One thing I've learned about cocktails over the years is that unusual ingredients can be a surprising delight. I once had a broccoli rabe cocktail at Philadelphia's High Street on Market that blew me away. After that, I promised myself I'd never say no to an unusual-ingredient cocktail again, as long as I trusted the source.
So I said yes to a media sample of Tamworth Distilling's Von Humboldt's Turmeric Cordial. Part of me was skeptical about the liqueur made from the superfood spice, but I was delighted by the quality, the balance and the taste of this low-alcohol (20 percent) spirit.
Self-portrait of Alexander Von Humboldt. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
There's an environmental bent to these made by Tamworth. Alexander von Humboldt was a 19th century explorer who has been called the "forgotten father of environmentalism." The turmeric cordial, along with a tamarind cordial, was inspired by Andrea Wulf's book "The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World."
Tamworth's spirits usually focus on local ingredients, but for their Von Humboldt's Natur Wasser cordials, the distillery explores more exotic flavors in honor of the explorer who traveled far and wide and educated the world about what he found.
Turmeric is known for its health benefits. It's an antioxidant, may lower the risk of Alzheimer's and is a potent anti-inflammatory. When added to an alcoholic spirit, many of those benefits may be lessened, but the flavors of turmeric — its slight ginger-y bite and bitter, earthy qualities — remain.
To complement turmeric's flavors, Tamworth added coriander seed, rose petals and lemon zest to this cordial. They say the final result is "worthy of any discerning globetrotter's amaro lineup: an earthy modifier that is able to stand up in a cocktail as a base, serve as an intriguing addition to a drink, or be sipped on its own as a digestif."
When I first took a sniff, gin-like botanicals hit me first followed by the heavier aroma of the turmeric along with a slightly sweet smell. A cordial, by definition, will be sweet because some of the sugars remain in the distilling of the spirit or other sugars may be added.
The taste of the cordial is a blend between bitter, earthy and spicy. There's some citrus in there, too. I like it, but it's not going to be a sipping spirit for me. For my personal tastes, this will be an addition to cocktails.
The first cocktail I made is fittingly named "The Expedition." It's light and refreshing and could easily be served as a brunch cocktail, particularly with its low alcohol content.
Made with muddled cucumber, honey syrup, freshly squeezed lemon and the cordial, it's slightly sweet but the cordial gives it an earthy and bitter quality, too. There's the slightest hint of spiciness on the finish of the cocktail — which makes sense, since turmeric is related to ginger.
The Expedition Cocktail
- 2 ounces Von Humboldt's Turmeric Cordial
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce honey syrup
- 4 cucumber slices
- Muddle 3 cucumber slices in a shaker
- Add cordial, lemon juice and honey syrup.
- Fill shaker with ice and shake.
- Strain into a coupe glass (a martini glass would work, too).
- Float a cucumber slice on top.
You can purchase Von Humboldt's Turmeric Cordial online or at select stores in New York and Pennsylvania.