Drinks You Can Chew
And a special recipe from Cheetie Kumar
A few days ago, Food & Wine magazine’s restaurant editor Khushbu Shah posted this video of her blackberry lime agua fresca with chia seeds along with the caption, "I love drinks you can chew."
I feel the same way. This is why, when I helped Food52 launch its drinks vertical last year, I asked Raleigh-based chef and restaurant owner Cheetie Kumar to publish her Masala Coke recipe. When I was working on my book a couple of years earlier, I considered including this drink, which Kumar was kind enough to share with me, but it didn't fit quite right with the rest of the selections. (Alas, when putting together a compendium of recipes with a limited page count, there's this boring Tetris-like phase of balancing flavors, geographical regions, and difficulty levels before having to say goodbye to a whole lot of great recipes.) How lucky that Kumar said yes to lending it to Food52.
When she was last in India, Kumar told me, “all the hip restaurants were serving masala Coke," cola enhanced with cumin, black salt, lime juice, and fresh cilantro and mint. This is a great one for those for whom soda alone is too sweet: cumin and sulphurous black salt bring a savory quality, lime juice adds tartness, and the green herbs give grassy notes. You might not see chopped herbs on top of a soft drink often in the United States, but “yeah...Indians don't really mind chewing on bits of things,” Kumar said with a chuckle. Try it for yourself here. (And here are some other ways to level up your Coca-Cola.)
And now for a Good Drinks exclusive, also courtesy of Kumar: Coke and Kokum. Kokum, she says, is a fruit related to the mangosteen and native to many regions of India. "It’s sour and sweet, somewhat like tamarind but with a brighter and more savory flavor."
COKE AND KOKUM
You can buy kokum syrup, which Kumar has done before, doctoring it with cumin and Indian black salt, or you can make your own. If you do the latter, be sure to buy kokum that has "wet" on the packaging, like this product from Taj.
As for Indian black salt (which is actually pink), here’s the skinny. “Using Himalayan salt won’t cut it,” says Kumar. “Indian black salt is sulfuric, and that’s the aroma that I’m looking for: rotten eggs! Its flavor boosts the syrup’s savory and spicy notes” and balances the sweetness.
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
1 ounce Kokum Syrup (recipe below)
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
6 ounces Mexican Coke, chilled
Vigorously stir together the mint, cilantro, syrup, and lime juice in a 12-ounce glass. Fill with ice and carefully pour in the Coke. Stir and enjoy.
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
2 cups water
3 1/2 ounces dried black kokum
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon Indian black salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then add the kokum. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. Fine-strain, discarding the kokum, and immediately add the sugar, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to incorporate, until all of the sugar granules have melted, then let cool.
Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for…a long time. (I suggested 2 weeks, but Kumar told me she’s had hers in the fridge for months and it’s still good.)
Do you have favorite chewable drinks? I want to hear about them!
Otherwise, more soon.