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A Beginner’s Guide To Using Spices In Cocktails

Nutmeg

Have you ever looked at your spice cabinet and thought, ‘hmm, I think I could make a really great cocktail from here’.? If the answer’s no, then you’ve been missing a trick! If you believe that spices are solely reserved for seasoning meats and dishes, think again. There are numerous versatile ways to incorporate herbs and spices, including in your drinks. Mint is commonly associated with mojitos and juleps, but while fresh herbs are well-known to bartenders, spices are often overlooked. It's time to start using spices more in cocktails.

Popular spices like coriander seeds, cubeb pepper, and Grains of Paradise find their place in gin-making. There's also caraway-spiked kümmel, rums infused with nutmeg and cloves, vanilla-flavoured spirits, and whiskies celebrated for their hints of nutmeg, white pepper, and anise.

Tips To Keep In Mind

  • Balance is Key:

The perfect cocktail is a harmony, and the right balance of spice is crucial. Spices can easily overpower a cocktail if used excessively. Start with a small amount and gradually add more to taste. 

  • Choose Quality Spices:

The quality of your spices significantly impacts the final result. Opt for fresh, whole spices whenever possible. Whole spices retain their flavour and aroma longer than pre-ground ones. Grind or crush them just before using to maximise their potency.

  • Infusion and Garnish:

There are two primary ways to incorporate spices: infusion and garnish. For a milder spice influence, consider infusing spices into your syrups, spirits, or mixers. For a bolder, aromatic touch, use spices as garnishes. Whole spices or freshly grated ones can be added to the drink just before serving to release their flavours.

  • Experiment Mindfully:

Don't be afraid to experiment, but do so mindfully. Keep a record of the spice quantities and combinations you use in each cocktail. This way, you can replicate successful creations and avoid repeating less successful ones. Remember that different spices complement various spirits and mixers differently.

  • Consider Synergy:

Think about the synergy between spices, other ingredients, and the cocktail's theme. Some spices pair naturally with certain flavours. For instance, cinnamon often complements apple or citrus, while cardamom can enhance the richness of whiskey. By considering these synergies, you can create a harmonious flavour profile.

7 Spices To Try To Elevate Your Cocktails

Cinnamon: 

Enhance your cocktail bar by incorporating the delightful essence of cinnamon. Cinnamon sticks are a fundamental addition to your bar, imparting sweet, woody, and warm notes that elevate numerous winter beverages. Complexity is not a requirement; a mere garnish of a cinnamon stick can infuse your drink with delightful flavors. If you intend to use ground cinnamon, it's worth noting that it doesn't blend seamlessly, making it a superior choice for garnishing or sprinkling. 

Black Pepper: 

A kitchen cupboard staple, this simple spice has a lot to offer in the cocktail department. This unassuming spice often takes a backseat as a kitchen staple. However, it has more to offer than just pairing with salt. If you're thinking of mulled wine, black pepper is the perfect addition. Just a teaspoon can provide that incredible spicy kick to your drink.

Ginger Powder: 

No stranger to cocktails, ginger's warmth is appreciated in various delightful drinks.. Use up your old a dried ginger by turning it into a syrup or powder to make it last longer. It can then be used to spike up some making ginger martinis, lemonades, or other ginger-infused cocktails. It also pairs well with most spirits including rum, vodka, and other liquors.

Cardamom:

With a subtle yet distinct flavour profile, Cardamom adds an exotic twist to cocktails. This spice is often found in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned. Its citrusy, floral notes complement the richness of spirits, creating a harmonious balance. Crushing cardamom pods before adding them to your concoction releases their aromatic oils, imparting a fragrant and slightly peppery character.

Cloves:

Though cloves can sometimes be overpowering in a dish, in cocktails, they have space to shine. Known for their intense, spicy-sweet flavour, are a bold choice for cocktail enthusiasts. Just a few whole cloves or a pinch of ground cloves can infuse a cocktail with their distinctive taste. They pair exceptionally well with dark rum or bourbon, creating a warm, comforting drink that's perfect for sipping on chilly evenings.

Star Anise:

The star shaped spice is a star in cocktails too. Although it’s most commonly seen in Chinese cooking, Star anise offers a unique licorice-like flavour with a hint of sweetness that lends itself well to drinks too. It's a popular choice for crafting exotic cocktails, especially in combination with citrusy elements. A single star anise pod can lend a complex, aromatic quality to your drink, making it a standout choice for those seeking a more intriguing flavour profile.

Nutmeg:

The essence of winter and a taste of comfort, nutmeg, with its warm and nutty notes, is a versatile spice in the world of cocktails. Grating a bit of fresh nutmeg over the top of a cocktail can impart a fragrant, aromatic quality that elevates the drinking experience to a warming hug of drink.  It's often used in creamy cocktails like eggnog or in classic warm cocktails like mulled wine, adding a comforting touch to the overall flavour.

So next time if you’re thinking of jazzing up your evening cocktails, maybe take a tour of your spice cupboard. Even a small sprinkle touch infuse spirits and syrups, while ground spices can be blended with salts and sugars to rim a cocktail glass. It's a great opportunity to elevate an ordinary cocktail into something extraordinary.