6:49 AM EST
The Maharaja’s Tipsy Jal-jeera (जलजीरा)
WARNING: This has quickly become my favorite cocktail. Prepare to be converted!
After Guru Sri Sri Bimpalasi was busted for selling black tar heroin disguised as devotional incense, deceived and devastated I spent a month wondering through Uttarakhand, India. Performing puja at Har ki Pauri, a sādhu wearing next-season Prada loafers asked me if I was lost. Explaining my circumstances he invited me back to his palace to recuperate. Turned out this kind soul was just a maharaja in holy man drag.
His Highness – he actually insisted that I called him “Bobby” – besides being a good Samaritan was a wicked mixologist, having studied at the Slade School in London for four years. He taught me how to make a refreshing gin-infused jal-jeera (जलजीरा), sometimes referred to as Indian lemonade and translating more literally to “cumin water”. This drink features the bright flavors of mint and cilantro, three different notes of sourness (lemon, lime, amchur), earthiness from the cumin, bright heat from the ginger and to tie it all together, Indian black salt or kala namak.
Here’s how I make the Maharaja’s Tipsy Jal-jeera (जलजीरा):
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup (lighty packed) mint leaves
• 1 cup (lightly packed) cilantro leaves
• 1 tablespoon grated young ginger
• Juice of 2 lemons
• Juice of 2 limes
• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, freshly dry roasted
• 1/2 teaspoon black salt (काला नमक; kala namak)*
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 teaspoon sour mango powder (आमचूर; amchur)*
• 1 pinch asafetida (हींग; hing), dry roasted*
• 2-3 tablespoons agave nectar
• 3 cups tonic water
• Dry gin
In a blender or food processor, make a slurry from the water, mint, cilantro, ginger, lemon and lime juice, ground cumin, black salt, sea salt, amchur, asafetida and agave nectar. Allow the slurry to sit for 30 minutes before passing it through a fine mesh strainer.
Bear in mind that tonic water is carbonated - unlike sangria or rum punch you can’t make this cocktail in bulk. The ratio of jal-jeera juice to tonic water to gin will depend on your personal preferences so play around. With that said, I suggest 1 part gin, 2 parts jal-jeera and 3 parts tonic over ice served in a highball glass. If you’re feeling maharaja-ish, garnish with lime.
*These Indian ingredients are becoming increasingly easy to find at larger grocery stores like Whole Foods. They are common ingredients in Indian cooking and will be available at any Indian grocery store.
Black salt (काला नमक; kala namak) is actually pink/purple in color and has a pungent, slight sulfur taste. Not to be confused with black lava or smoked salt. In traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) black salt is a cooling spice used as a laxative and to relieve gas and heartburn.
Sour mango powder (आमचूर; amchur) is made from unripe (i.e., green) mangos and has a sour-sweet, warm and slightly resinous flavor. An acidic quality similar to tamarind.
Asafetida (हींग; hing) comes from the root of a perennial herb and has a pungent, resinous, leek-like flavor. It is commonly used in Indian condiments and pickles and is used in Ayurveda as a digestive aid.