Even if you’re sitting at your desk right now with no vacation days in sight, you can travel to a faraway land without ever stepping foot in an airport. We’re talking, of course, about cocktails that are made with exotic spices. These four recipes utilize ingredients like madras curry, star anise and galangal by infusing them into spiced syrups that are easy to make, but taste damn impressive. Once you’ve mastered these bartenders’ delicious recipes, use the leftover syrups to spice up your favorite classic cocktails. You’ll be satisfying your wanderlust (and your thirst) in no time.
These Exotic Spice Cocktails Transport You to a Faraway Land
Fans of bittersweet cocktails will jump right on board with this exotically spiced twist on a classic drink. "The cocktail is a variation on a Boulevardier with Remy 1738 Cognac—hence the name 17-Thirdier,” says Jeff Hammett, beverage director of Wu Chow in Austin, Texas. “It takes Cognac, sweet vermouth and a bittering agent, Aperol. The saffron bitters create a nice layer for the cocktail because there are no mixers. While the bitters don’t dilute, they do add a recognizable flavor that actually prevent the cocktail from being too bitter.” If you don’t have Punt e Mes on hand, any sweet vermouth would make a good substitution. Serve it with a nice meal—preferably with umami-packed Chinese like they do at Wu Chow.
Punt e Mes
You might not think of pairing spicy Thai food with cocktails, but you definitely should. Sway in Austin wants patrons to think beyond wine and beer when it comes to their menu—but not just any mixed drink will do. “Developing each cocktail was an exercise in flavor balance and celebrating the distinct flavors of Thailand,” says Mandi Nelson, beverage director of New Waterloo hospitality group. “They can hold up to the heat of Sway’s cuisine without getting lost or being overpowering.” Nelson created a housemade galangal simple syrup for this take on a Gin & Tonic—which takes some time and effort, but is totally worth the tasty, exotic outcome. After mastering this drink, use the syrup to spice up other classic libations like a Tom Collins or even a Moscow Mule.
If you’re anything like us, you probably wish you were drinking outside at an Italian cafe or sipping an Aperol Spritz on the beaches of Capri instead of sitting under glaring fluorescent lights while staring at a computer screen. But even if the duties of life’s responsibilities have you tied down, this drink will transport you to the old country with a single sip. "The anise pairs well with the grappa, combining to create an aroma that’s special to Italy,” say Giorgia Zedda and Luca Fadda, the husband and wife team behind NYC’s beloved Epistrophy. “In fact, there are many Italian liqueurs with similar flavors.” Grappa is the star of this cocktail, which is tempered with lime juice and sweet, floral St-Germain. The anise syrup is easy to make and will fill your home with the smell of the Italian countryside, which will help to tame your FOMO.
At International Smoke in San Francisco, Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina are inspired by how different cultures around the world use fire to create flavorful dishes. So it only makes sense that their cocktail menu is just as bold and exotic as the food. “The Curry Up Now is a popular drink because it’s one of our more boozy cocktails,” says bar director Tiffany Bayless. “It’s a play on an Old Fashioned. To spruce it up, we use a house-made madras curry syrup instead of just regular sugar, along with sherry. We also switch up the bitters with Corazón Bitters, which have some chocolate and spice.” We suggest mixing up this strong cocktail as the welcome drink at your next barbecue or whenever you’re in the mood to switch up your usual cocktail routine.
Madras Curry Syrup