Here's how you can use an indigenous herb in a sugarless cocktail

Jun 10, 2018, 21:00 IST | Anju Maskeri

Mixologist Bensan Varghese shows how to use an indigenous herb in your sugarless gin cocktail

Here's how you can use an indigenous herb in a sugarless cocktail
Ginseng Spritz, a sugar-free cocktail using ashwagandha

A healthy cocktail is not an oxymoron. Certainly not for Bensan Varghese, beverage manager at JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, who recently launched the Gin-Seng festival at Dashanzi, the progressive Asian restaurant. Inspired by ginseng — the tawny-hued, short plant with fleshy roots — the festival will feature six gin-based cocktail concoctions comprising six healthy ingredients. These include ashwagandha, saffron, rose petals, bird eye chilly, pomegranate and galangal, which are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and are also used to boost immunity.

"Ginseng is a perennial herb, which is traditionally used for its medicinal benefits. Over the years, it has gained popularity as a stimulant and stress reliever and is now an integral part of a host of beverages across America and Europe. Like ginseng, there are indigenous herbs, which can be used to achieve the same benefits," he says.
While you can head to the restaurant to sample the cocktail, Varghese shows us how you could concoct it on your own.

Bensan Varghese prepares the cocktail
Bensan Varghese prepares the cocktail

Pair it right
"Choosing the right ingredient with the right variety of gin is key to make sure the flavours are not lost," believes Varghese. For example, he suggests pairing ashwagandha with gin mare, which is a premium Spanish gin bottled with principal botanicals like basil, thyme and rosemary and will complement the herb. "Ashwagandha couldn't have been paired with the gin Tanqueray, because mixing a plant-based herb with citrus won't bring out the desired flavour of the cocktail," he says. Another example of accurate pairing would be that of Hendrick gin and rose petals as they both have hints of rose, thus, making for a delicious cocktail combination, he adds.

Shaken and stirred
Varghese recommends using two ounces of ashwagandha-infused gin mare, half an ounce dry vermouth (martini dry), half stalk garden fresh lemon grass, half a cube of garden fresh ginger, and three ounces of ginger beer. The method is simple: You muddle lemon grass and fresh ginger in a shaker container, and then pour the ashwagandha-infused gin mare, martini dry and ginger syrup into the shaker glass. "Always keep the profile of the gin in mind, before adding the ingredient. It is best the ingredient is added in minimal quantity to avoid clashing with the innate flavour of the gin," he says. This is followed by adding a few ice cubes to the glass and shaking it vigorously to blend the ingredients. Top up the drink with ginger beer, and your drink is ready. "Ensure that you always use fresh ingredients while concocting the cocktail as the flavour of the ingredients either diminishes or becomes concentrated. For instance, in case of ashwagandha, one should use the leaf within 48 hours of plucking from the plant as post that, the leaf dries and loses flavour," he says.

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