Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Isfahan Rose - A Cocktail Inspired by Middle Eastern Desserts

In 2002 I traveled to Iran when I was studying with the Architectural Association of London.  It was a life-changing trip.  It was a miracle that I was even able to go given the political climate, but my professors at the AA were relentless (and thrived on the joy of taking an American to the "Axis of Evil").  Iran was everything but evil.  In the streets the people were incredibly kind, generous, and had only curiosity about me, the only American on the trip.  

Photo by Tim den Dekker
The architecture was devastatingly beautiful, the mosques overwhelming and humbling, and the food brought me to my knees.  I still vividly remember some of the gorgeous meals we had - traditional stews with layers of meat, rice, fresh herbs and loads of saffron, the dried figs purchased for a few dollars from street vendors, the smells of spices in the bazaars, and fresh cheese sandwiches with nuts and honey that we ate on the side of the dusty highway as we made our way across the country.  The traditional sweet, Gaz quickly became an obsession. The nougat candy made with rosewater and pistachios that was soft, creamy, and will forever remind me of that magical trip to Iran.

Photo via Wikipedia
When I was developing this cocktail I was first thinking about Turkish Delight, the jelly sweet with rose water and pistachios.  I have always loved Turkish Delight - my grandmother used to send boxes of it to us for the Holidays.  I always found it to be so exotic - the powdered sugar, the sweet jelly-like sweets that contrasted with the nuts hidden inside.

I wanted this cocktail to have a creamy softness to it - to be almost like a cloud.  After I made it, I realized that it was not Turkish Delight inspired as I had hoped, but instead inspired by the nougat Gaz that I fell in love with so many years ago.  It is soft and subtle with the pistachio and the rosewater evident from the first sip.  My favorite part is finale - the candied pistachios sink to the bottom and are a delicious treat at the end of the drink.

This cocktail has since brought back a flood of memories of that amazing trip and the incredible young architects I traveled with.  I hope that one day I will be able to return to Iran and once again, bask in its beauty.

The Isfahan Rose
Created by Gastronomista

1 Egg White
1-1/2 oz Gin (I used Martin Miller's Gin)
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Pistachio Orgeat (recipe below)
1/4 oz Creme or Half & Half
3 Drops Rose Water
1 oz Seltzer

Combine Egg White, Gin, Lemon Juice, Orgeat, Creme, and Rose Water in a Boston Shaker and shake for about 30 seconds.  Open and add ice.  Shake for another 30 seconds.  Strain into a cocktail coupe and top with seltzer water (I used Fever Tree Spring Club Soda).  Garnish with a few rose petals and candied pistachios.

 Pistachio Orgeat
Adapted from Cider & Rye

1/2 Pound Shelled Pistachios
1-1/2 cups Sugar
1-1/2 cups water

Crush Pistachios either in a food processor or place in a bag and crush with a hammer.  Add to a small pot and simmer with sugar and water.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, and let cool.

Transfer cooled mixture into a non-reactive container such as a glass jar and let sit overnight.

The next day, set up a strainer over a large bowl with cheesecloth large enough to contain all the pistachios.  Place mixture into the strainer with the cheesecloth and let strain into the bowl below.  When enough of the syrup has strained out, use the cheesecloth to press more syrup out of the nuts.

Transfer syrup into a small bottle.

Place the remaining nuts on a baking tray with tin foil and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes on 350.  Use the candied pistachios for the garnish, but they are also delicious over yogurt or for snacking!

The resulting syrup is gorgeous - pure pistachio.

Pistachio Orgeat


Styling Notes
Silver Plate - Vintage
Bottle Opener - Vintage
Cocktail Coupes - Waterford Elegance Collection 

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