the Hudson River in Irvington, New York.

That was then:

This is now:

Now doesn't that renovation deserve a toast?

Although a gin martini hardly needs a tweak, being perfection unto itself, lately I've been finding variations (that don't include chocolate, thank you very much) that are intriguing. One of my favorite is the addition of cardamom.

In the ginger family, typically a cold-weather spice, cardamom, an old world flavor, makes a new world cocktail.

There are two types of cardamom, green and black. You are more likely to find green and can certainly use it to make the two recipes discussed here. If you come across the black, try that too. It was a slightly different flavor, more minty for lack of a better term, and certainly appropriate for a summer beverage.

The best way to use cardamom in a cocktail is through an infused simple syrup which we've made before here in The Speakeasy, but now we are going to up the ante. We will "pile on" and make a rich simple syrup which is exactly how it sounds. Whereas simple syrup is one part sugar dissolved in one part water, rich simple syrup is two parts sugar to one part water. Simple and sweet.

When making a cardamom simple syrup, boil one cup of water and 1/4 cup of cardamom seeds (not powder), and dissolve two cups of sugar in the water. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain to remove the seeds.

My first introduction to gin with that touch of cardamom was at the Tribeca Grand Lounge. Their Gin and Sin is a misnomer of a cocktail because there is no sin when there's gin.

Here is a close approximation to the Tribeca's Gin and Sin:

2 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice

1 oz. cardamom simple syrup
1 oz. blood orange juice

The more common navel orange will do just as well, but always remember to use fresh squeezed fruit juice, whether lemon or orange, in your drinks.

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake 'til a frost forms on the outside. Pour over a cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange wheel. Very easy and very summery. This is a cocktail you can make by the pitcher for entertaining. Feel free to change the name for the family picnic.

Another, more elaborate and even more flavorful, cardamom cocktail (oh, the alliteration!) is the South Sixth, an Adam Schuman creation, found at Fatty 'Cue, his Brooklyn restaurant. The drink was featured in a recent New York Times slideshow.

South Sixth:

2 oz. gin (or vodka)
2 cucumber slices (1/16 in. thick)
2 basil leaves
1 oz. cardamom simple syrup
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. ginger beer

Muddle cucumber, basil and simple syrup in a pint glass.

Add gin and lemon juice. Shake over ice for ten seconds. Double strain into iced highball glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with cucumber wheel. Serve on patio.

This is another cocktail that benefits from sitting around on ice. Make a pitcherful for your guests. There is a lot of herbaceous flavor going on here between the cucumber and the basil. It's as if you wandered into the neighbor's garden.  There are gardens in Brooklyn, you know.

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About Kate Shea Kennon

  • http://lazarocooks.blogspot.com/ LazaroCooks!

    Fantastic article. Love the cardamom simple syrup. Cardamom is a fantastically versitile kitchen ingredient.

    I can’t help but wonder if we may have a couple of future ceviches here.

    Be Well…