There are people who love the bright, herbaceous flavor of cilantro and don’t bat an eyelash if they see it mixed into their guacamole. And then there are those who start twitching the second the herb makes an appearance, obsessively calculating how many flecks they’ll have to pick out. These folks claim that cilantro tastes like soap and is a pollutant to otherwise delicious food—and don’t even think about putting it in a cocktail. Well, get ready to have your mind blown, cilantro haters. Because these drinks will change your mind.
3 Cilantro Cocktails Even Cilantro Haters Will Love
Don’t scoff. I used to be one of you. I used to feel betrayed when a piece of that vile herb snuck its way into a dish. I’ve spit cilantro leaves into more napkins than I can count. But then I tried the C&C Collins from Alta Calidad in Brooklyn. Even though my throat closed as I watched sprig after sprig of cilantro go into the shaker, the second I took a sip, I was converted. I tasted not soap, but a delightful burst of refreshing vegetal flavor—and proceeded to down the whole thing.
“Cilantro has such a strong and unique flavor that can easily overpower everything else,” says Alta Calidad beverage director Eric Poplar. But if you pair it with ingredients that temper cilantro’s pungency, Poplar says, you can “create something bright, crisp and refreshing with earthy undertones and a nice clean finish.”
“Cilantro haters are always pleasantly surprised by how much they can like a drink based on an ingredient they hate,” Poplar says. These three cocktails bring out the best in the herbs. Go ahead and try them. I’ll be here waiting to say, “I told you so.”
For his thirst-quenching take on a Tom Collins, Poplar made a cilantro simple syrup, which he says keeps the “potency of the cilantro in check.” Hits of celery simple syrup and celery bitters also help tone down the cilantro’s spice, while still allowing the herbaceousness to come to the forefront of the cocktail.
This elegant, couped cilantro cocktail is so good, it won bartender Jami Hawkins a coveted spot in this year’s Midwest Cocktail Competition (where she won the People’s Choice award). Hawkins, who co-owns the bar Common Spirits with her husband in Goshen, Indiana, wanted to up her cocktail game for the competition, and put forth this unconventional tiki beverage for consideration. Made with London Dry gin, cilantro, lime and spicy bitters, this Sour has a bit of heat and a strong herbal bite, tempered by a sweet toasted coconut simple syrup. Hawkins insists you only need to muddle the cilantro very lightly to extract the flavor.
This spicy cocktail from Garret Richard of New York City’s Slowly Shirley blends a cilantro tincture with a powerful mix of St. George Green Chile vodka, jalapeño-infused tequila, a splash of regular blanco tequila and herbal green Chartreuse for good measure. All of that bracing booze, along with pineapple and lime juices and a sweet demerara syrup, are enough to stand up to the intensely herbaceous tincture. You could shave a few weeks off your prep time by buying a cilantro tincture from a health food store or online, but as always, there’s no replacement for the real deal.