Heart of Gold © Robert Gunn
Indian spices like saffron and cardamom are now pantry staples for many cooks, but bartenders are also finding uses for the aromatic seasonings in deliciously complex cocktails.
Named for Mahatma Gandhi Road in Bangalore, MG Road is a new bar and lounge in Asheville, North Carolina, opened by restaurateur Meherwan Irani. Working in a space below Irani’s Indian street food-inspired Chai Pani, MG Road bartenders have access to the restaurant’s extensive stores of herbs and spices. “When I started poking around in there it was completely foreign to me,” says bartender Jonathan Ammons. He and fellow mixologists Kyle Gray Beach and Erin Hawley quickly began experimenting by making syrups with garam masala (a spice mix made with clove, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and black pepper) and flower waters. A newer creation is the curry leaf tincture, which stars in a bright and tangy cocktail called Heart of Gold. It features finely strained kumquat puree, silver tequila, gingery Domaine de Canton and a bar-spoon of the citrusy tincture. Shaken and strained over a large ice cube, the cocktail is garnished with a curry leaf.
Other drinks on the Indian-influenced cocktail menu include the green cardamom syrup-spiked It Might As Well Be Spring (Bluecoat gin, green Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, green cardamom and muddled mint, strained into an absinthe-rinsed glass), and the Kewda Fizz made with gin, basil, fresh lemon juice, egg white and kewda water—a distinctly Indian, extremely perfumed essence distilled from Pandanus flowers. Here, more bars that are experimenting with Indian herbs and spices.