If cocktails look golden to you latterly, it’s in all probability not as a result of spring is right here and the solar is out. Turmeric, the brilliant yellow-orange spice lengthy used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, is the most recent ingredient to make the leap from the kitchen to the cocktail glass. Every upscale bar menu nowadays appears to have no less than one drink containing the spice.
There isn’t any single motive for this. And the 2 most vital ones sit on reverse ends of the serious-to-superficial spectrum.
On one hand, turmeric is driving its present fame as a superfood with anti-inflammatory powers — a large promoting level at a time when bars are straining to promote the concept cocktails could be healthful. On the opposite hand, it’s fairly. Turmeric turns each cocktail into a sunshiny glass of Instagram bait.
Combine these two qualities and you’ve got the mixological equal of the attractive Hollywood actor who seems to carry a diploma in physics.
“Popularity and Instagram,” mentioned John Clark-Ginnetti, an proprietor of the New Haven cocktail bar 116 Crown, summing up the buzzworthy spice’s appeal. “I don’t know how many things can take hold without the benefit of social media these days.”
There are those who mix with turmeric for more mundane reasons, like flavor. “Just a dash or two can add another layer,” said Jillian Vose, the bar director and managing partner of the Dead Rabbit, in Manhattan.
Ms. Vose uses turmeric in her drink Watch Tower, which contains Irish whiskey, brandy and yogurt, among other things. She says it keeps guests going back for another sip “to seek out what that underlying flavor is.”
Nico de Soto, an owner of Mace, in the East Village, works with turmeric because, like Mount Everest, it is there. “Turmeric was a spice I really wanted to incorporate into the Mace menu because I love the flavor,” he said, “and I hadn’t previously experimented with it.”
Getting the spice into cocktails can be labor-intensive, and not as simple as sprinkling ground turmeric into a drink. Bartenders often use fresh turmeric root, a tincture or a syrup, as in the pisco and ginger liqueur-based Always Sunny cocktail at Decca, in Louisville, Ky.
Eben Freeman, a veteran New York bartender who ran Genuine Liquorette before it closed in December, noted that the spice can play havoc with bar equipment. “That yellow stains everything,” he said.
Turmeric found favor with American chefs years ago. But cocktail bar menus tend to be the slowpokes of the food-and-drink world, seizing upon new ideas last.
“It was in the juice bars and then went into the coffee bars,” Mr. Freeman said. Now it’s in bar bars.
Victor Greco, an architect in Wheeling, W.V., who likes to cook with turmeric, was recently introduced to turmeric cocktails. “As in cooking there is the obvious amazing color,” he said. “But what I think what sets the ingredient apart in drinks versus food is that the flavor seems to be more to the front.”
Mr. Clark-Ginnetti, of 116 Crown, began drinking turmeric tea on the advice of his doctor, and believes it helped ease soreness in his joints. From there, the seasoning found its way in a cocktail on his menu called Bitterroot Flip, made with parsley syrup, lemon juice, shochu and egg white.
“I don’t look for cocktails to be healthy,” he said. “I look for cocktails to have booze in them, to be tasty and composed and balanced.”
And, if possible, bright yellow.
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