While exploring interesting ingredients for original cocktails, I experimented extensively with green cardamom. I tried to infuse gin with it; I tried adding it to shrubs; I tried to use cardamom tea as a replacement for Pimm’s; the list goes on. What I found is that the most effective and logical way to use green cardamom as a cocktail ingredient is by making a simple syrup with it. Here’s some background on this lovely spice, how to make the syrup, and what to do with the syrup:
What is Cardamom?
There are two types of cardamom: Green and Black. They’re both members of the ginger family and are native to the Indian subcontinent. Black cardamom is smokier, less expesive, and has larger, darker pods than its green cousin. That being said, we’re not talking about black cardamom today. We’re talking about one of the most beloved and sought after spices in the world – green cardamom!
Green cardamom is an important ingredient to cultures all over the world. It’s used to make Scandinavian Julekake bread, Middle Eastern desserts and coffee, traditional Indian Masala Chai, Nepali curry, botanical gin, American craft beer, and even Wrigley’s gum.
Green cardamom has been coveted since Babylonian times for its mystical and medicinal effects. Cardamom has antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is used as a herbal remedy for infections. Drinking green cardamom tea after a meal is a great digestive aid. It’s also an expectorant, which means it clears chest congestion. Chewing green cardamom pods gives you fresh breath and makes you salivate (I tried this. It definitely made me drool, which was inopportune while I tried to pick the seeds out of my teeth!). Curiously enough, slobbery cardamom breath must have been better than the alternative in earlier times because chewing cardamom pods before talking to your crush is said to cause them to fall in love with you. Cardamom is associated with the planet Venus – the planet of love and beauty. The pods are considered an aphrodisiac used in lusty love magic (oh, la la). Some believe that just the smell of green cardamom can relax the body and clarify the mind, and it’s commonly used in perfume and incense. You can use cardamom pods like you would lavender – put them in a small sachet and add it to your dryer, locker, or sock drawer for lasting fresh scent.
How to Make Green Cardamom Syrup
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup green cardamom pods
- small saucepan
- mason jar or other storage container
- fine strainer or cheesecloth
What you’ll do:
- Gently crush the cardamom pods with a mortar & pestle or the bottom of a coffee cup.
- Add the crushed pods and 1 cup of water to saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat down to “low” and simmer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove from heat and add 1 cup of sugar.
- Stir until sugar is completely disolved and let everything cool down to room temperature.
- Once it’s cooled, use a fine strainer or cheesecloth to sift out the pods and seeds as you pour the liquid into your mason jar. You can either strain it right away or leave the cardamom pieces in overnight for extra spiciness.
- Store your green cardamom syrup in the fridge for up to 1 month
I like to add the sugar only after the cardamom has simmered and removed from heat. I do this because it’s really easy to burn syrup on the stove. If you add the sugar at the beginning, you run the risk of overcooking and caramelizing the sugar, which can change the flavor of your syrup. Simple syrup doesn’t need to be boiled at all – you just need to use water that is hot enough to dissolve the sugar.
What to do with Cardamom Syrup
Now here’s the fun part! Green Cardamom syrup tastes similar to ginger syrup, but with a little mint or anise flavor. It’s very aromatic, and really fun to experiment with behind the bar. If you’re not into complicated cocktailing, you can use this syrup anywhere you might use ginger, or honey. It’s great in a Moscow Mule, Paloma, Bees Knees, Cosmopolitan, or a smoky Penicillin.
When I decided I wanted to make an original cocktail with green cardamom, I first looked at the ways cardamom is used in cuisine around the world. I learned it can go sweet or savory, and is usually combined with other spices, nuts, and fruits. I checked my trusty Flavor Bible for tried-and-true cardamom flavor affinities:
- Cardamom + chocolate + coffee
- Cardamom + curry leaves +garlic + ginger + turmeric
- Cardamom + honey + orange + pistachios + yogurt
- Cardamom + pears + sugar + vanilla + wine
- Cardamom + rice + rose water + saffron + yogurt
After researching cardamom flavor combinations I was almost overwhelmed with ideas. A lot of those pairings sounded like they already were cocktails! I created at least 15 recipies that tasted awful. Cardamom is tricky! Eventually I landed on a couple winners.
For the Protection Spell, I knew I wanted the cocktail to be boozy, but I also wanted to let the cardamom flavor take center stage. I decided vodka would be the best base spirit (Tito’s is my go-to). I used fresh lemon juice to balance out the sweetness of the syrup, Yellow Chartreuse for some herbal depth, and a little Creme de Violette for a touch of floral aromatics. We served it with tiny sage wands to cast away evil spirits!
Protection Spell Recipe
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1/2 ounce green cardamom syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce Creme de Violette
- 1/2 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, give it a proper shake, and strain into a clean coup. That’s it! Garnish with a cardamom pod, lemon wedge, or some sage!
Another cocktail I made with green cardamom syrup, the Flurryweiss, starts with citrusy 4 Peel Gin from Watershed Distillery. Fresh lime juice balances out the sweet syrup, and Hefeweissbier adds a light, fluffy texture. (German wheat beer has a high protein content and behaves similarly to an egg white when shaken into a cocktail.)
- 1 1/2 ounces 4 Peel Gin
- 1 ounce green cardamom syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce hefeweissbier
Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and give it a HARD SHAKE. Like, as hard as you can shake it. The harder the shake, the fluffier the cocktail will be. Strain into a chilled flute. Don’t rush the pour – all the fluff will move slowly but it is worth the wait.