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  Life   More Features  24 Feb 2018  Pickle up our drink

Pickle up our drink

Published : Feb 24, 2018, 12:28 am IST
Updated : Feb 24, 2018, 12:28 am IST

Mixologists are giving the humble pickle a makeover. This time they are adding it in your cocktail for that salty, tangy, and slightly sweet kick.

When it comes to using pickles, the most important thing is to find a right balance.
 When it comes to using pickles, the most important thing is to find a right balance.

One of the most iconic cocktails in the world has to be a classic martini. Made popular by the debonair James Bond, the martini is possibly also one of the oldest recorded cocktails. A mix of gin and vermouth, a quintessential martini is finished off with an orange peel or more popularly a cured olive. The addition of the olive is said to add an extra flavour to the classic cocktail. The tangy olive is what turns a basic gin and vermouth drink into a martini.

While there is no definitive story of when it began, legend says that the drink was introduced in bars during the California gold rush in 1849 at a bar in a town called Martinez. Over the years, the name evolved from Martinez to Martini and a cult favourite was born.

The use of pickled vegetables and fruits in drinks can be seen in many classic cocktails. When the olive in a martini is replaced with a cocktail onion, the drink is called a Gibson. Pickled gherkins are also a favoured garnish on a bloody Mary.

Apart from the briny, salty flavour that the cured or pickled garnishes add, they also double up as a little snack that can be munched on while you enjoy your drinks. The olive, particularly, soaks up the gin and vermouth and gives them a unique taste.

When it comes to using pickles, the most important thing is to find a right balance in the final cocktail. The mixers and other additions are as important as the spirit that is being used. The final cocktail needs to compliment the kind of pickle used. Pickled vegetables usually retain most of their original taste so it’s important to keep that in mind while using them in a cocktail. Beetroot has a slight sweet flavour that can be a good foil in a spicy, tart drink like a Bloody Mary.

An easy way to use pickles is use them as a garnish, and that is pretty safe for anyone experimenting for the first time. Another way to use a sweet and sour pickle would be to muddle or macerate it with other ingredients. You could choose to strain it out or leave it according to your preference.

In terms of spirits, gin, vodka and white rum are safe bets. It is milder in flavour and easier to harmonise with other ingredients in a cocktail. The ways and styles of using pickles in cocktails are wide, so experimentation will be essential.

When we were curating the menu for for +91, we decided to work on an Andhra style mango pickle. When we muddled it into a Mojito with fresh mint and lemon, we were completely blown away by the results. The Indian pickle has more spices than a European pickle, but it was the combination of the sweet, salty, spicy pickle with the fresh mint and lemons that worked on levels we did not expect.

While there are many, many ways to experiment with pickles, there are a few things to keep in mind. Apart from the taste, the cocktail drinking experience also includes the olfactory senses. It’s advisable to stay away from pickles made with pungent ingredients like mustard oil. Pickled vegetables have a pretty strong taste of it’s own, so it’s best to start with small quantities and go up so you don’t over-power the drink.  Trial and error is the key here and the best way to go about it is to let your palate guide you.

Jatinkumar Jajal is the head of bar operations at +91, Mumbai

Tags: cocktails, james bond