If cocktails look golden to you lately, it’s probably not because spring is here and the sun is out. Turmeric, the bright yellow-orange spice long used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, is the latest ingredient to make the leap from the kitchen to the cocktail glass.
Every upscale bar menu these days seems to have at least one drink containing the spice. There is no single reason for this. And the two most significant ones sit on opposite ends of the serious-to-superficial spectrum.
On one hand, turmeric is riding its current reputation as a superfood with anti-inflammatory powers — a big selling point at a time when bars are straining to sell the idea that cocktails can be healthful. On the other hand, it’s pretty. Turmeric turns every cocktail into a sunshiny glass of Instagram bait.
Combine those two qualities and you have the mixological equivalent of the gorgeous Hollywood actor who turns out to hold a degree in physics.
“Popularity and Instagram,” said John Clark-Ginnetti, an owner of the New Haven cocktail bar 116 Crown, summing up the buzzworthy spice’s appeal. “I don’t know how many things can take hold without the benefit of social media these days.”
There are those who mix with turmeric for more mundane reasons, like flavor. “Just a dash or two can add another layer,” said Jillian Vose, the bar director and managing partner of the Dead Rabbit, in Manhattan.
Ms. Vose uses turmeric in her drink Watch Tower, which contains Irish whiskey, brandy and yogurt, among other things. She says it keeps guests going back for another sip “to seek out what that underlying flavor is.”
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