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Tamarind cocktail side view

Tamarind Whiskey Sour

“What’s as thirst quenching as lemonade, as colorful as Kool-Aid and as easy to make as iced tea? A Mexican drink called agua fresca — literally “fresh water” — is the original vitamin-rich, caffeine- and alcohol-free cooler.”

This is how I began an article on my favorite summer drink for The Washington Post food section way back in 2003 called Ice Cold Agua Fresca (surprisingly available online with three recipes for Hibiscus, Coconut and Melon coolers–or aguas–you’ll want to try).

I’m still enamored with agua fresca for the simple reason that it is the single most thirst-quenching option when it’s hot, hotter and hottest (which it has already been here, well before the summer solstice).

Now that we’ve all become mixologists, there’s another terrific reason: quick and easy cocktails.

At this time of year, I’m diligently pawing through my freezers to use up my stored goods before the growing season gets into full swing. It’s like a treasure hunt so much of the time because I forget what I’ve stashed there.

Tucked into the freezer door compartment, three half pint jars labeled tamarind. I had a vague recollection of someone giving me whole tamarind pods but vividly recalled the work it took to soak, peel and mash the sticky and sour pulp from the woody seeded pods.

Tamarind cocktail overhead

But now, here was my reward: ready-to-use tamarind paste. All I had to do was mix it with water and sweetener (I used local honey) to make tamarind agua fresca.

The kids weren’t wild about the sweet and sour flavors of this drink. I took one sip and thought of how well it would go with whiskey. Just so happens I had some friends scheduled to come over for drinks Friday night.

And it worked! Tangy and refreshing with the complex tropical tastes from the tamarind agua fresca and just enough sweetness, we drank rounds of them all evening.

And my friends left with the extra tamarind agua fresca, so I shared the love.

And now all I have to do is amend my original published statement that agua fresca is non-alcoholic. Not anymore!

Cheers! To a great summer of peace and love for all.

Tamarind Whiskey Sour

Makes 2 cocktails

I do not recommend sourcing tamarind pods to make this drink. Instead, look for seedless tamarind paste at an Indian or Asian market or online (yes, it’s worth ordering). Better yet, if you live anywhere near an authentic taqueria or Mexican restaurant, buy a glass of tamarind agua fresca, enough for eight or more cocktails!

3 ounces whiskey, (I used Knobb Creek Rye Whiskey)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Rose’s lime juice
2 ounces (1/4 cup) tamarind agua fresca
1 orange or blood orange for garnish, thinly sliced

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker one half  full with ice cubes.Set up a cocktail glass with ice, preferably one of those fancy large cocktail ice cubes so that the drink will not become diluted.
  2. Using a shot glass or a digital scale (this makes it easy and precise), combine the whiskey, lime juice, Rose’s lime juice and the tamarind agua fresca and shake well to combine and chill.
  3. Strain the mixture into the prepared glass and garnish with an orange slice.

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