Sip sip hooray! That’s how most of us feel when summer rolls around. There is something about the sun-filled heat and celebratory libations. Its not a far stretch of the imagination that we’ll all be lifting our glasses at some point to the sun gods.
I have a theory about beverages and summer get togethers, meaning there is the perfect libation to serve with food, the ambiance, and your squad. The secret to it all is balance. Alcohol, sweet, spice and acid must work in unison.
This drink is surprisingly spicy, owing to the ginger syrup and the chilli flakes, while the lychee juice contributes a sweet tropical note. A splash of light rum lets the flavours of the lychee fruit sparkle, hence the name. Best suited for a cocktail hour or just before a summer dinner, it’s a heat-inducing drink that somehow tastes of summer and being on the beach.
Now lychees, a strange and wonderful fruit. Honestly growing up, we had them on the odd occasion. They weren’t readily available in our small town, but I have memories of them being peeled by my parents, who would be over the moon about them. I truthfully thought they were super weird and looked a lot like eyeballs. Which always made me think of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Amrish Puri’s crazy character, and the famous scene with the eyeball soup. It was scary stuff. Not to digress, but lychees, after you get beyond their appearance are floral, juicy and just plain delicious. The fruit and the juice has the ability to transport you to an exotic locale. Plus, paired with all these other delicious flavours, they will soon become a favourite.
Here’s a few tips for those not well acquainted with using chillies in cocktails. Most of the heat from pepper are in the seeds. The more seeds you leave in, the hotter it will become. Also, when peppers sit in alcohol, it takes only moments for the heat level to go higher. So use chillies sparingly. Sugar mellows heat. My suggestion, add more sugar to your ginger syrup to lower the heat level a bit. Lastly, use gloves if you are sensitive to heat. If you forget, rub a few glugs of olive oil into your hands for a few minutes, and then wash the olive oil off with warm water and dish soap.
While this particular drink has alcohol in it, the booze is not mandatory. I tend to forgo the rum, (bump up the amount of lychee juice) for just having the flavourful mocktail version. Not every occasion requires alcohol to make it fun. For a garnish, an extra pinch of chilli and of course a freshly picked red chilli (mine just happens to be from my parent’s garden). That’s mixology for you: one must be precise about ingredients. Cheers.
Lychee Summer Sparkler
4 oz Ligt Rum
1 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz Homemade Ginger Syrup (recipe below)
6 oz Lychee Juice
4 oz Sparkling Water
Few pinches of ground red chilli pepper
2 Red Chilli Peppers (garnish)
Method: Pour all the ingredients into pitcher with ice cubes and stir. Pour into higball glasss. Sprinkle with a pinch of chilli pepper and garnish with red chilli.
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
2 inch piece of ginger (peeled and thinly sliced)
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole black peppercorns
4 cardamom pods (slightly opened)
In a large pot, add sugar and water, stir. Bring to a boil, add ginger then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook for 10 minutes. In meantime, on medium heat, dry roast cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom for about two minutes, until spices become fragrant. Add spices to the syrup mixture. Allow to cool. Pour into a large mason jar. Refrigerate.
Jessie Kaur Lehail is the author of Indian Influence, a blog that shares food stories, recipes, and photography. Reflecting a love for meshing global flavours and South Asian aesthetics, Jessie explores culture and identity through food. Find more food stories at indianinfluence.ca