In the first two articles in this series, I wrote about cocktails inspired by destinations in North/Central America and Europe. But of course, delicious drinks can be found all over the world. I wanted to be sure to include some cocktails that brought back memories of a few far-flung destinations, especially since they seem more out of reach than usual at the moment.
I concocted all three of the drinks below, and as I smelled and tasted them, they transported me to sunnier climes and happier days. Heaven knows, I’m happy to hop aboard whatever sort of transport I can get right now.
We may not be able to travel with ease to another continent at the moment, but we can easily drink as if we were reclining on some distant shore. I’m determined to snatch whatever moments of cheer and relaxation I can during these anxiety-filled times. Each of the cocktails below helped lift my spirits.
Along with engrossing books and movies, character-rich drinks like these help bridge the gap until we can once again disembark a plane and find ourselves somewhere exhilaratingly foreign.
Indians assert that they have the world’s best mangoes, and certainly, the small fruits from the south are delectable. But they just as easily bring me back to Thailand, where I relish snacking on coconut sticky rice with mango. For this cocktail, feel free to juice whatever fresh mangoes you can procure, or if you’re feeling lazy, as I usually am, just buy a bottle of mango juice. It works perfectly well in this drink, which is ideal for the hot days of summer. I also love to make it when we order Thai or Indian delivery. Its fruity and floral flavors, mixed with herbaceous brightness and a touch of spice from the curry, make for an ideal pairing.
I like to have a sip, close my eyes and imagine that I’m sitting on the terrace of Six Senses Yao Noi, overlooking the otherworldly limestone stacks of Phang Nga Bay.
4 parts vodka
2 parts mango juice (not “nectar”)
1 part fresh lemon juice
2 large mint leaves
Dash Soho Lychee liqueur (optional)
Add all the ingredients except the curry to a shaker with ice. Be sure to use fresh lemon juice (not bottled), and if you’re using the lychee liqueur, use only a very small dash — its flavor can easily overpower the cocktail. Shake for 30 seconds, vigorously enough to bruise the mint leaves so that they impart their flavor to the drink. Strain into chilled martini glasses or coupes, and dust with a bit of curry powder. And, since you have a fresh lemon, make two twists, wring them over the glasses, and rub the rims with them.
The result is fragrant with spicy curry and floral lemon oil. I love how the thick, sweet mango juice gets a lift from the tart lemon and refreshing mint. The lychee liqueur gives the drink an additional exotic note, and as the curry begins to settle in, it adds its spiciness.
No cocktail says Copacabana like a caipirinha, that classic Brazilian concoction of cachaça, lime and brown sugar. Cachaça is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice, as opposed to rum, which often starts as molasses. The former typically tastes brighter and cleaner, and sometimes more floral or grassy.
I love a traditional caipirinha, and the recipe is easy: muddle lime slices and brown sugar together in a lowball glass, add rum, add ice, stir, drink. But I decided to try something a little bit different, not least because I don’t currently have any cachaça.
I do have a stylishly designed bottle of Skinos Mastiha, however. Its sweetly floral and herbaceous flavor profile made me think it would work as a good substitute. Mastiha comes from Chios, an island in Greece. The resin from mastiha (mastic) trees is mixed with alcohol and distilled before being blended with sugar and water. Since the mastiha liqueur already tastes sweet, I reduced the amount of sugar normally used in a caipirinha by half.
1 lime, cut into sixteenths
1 tsp. white sugar
2 ounces mastiha
Put the lime pieces into a lowball glass, top with the sugar and muddle with a wooden spoon or pestle until the lime pulp is crushed. Add some ice (ideally gravel-size), pour in the mastiha and stir to combine.
With brown sugar, as in a traditional caipirinha, the drink feels rounder, but I rather prefer white sugar in this recipe. The cocktail is zestier and more fragrant. Either way, this drink has a wonderful juiciness along with notes of fresh grass and sweet citrus.
One of the world’s most popular cocktails originated in Cuba: the mojito. The combination of rum, lime, mint, sugar and soda water is both tasty and refreshing. The mojito has earned something of a reputation as an unserious party drink, but frankly, I would love to attend an unserious party right about now.
You can use whatever rum you have on hand — Bacardi 151 excepted — but one of my favorites in this cocktail comes not from Cuba but from the happier island of Mauritius, off the east coast of Madagascar. Unique Pink Pigeon rum is infused with high-quality local vanilla, as well as orchid leaves and orange peel from the nearby island of Réunion. The resulting spirit is a sensational cocktail base. When mixed with citrus, it imparts a delightful Dreamsicle-like flavor.
Since Mauritius was also the home of the ill-fated dodo, this cocktail could only be called one thing.
7 or 8 fresh mint leaves (plus a sprig for garnish)
Pinch of sugar
2 parts Pink Pigeon Rum
1½ parts fresh lime juice
4 or 5 parts soda water
Drop the mint leaves in a highball glass, and sprinkle sugar on top. Muddle with a wooden spoon to bruise the mint and release its oils. Top with crushed ice, rum and lime juice, and stir for at least 30 seconds to combine. Add the soda water, give the drink two more gentle stirs, and garnish with a sprig of mint.