High Summer: Rose, Elderflower, and Indian Gooseberry (Cocktail & Mocktail)

I wanted to see just how floral & delicate I could go with a cocktail, while still retaining some interesting complexity.

This one is for those up to a cocktail challenge. The first step is finding Indian gooseberries (Phyllanthus emblica) — an easy task in South Asia, where amla, as they’re known there, are widely available and tremendously important to Ayurvedic medicine. Amla has a massive amount of vitamin C: one 100g serving of amla berries (about a half cup) provides 300mg of vitamin C—more than twice the daily recommended value for adults.

If you do a little research in medical journals, you’ll see a host of other health benefits associated with it. I’m not a doctor and can’t speak to those, but amla’s tart / bitter flavor makes Indian gooseberry an interesting component in a cocktail or mocktail. In South Asia, amla is used widely in cooked dishes such as chutneys, pickles, etc.; people also drink the juice, often blended with a sweeter juice or with added honey. It’s a little intense straight up!

Amla shouldn’t be confused with European (Ribes uva-crispa) OR American gooseberry (Ribes hirtellum), which are different plants altogether. (There are lots of plants around the world that go by the name ‘gooseberry’.) Amla grows on trees, and is a fairly large fruit; European gooseberries, which are wildly popular in a host of desserts and other preparations, grow on bushes. There was even a ‘gooseberry craze’ in the early 1800s in Europe.

American gooseberries also grow on bushes, but they’re very hard to find, as they were federally banned in the U.S. in the early 1900s, due to their propensity for a fungal disease called white pine blister rust; white pines were valuable construction materials. The federal ban was lifted in 1966, but some states still ban them. You can occasionally find European gooseberries in America, though — usually relatively small green berries, with a sweet-tart flavor.

Now back to the Indian gooseberry — how do you find it? Well, what I really wanted to find was Ceylon gooseberry (Dovyalis hebecarpa), but so far, I’ve had no luck in Chicagoland. But I did find Indian gooseberries frozen in the local South Asian grocery store, and that’s where I’d recommend you start your search. You can also buy them dried online, and then reconstitute them; you can even purchase Indian gooseberry powder. I haven’t tried either of those, though!


High Summer Cocktail

2 oz. vodka, chilled
1/2 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur, chilled
1/2 oz. elderflower & rose syrup
3 Indian gooseberries (for 1/2 oz. juice)
ice cube and rose for garnish

1. Make juice: Remove flesh from gooseberries, discarding inner seed (similar to an apricot pit). Chop coarsely, then blend with 1 c. water. Strain and discard pulp, saving the juice.

2. Combine vodka, St. Germain, elderflower & rose syrup, and 1/2 oz. of gooseberry juice. Serve with an ice cube and rose petals (or a mini fairy rose, in this case) for garnish.


High Summer Mocktail
4 oz. elderflower lemonade soda
2 oz. gooseberry juice (see previous)
1 oz. elderflower & rose syrup
ice cube and rose for garnish

Make juice, then combine ingredients in a cocktail glass. Serve with an ice cube and rose petals (or a mini fairy rose, in this case) for garnish.

A Month for Shipping

Working on the Patreon treat boxes — I’m hoping to finish them off this week and ship them out next week, fingers crossed. I think August is going to be a lot of shipping, between these and the Vegan Kickstarter packages! (Babylon 5 has done a great job of keeping me company with production — I’m about halfway through season 3, and it’s improved mightily.)

This modern jersey scarf is in my temple flowers: jasmine pattern. I think it’d be perfect for summer with a crisp white shirt or dress, ideally to be enjoyed in a light breeze on a sunny boat, with a delicious cocktail or mocktail in hand. I miss boats. Should figure out how I can do sailing in Chicago…

Today’s the last day to sign up for this round of Patreon treat boxes (fairies and starlight, with a hint of tropical heat), you’ll get 50% off your first box!

