Revive your corpse (and cocktails) with tumeric
The jury’s still out when it comes to claims that turmeric can cure everything from arthritis to depression. It may not qualify as a “superfood,” but I still think it’s a super food.
Its power lies in its ability to infuse everything it touches with a bright, gingery flavour, which, we’re starting to realize, can be used in things other than curry. Turmeric is finally finding its way into everything from salad dressings to lattés, desserts to smoothies. And, with the news that, in the United States, a turmeric liqueur — Von Humboldt’s Cordial — was recently released, it’s clear the next frontier for this spice is none other than cocktails.
Simon Ogden, bar manager at Veneto Tapa Lounge in Victoria’s Hotel Rialto, was ahead of the game a few years back, having made a turmeric-infused rum that was featured in Victoria Walsh and Scott McCallum’s A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails. As such, we went to him for advice. And as it happened, when we called him recently for spice advice, he was just introducing a new turmeric drink at Veneto, the Corpse Pose Reviver. The timing was perfect.
“I’ve actually used it very little, probably more than anything because it’s such a problematic ingredient to work with in cocktails,” says Ogden. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it. If I were on a desert island and could only have one style of regional cuisine, it would be Indian.”
Ogden’s favourite cookbook, in fact, is Vij’s Indian, which he uses regularly and, since turmeric is on his home kitchen’s spice-rack-speed-rail, he said it was only natural that he would try to find a way to make it work in cocktails. Still, even for Ogden, who has considerable experience with both Indian spices and a huge range of cocktail ingredients, it was a challenge.
“As soon as you try working with it in cocktails, you realize it’s the Incredible Hulk,” he says. “It’s overbearing and suddenly your lovely bar is stained yellow everywhere, as well as your hands. Which makes sense, of course, since it was used in dye for clothing long before it was used in cuisine.”
So, to keep the hulk from smashing everything in sight, Ogden advises “quick and delicate” infusions, cautioning that even he was surprised at how quickly the turmeric-fenugreek-fennel combo imparted flavour to his “Ayurveda bitters.” When he added the turmeric, he used a tea bag, since straining out powdered spices is “remarkably annoying,” requiring the use of several coffee filters or cheesecloths. The alternative, fresh turmeric, is another option but, he points out, you have to be even more quick and delicate with the potent fresh spice.
corpse pose reviver
1 1/2 oz Sipsmith gin
1 oz fino sherry
1/2 oz Odd Society’s Mia Amata Amaro*
5 solid dashes of Ayurveda bitters**
In a mixing glass with ice, stir all ingredients together until chilled. Strain into coupe. Finish with one light spray of cinnaspritz.***
*Odd Society’s Mia Amata Amaro will be hard to find outside of British Columbia. Ogden advises using Amaro Montenegro or Ramazzotti in its place if you can’t find it. Still, he highly advises going out of your way to track it down since, he says, Mia Amata’s chocolatey-orange rhubarb amaro will knock your socks off.
**To make Ayurveda bitters, add one tbsp each of fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, a pinch of gentian root and ground turmeric (in a teabag) to 5 oz Canadian whisky. Let infuse for 3 days and strain. Add an ounce of honey and bottle.
*** To make cinnaspritz, soak cinnamon sticks in vodka overnight and decant into an atomizer.