Tiger’s milk adds body & kick to your cocktails
Thanks to a certain gin company which famously marketed its delicious, easy-drinking and gorgeously-packaged gin as being “Not For Everyone,” that phrase has lost a little of its meaning.
That’s a shame, since there are certain things that fit that description perfectly, like, say, eating cricket snacks, worm salt in a Margarita, or, possibly best of all, slurping back leche de tigre—the leftover marinade from Peruvian ceviche, translated as “tiger’s milk.”
We’ve probably already lost a few squeamish readers with that and, further explanations will only alienate more. But the “milk” part of its name refers to the juice’s creamy appearance that results from the raw fish proteins breaking down.
Still with me? Good. Because for those of us who aren’t afraid of a little raw fish juice, the sour, spicy, salty, slightly-sweet and umami-rich leche de tigre is an extra-special treat. It’s at least as exciting as the ceviche, itself, possibly even more, practically the grown-up equivalent of licking the wooden spoon after baking. Better yet, we’ve barely even begun to explore its potential as a cocktail ingredient, although, a few bartenders, such as Simon Hooper of Toronto’s Rush Lane, are trying to change that.
“To me it’s all about sustainability,” says Hooper, one of the bar’s founding owners. “I just hate waste and, with leche, you’ve got something that you can use that’s packed full of flavour and enzymes, so why wouldn’t you use it?”
That speaks to the origin of tiger’s milk, said to have started as a “poor man’s food” that caught on as street vendors became more popular in Peru. Fast-forward to the present-day, when we’ll find tiger’s milk perfectly garnished and served up in a shot glass as an amuse bouche in Lima’s swankiest restaurants. What’s next? Cocktail bartenders are starting to catch on, too.
“It has a really nice, almost creamy texture to it, so when you’re using it, you’re adding so much complexity to the drink,” Hooper says. “Which is especially amazing for anything tomato-based, since it gives it more body, all the while getting extra kick from the citrus and spice.”
Although there are people playing around with Tiger Sour type cocktails, Hooper counsels starting out safe, and working tiger’s milk into your standard Bloody Mary, Bloody Caesar, Michelada and Sangritas. The latter are those spicy-citrus tequila chasers, which he also gives us a recipe for. “I’ve seen some pretty brutal cocktails over the years, like, someone once offered me a clam chowder sour and I was, like, ‘No, I don’t think so. Maybe another time.’”
Hooper suggests adding a half-ounce of leche de tigre to a Bloody Mary and playing around with the base spirit. Instead of vodka, have some fun with gin, tequila or mezcal. Other than the really heavy sesame oil versions, almost any ceviche juice will work, but he offers up this personal favourite of his, which makes a great “milk,” absolutely perfect for making a top-notch Sangrita “de Tigre.”
Sangrita de Tigre
1/2 oz Walter Caesar Mix
1/2 oz leche de tigre (recipe follows)
4 dashes habanero sauce
Mix ingredients together and serve, straight up, in a shot glass, along with a good shot of sipping tequila or mezcal. Enjoy the pairing in small sips, alternating between the two—tequila first, Sangrita next.
leche de tigre
To get the leche, you have to make Simon Hooper’s ceviche first.
250 g swordfish, chopped
125 g Hokkaido bay scallops, chopped
28 g cucumber, peeled and cubed
28 g Granny Smith apple, finely cubed
22 g shallots, finely-cubed
1 garlic clove, finely-chopped
10 g cilantro, julienned
3 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp salty Paloma fiesta (grapefruit salt)
2 tsp Rocoto (Peruvian hot sauce)
1 tbsp agave syrup
Mix all ingredients well, cover and refrigerate for an hour. Strain, but keep the liquid. That’s the leche de tigre!