Home Is Where the Cocktail is: Recipes Around the World
Where we grow up can have a deep impact on how we view and interact with the world. This holds true for how we remember flavor and texture as well. Ami Shroff and Frank Nduchez reflect on how their countries have inspired their work and how it allows them to stand out from the crowd – get some drinkspiration.
Drinkspiration: The Flavors and Textures of India with Ami Shroff
Ami Shroff grew up in Mumbai, India, in a home of fixed cultures – Parsi and Marathi (a culture strongly influenced by the French). As a child, Ami talks of being fascinated by spaces less explored, and naturally questions systems and rules.
While this might have got her into trouble at school, it is this curiosity that led to her fascination with flavors behind the bar. She discusses how India plays a pivotal role in her creative process.
Savor the Flavor: Drinks in India
India is a melting pot of diverse cultures, communities, arts, and flavors. And Mumbai is a busy city that reflects this diversity with its own flavor. Each part of India would differ from another in multiple ways, but this becomes readily apparent in the food and ingredients. We also have a rich bartending culture that utilizes these ingredients.
The majority of recipes (if not all) of the vast Indian cuisine were curated by generations of women who ran the kitchens harmoniously balancing multiple flavors and nutrition that fed the families of my country for many centuries.
Ironically, I found that women were rarely found in the commercial kitchens. Perhaps that was a motivation for me to enter the food and beverage space.
For me, it isn’t food recipes but beverage recipes too that have impacted my work. Recipes that have existed for centuries such as lassis, flavored lemonades, house cordials, teas, rice beer, and other fermented beverages play a huge part in Indian culture. There are also other drinks that are made using a variety of ingredients by different families.
Some of my favorite beverages as a child were sole kadi (a blend of coconut milk with kokum berry and mixed spices), sugarcane juice with a touch of ginger & lemon, ice popsicles with the Jamun berry flavor also known as Kala Khatta Gola; to name a few.
From the herbs and the flavors that can be used in cocktails, what’s unique about India is the ingredients. Their combinations and the vastness of it. While this is the case with many Asian cuisines, it’s the mix that you find within the Indian subcontinent that makes it so unique.
Flavors of the Ganges: Indian Beverages You Need to Make
A few unique recipes are inspired by the many mocktails of India. Paan is a great example of this. It is an after-dinner digestive using beetle leaf with Areca nut, sweetened Rose, and a few other ingredients which can be turned into a Paan Martini. No one said the bartending in India wasn’t diverse!
I’ve personally been fond of ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and other spices, saffron, mango, pineapple, sugarcane juice, kokum, and chili to name a few, which I utilize as a twist to some of the classic cocktails.
I love to do this with drinks like a saffron Whisky Sour, or a sugarcane Mojito, or a saffron and jasmine gin and tonic, a guava Mary - the list can go on.
Amy Shroff’s Namaste Honey
Having Something Stronger: Frank Nduchez on the African Cocktail
In the land of plenty of tea plantations known as ‘Gatundu South’ in Kenya, Frank Nduchez was born. He joined the hospitality industry to improve his families’ quality of life but his need to earn money transformed into a vivacious passion for bar life and creating cocktails.
In every homestead in Frank’s village, everyone drinks tea in the morning. It was this culture of tea and how to make the perfect cup, that has made him research his products and produce various creations of cocktails that keep his and his peoples’ culture alive in the city. He talks about how Kenya has influenced his cocktail making.
Make a Brew: African Beverages and the Influence of Tea
The culture of drinking tea in my village has led me to research more on it and come up with several tea-based cocktails. In last year’s Diageo World Class competition, I came up with a highball cocktail named ‘A Cry of My People’ which had tea as the main ingredient. This reflected my peoples’ grievances which they experience in farming tea.
Back in my village people pair tea with an accompaniment of either arrowroot, sweet potatoes, and yam and it is from this tradition that I always spend time pairing cocktails and food.
People in my country are trained at a very young stage to treat any visitor as family and whenever you walk into any homestead you will be greeted with a hot beverage, an accompaniment, and a smile as the garnish.
This culture has been adapted in our bars - whenever a guest walks in they are seen as family therefore they are welcomed with a smile, and recommended food and drink.
Kenyan Creations: Cocktails of the Continent
Inspired by the Brazilian caipirinha, a cocktail made with the cane-sugar spirit cachaça, Kenyan bartender Mzee Dawa decided to change the recipe by subbing cachaca with vodka.
The result was a celebrated cocktail known as the Dawa which includes honey, fresh lime, and vodka. It is this creativity and reflection that has inspired the creativity within me to produce unique and tasty cocktails.
As I mentioned earlier, I hail from a tea farming community. This business, like any other, has its challenges. Through mixing my passion with a story close to my heart, I created the cocktail ‘A Cry of My People’.
As I mentioned earlier, I love to pair cocktails with food. A food that is beloved in Kenya is known as. Nyamachomo translates as ‘barbecue meat’ and every nation has different meat that is special to them and is an important part of their celebrations. No matter what community you are from in Kenya, the nyamachoma is usually roasted lamb meat
This food pairing works perfectly with my creation, along with a side of sweet potato mash – a match made in heaven
Five Key Takeaways
- Experiment with ingredients in season or what you can find locally.
- Flavors found in a particular dish can inspire similar combinations in a beverage.
- Don’t be afraid to name innovative cocktail recipes after your local inspiration.
- Find that harmonious balance within flavors and try what works and what doesn’t.
- Be passionate about local food pairings that work well with what you have made.