Monday, July 14, 2014

Lassi with a Twist

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There are plenty of places in this world that are hotter in the summer than New York City.  A veritable cauldron of humidity and heat all year round enrobes many other nations of the equatorial, Southern Hemisphere forcing the residents to do something, anything as a tonic against the relentless heat and humidity. 

In America’s steamy South, sweet tea and lemonade have become part of the social thread, sometimes even mixed with whiskey and ice.

If you were in Texas, you’d concur that an ice-cold Lone Star beer is all you need to both quench your thirst and to cool your brow.  

In Brazil, the sugar cane spirit named Cachaça is mixed with lime, sugar and ice to pack more than a bit of kick to the refreshment of the hand-held, hand grenade. 

In Central America and the Islands they have the infamous Rum Punch that has cooled the lips of many a sailor. 

In Mexico, Tequila is woven together with lime, Damiana (a type of citrus tinged liqueur) and the requisite ice, making for air-conditioning from the inside out. 

Vietnam has Bubble Tea and freshly pressed (preserved) lemonade against the heat and humidity that just doesn’t go away, ever…. 

So as New Yorker’s, why are we bent out of shape after only a few short days of hazy, hot and humid with all these refreshing beverages available at our disposal?  I’m not certain why, but anyone who has spent any time in the subway system on a blistering hot day will know that it takes much more than a mere can of soda or a glass of lukewarm water to refresh you from the inside out.

Take the far reaches of India.  The heat becomes much more than a mere metaphor in both the large cities and the sweltering countryside of this highly diverse, ancient country.  The heat is just unremitting.  There is no nice way to describe how the body just drips sweat in its vain attempt to get cool on a sizzling hot summer’s day. 

 That is until you spy the Lassi vendor.  But first what is a Lassi and how does drinking one help you get revitalized? 

The history of the Lassi is murky at best, but what is known about the regions where the Lassi is enjoyed is quite remarkable. This area is known as the Punjab.  It’s hot most of the year and in the summer months it’s even hotter and more humid with temperatures soaring over the 100-degree mark on a daily basis!  

The Lassi drink itself is a tangy affair, sweet and sour and quite thirst quenching as it goes down.Yogurt, lime juice, some kind of sweet fruit (or savory as your desires might require) is mixed with a ginger beer and sometimes Arak, which is a grape based, Middle Eastern, anise treated liqueur.  El Massaya Arak is a fine brand, available at DrinkUpNY, as it is used in my somewhat twisted version of the classic Lassi. 

My recipe calls for mango, the sultry-sticky/sweet fruit that smacks of summer and unrequited thirst.  In keeping with the passion element, I’ve included Koval’s Rose Hip liqueur because it is Kosher, Organic and quite beguiling.  Traditional Lassi might contain a hit of rosewater for fragrance, so I’ve included that too.  Roses just add a hint of romance to this luscious and bracing slurp. 

I’ve also added a bit of ginger beer for a brightly fragrant and fizzy finish along with a few drops of my favorite Jerry Thomas style Decanter Bitters.  Why bitters?  Because you may need to heal your belly with these highly aromatic drops- as was their original medical purpose!

Drinking my version of a Mango Lassi is even better in a go cup. 

Why?  Because you can take it with you and no one needs to know that you’re calmly getting soused!

2½ oz. fresh mango purée
3 tbsp. Whole Milk Yogurt
1 oz. whole milk
2 drops Rosewater
2 tsp. freshly squeezed and strained lime juice (essential)
1 tsp. Rock Candy Simple Syrup (Fee Brothers makes a great one)
1 oz. Arak (Lebanese Anise liqueur)
1-2 ounces Ginger Beer (offsets the sweet ingredients)
1 tsp. chopped pistachios  
Slices of Fresh Mango for garnish

Place all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled ¾ with ice
Shake well and strain the cocktail into an insulated cup
Top up with ginger beer, dot with the Decanter Bitters
Garnish with mango slices and sprinkle the pistachios over the top
Put a wide (bubble tea-style) straw into your Lassi cocktail and sip to deep thought and inner coolness.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys. His first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail! 

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