If you sign up Aug 1 or after, you’ll be signing up for the Autumn boxes, probably shipping in November, which I *think* will be an Alice in Autumn theme — I see wacky tea parties coming.


Current items made, more sweets will be added, and possibly a few soap / resin pieces:

Earth Tier:
blueberry-orange mini muffins
lime & rosewater shortbread
cherry-chocolate mini teacake
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark

fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)

Sol System:
apple-cheddar scone
bumbleberry-rhubarb bar
blueberry-orange mini muffins (2)
lime & rosewater shortbread
cherry-chocolate mini teacake
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark
fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)
snowdrop varieties napkin (1)

chocolate-vanilla rose tea

Milky Way:
apple-cheddar scone
bumbleberry-rhubarb bar
blueberry-orange mini muffins (3)
lime & rosewater shortbread
cherry-chocolate large teacake
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark
fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)
snowdrop varieties napkins (set of 2)
temple jasmine scarf

chocolate-vanilla rose tea

dandelion simple syrup
apple-cheddar scone
bumbleberry-rhubarb bar
blueberry-orange mini muffins (4)
lime & rosewater shortbread (2)
cherry-chocolate large teacake
cherry-ginger chutney
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark
fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)
snowdrop varieties napkins (set of 2)
snowdrop fairies scarf
temple jasmine scarf

chocolate-vanilla rose tea

Classic Food Combos

Made Sri Lankan grilled halibut yesterday to eat with the grilled eggplant and mushrooms from the other day — tasty, but string hoppers are dry without sothi!

It was all right with some yogurt sauce, but today, I made sothi and pol sambol, and it was so much better. Some food combos are just classic, and shouldn’t be messed with too much. 🙂

Sri Lankan Grilled Vegetables

The same Sri Lankan-inspired marinade that I use on meat works well for veggies too. Efficient. 🙂 And as a bonus, the veggies don’t need marinating for any length of time — you can just coat them and grill.

Remember that veggies cook at different speeds, so if you’re mixing them on skewers, be careful about adjusting size of the pieces so they cook the optimal amount.

Of these, I thought the eggplant, mushroom, bell pepper and ripe jackfruit worked best. (You can grill eggplant and mushroom on skewers together, and bell pepper and ripe jackfruit on skewers together. Ripe jackfruit is delicate, so be sure to oil the grill well, and turn skewers with care.).

The green jackfruit and the zucchini didn’t have as much inherent flavor as the other vegetables, so they were a little boring — but tasty once dipped in the yogurt sauce! (I’d expect summer squash to behave the same way as zucchini.) All nice with toasted naan.

To make this vegan, just use vegan mayo and yogurt, and skip the Worcestershire sauce.

zest of 2 limes
4 large garlic cloves, finely grated
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. plain whole-milk yogurt
3 T lime juice
1 t. salt
1/3 c. ketchup
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
1-2 t. cayenne
3 T vegetable oil (plus more for grill)
veggies of your choice, cut for skewers
naan bread

1. Make sauce: In a large bowl, whisk lime zest, garlic, mayonnaise, yogurt, and 2 t. of the lime juice in a large bowl to combine, add salt to taste. Transfer 1/2 c. of sauce to small bowl for serving; cover and chill until you’re reading to eat.

2. Make marinade: Whisk into the remaining sauce the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, cayenne, and remaining lime juice. Add veggies, toss to coat.

3. Prepare grill for medium-high heat; oil grate. While grill is heating, remove veggies from marinade, letting any extra drip back into the bowl; thread veggies onto metal skewers, spacing slightly apart.

4. Grill kebabs, turning a few times, until browned and cooked through, 6-10 minutes (varies depending on the vegetable, so keep an eye on them). Lightly toast pita on grill, and serve kebabs with reserved yogurt sauce.

