Sunday, April 28, 2013

Elletaria cocktail

On thing that I have noticed about natural and human disasters is that you can't get into restaurants after they pass.  Living in our Upper West Side bubble, the greatest hardship that we faced after Hurricane Sandy were the crowds in the restaurants.  I mean, expecting NewYorkers to stay at home and cook for 3 days in a row is probably unreasonable, so people flooded into the restaurants once the re-opened.  It was exacerbated by people coming from neighborhoods without power.

Something similar happened in Boston after the lockdown following the marathon bombing.  You couldn't get into a restaurant the weekend after it was lifted.  We were in the South End and waits at several places were one hour and up.  We wandered away from the hubbub and came to Masa for what turned out to be a pretty excellent nouvelle Mexican meal.  (The place has lots of vegetarian and fish options and a good brunch and it is worth checking out it you are in town.)

One of the highlights for me was their Elletaria cocktail, which combines two of my favorite flavors, pear and cardamom.  (Elletaria is the botanical name of the genus of some of the common varieties of cardamom.)  They made the cocktail with crushed cardamom seeds, which although it gave it  a strong spice flavor, also made it unpleasantly gritty.

So here is my adaptation made with a cardamom syrup.  It requires a little advance prep, but don't be put off, since it is really very easy.  It is also flexible.  The quantities of ginger, lime and cardamom are to my taste, but you can adjust them however you want.  I make it with white tequila, but you could also use white rum. I am not sure why anyone would use vodka in anything. For teetotalers, it can be made without alcohol, just mix the base with some club soda.  I like to make sure that the pear base is well chilled and the liquor is frozen.  This keeps the drink nice and cold and leads to less dilution when the ice melts. We served it before Shabbat dinner this week and it was a big hit, with teetotalers and others.  This is best made as a pitcher drink:

The Elletaria

For cardamom syrup

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup green cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

For pear base:

  • 1 quart pear nectar, well chilled
  • 6 limes
  • 2-3 inch knob of ginger
  • cardamom syrup

To complete drink

  • 2 ounces of white tequila (or rum) per serving;  or 4-6 ounces of club soda
  • 1-2 limes cut into wedges or slices
  • ice cubes


  1. The syrup is best made a few days in advance, but can be made the same day if you don't have time.  Just allow time for it too cool.
  2. Bring the water to the boil in a small pot.  Add the cardamom pods and boil vigorously 5 minutes.  The water will reduce quite a bit.
  3. Add the sugar and boil 5 minutes more.  
  4. Shut the heat, let it cool a bit, and then transfer it into a clean jar with the pods and chill until ready to use.
  5. Put the pear nectar in a large pitcher, about 2 quarts or bigger.
  6. Squeeze 6 limes and add the juice to the pear nectar.
  7. Rince the ginger (no need to peel) and grate it either on a box grater, microplane, or in a mini food processor.  It you use the processor, you will need to slice it first.  You will be left with a coarse, wet ginger pulp.
  8. If you are fussy, put the ginger in a sieve and press it over the pitcher into the pear nectar.  If you are not, take the ginger by the small handful and squeeze the juice into the nectar.  The second way is much more fun.  
  9. Strain the cardamom syrup into the pear mixture, and chill until ready to serve.
  10. Add ice to the pitcher until it is nearly full.
  11. To serve, put ice is 8-10 ounce rocks glasses.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the pear base into each, add 2 ounces of tequila (more or less to taste) or club soda to fill the glass and stir to mix.  Garnish each class with a wedge or slice of lime.  If everyone is drinking alcohol, you can also use a slightly larger pitcher and mix the tequila with all of the pear base.

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