Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tamarind Ginger Fizz: A Sassy Summer Cocktail

From Mumbai to Bangkok to Guadalajara, the tangy flavor of tamarind is a bright zippy addition to soups, curries, chutneys and beverages. I love it and I always have it on-hand as one of my secret ingredients. With summer in full swing, windows are left wide-open, screen doors are slamming behind flip-flopped feet and the BBQ is constantly lit. The days are long and the dry hot heat makes many of us want to” sit and sip” all day long. So, to combat the feeling of lazy sloth-dom , I got busy and came up with this deliciously refreshing beverage.

My inspiration comes from agua tamarindo, or tamarind water, made from tamarind pulp, water and usually lots and lots of sugar. Served everywhere in Mexico, it is a thirst-quenching change from lemonade or ice tea. I have eased up on the sugar and added ginger and lime for a spicy bite. The chili salted rim is a fun surprise on the lips—a great addition to any margarita as well!

**A note about tamarind pulp: I buy tamarind in blocks of the sticky tamarind fruit, the seeds and fibrous bits still mixed in. To obtain usable pulp, put ½ cup of the tamarind in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then let sit for 30 minutes (or overnight) and press it through a strainer. Your pulp should be the consistency of yogurt. If it is too thin, let the pulp settle and strain out the water. It can be kept in a tightly sealed container, in the fridge, for a week. Salud!

Tamarind Ginger Fizz
Serves 6

¾ cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¾ cup tamarind pulp
¼ lime juice, freshly squeezed
1.5 quarts seltzer water
tequila, optional

Chili Salt

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground chili, use any dried chili you have and grind it to the same size as the salt

1. Combine ginger, sugar and water in a pot. Boil for 5 minutes, then transfer to a container and refrigerate. Allow the syrup to cool. When it is cool, strain the ginger. The syrup can be kept refrigerated for 3 weeks.

2. To make the chili salt: mix the sugar, salt and chili powder in a bowl. Spread it onto a plate.

3. Combine tamarind pulp, ½ cup ginger syrup, lime juice and mint in a pitcher.

4. Slide a lime wedge around the rims of 6 glasses and sink the rims into the chili salt. Fill the glasses a generous amount of ice. If using tequila, pour 2-3 counts into each glass.

5. Add the seltzer water to the pitcher and mix well.

6. Pour the Tamarind Ginger Fizz into the glasses, and sip away while the grill does its thing!

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