Sometimes food inspiration comes from unexpected places. Perhaps a day spent listening to the soundtrack of Wes Anderson’s 2007 movie, The Darjeeling Limited, leads one to explore some traditional sitar music on Spotify. Fantasizing (however unrealistically) of monsoon-swept trees and richly spiced curries becomes all but inevitable at this point in our journey. One forgets the stories of severe intestinal distress and chaotic tours and instead waxes romantic on things like papadum and the waters of the Ganges. As the days grow longer and summer sits patiently on the horizon, we also begin to review our arsenal of refreshing drinks. In the interest of stockpiling as many recipes as we can, we have been playing around with a few easy-to-find ingredients. The drink below, inspired by a few hours spent in the thrall of Ustad Vilayat Khan, we’re calling Mumbai Nights.
While not by any stretch a local product, fresh mangoes provide a thick, sweet base for this cocktail. We used mango agua fresca from Tacubaya on 4th street in Berkeley, which brings a lighter sweetness to the drink. If fresh mango juice is more to your taste, it requires only a blender and sieve (and, I imagine, a certain degree of physical exertion). We would suggest shaking the mix a little longer in the case that straight fruit is used to water down the tarter, more powerful juice. A garam masala-infused gin adds complexity to the drink with bold and unexpected spices, and a splash of lime complements the sweetness of the mango.
The resulting beverage is spicy, fruit-tart, and intoxicating. An unexpected heat blossoms at the tip of your tongue, reminding you of the bite of black peppercorn in a strong cup of chai. So if you find yourself dreaming of that great complex subcontinent, turn up the music and mix this drink to satisfy your longing.
Gin Infused with Garam Masala (First We Eat)
- 12 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin
- 2 Tbsp garam masala (thanks as always, Berkeley Bowl!)
- 1 cinnamon stick
Mix all ingredients in a canning jar and allow to sit for at least 24 hours before straining through a coffee filter. Enjoy (responsibly)!
Mumbai Nights (First We Eat) – Makes 1
- 1.5 oz. garam masala-infused gin
- 4 oz. mango agua fresca (or mango juice and a little melted ice)
- juice of half a lime, plus a slice to garnish
Roll a few leaves of mint between your hands and toss into a short tumbler (you could also muddle this with lime, but then your hands wouldn’t smell heavenly). Combine gin, lime juice, and mango agua fresca in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Pour contents into the glass and garnish with a slice of lime. Try not to drink too many!