Curry powder recipe here: https://serendibkitchen.com/sri-lankan-curry-powder/

Island Aviation

A friend asked what made this Sri Lankan, and I have to admit, I didn’t want to mess too much with the classic Aviation, which is a delight. But I did switch out the standard lemons for limes — limes are native to Sri Lanka, and tend to be a bit less sweet and more bitter/sour, making a more interesting contrast with the floral notes of the violet liqueur. I’ve left some variation in the amount of lime, depending on whether you’d prefer a more floral or more tangy emphasis to your drink.

I used Tillen Farms Bada Bing cherries, which give a slightly fresher taste than grocery store maraschino cherries typically would — they taste more like cherries off the tree. They’re a little darker and moodier in appearance than bright red maraschino varieties; perfect to accompany a moody violet drink. They’re also great for just snacking on!

If you do want a brighter cherry, I’d recommend Luxardo Maraschinos, though those can be a little intense for munching. They’re actually marasca cherries, grown around the Luxardo distillery in Italy. They’re packed in a sugar & cherry juice syrup, rather than sugar & water, so have intense flavor.

2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz. créme de violette
1/2 – 3/4 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
Garnish: maraschino cherries

1. Add the gin, maraschino liqueur, creme de violette and lemon juice to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a brandied cherry.

NOTE: You’d typically use a martini glass for this, with a narrow stem that you’d hold, so the heat of your hands doesn’t warm the drink. I tried a double-walled glass in a different style, that also insulates the drink; it worked well.

Cherry-Ginger Chutney

(45 minutes, serves 8.)

This is basically my mango-ginger chutney, but with cherries, because cherries are in season now, and I keep buying them because I love them so.

You don’t actually need to cook a chutney—you can just chop up some fruit and mix it with spices and serve; that would be common in Sri Lanka. But I prefer a more blended chutney, with a mellower flavor. A great quick appetizer for a party is serving this with crackers and cheddar cheese.

3 c. cherries, pitted and halved
1 rounded tsp salt
1 cup malt vinegar
3 dried chilies (optional)
3 TBL fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
1/3 cup dried fruit (I used a mix of what I had on hand, but raisins, sultanas, mango, etc., would all be good)

1 rounded tsp Sri Lankan curry powder

1. Put cherries in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt.

2. Remove stalks and seeds from chilies (if used) and soak chilies in a little vinegar for 10 minutes. Combine vinegar, ginger, and chilies in a blender and blend (you can alternatively pound the chilies with a mortar and pestle and grate the ginger in).

3. Put blended mixture in a stainless steel pan with curry powder and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

4. Add cherries and dried fruit. Turn heat back to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy.

5. Cool and serve with rice and curries, or add to a sandwich – it’s great with grilled chicken or pork. You can also use the slightly more liquid version as a salad dressing.

Note: You can substitute green apples, pears, apricots, etc. for cherries. Or mix and match!

Note 2: If not eating immediately, store in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks, or in the pantry for months, if canned and sterilized properly.

Grilled & Spiced Piña Colada

(makes one big glass)

This takes a little planning ahead, since you’ll want to grill the pineapple and let it cool to at least room temperature before making the drinks. But the effort is well-rewarded with a rich burst of extra flavor, and added complexity from the cayenne, salt, and lime.

4 pieces of pineapple (about 4 oz.), sprinkled with cayenne, salt, and lime
4 oz. thick coconut milk
2 oz dark spiced rum
2 t. kithul treacle (or honey)
3-4 ice cubes

honey and grated coconut (unsweetened) for rimming the glass

1. Skewer pineapple, sprinkle with cayenne, salt, and lime, and grill on high for 5-7 minutes, turning periodically. (You can also roast at 400F if you prefer.) Remove from grill and let cool.

2. Blend pineapple with coconut milk, rum, kithul treacle (or honey), and ice cubes.

3. Dip rim of glass in honey, dip in shredded coconut, and carefully pour in piña colada.

If you like, serve with additional skewers of grilled spiced pineapple!

A Christmas-y Cake Dilemma

Boo! I seem to have accidentally deleted my draft recipe for this chocolate-cherry cake (made for the Patreon treat boxes). Alas! It came out well — key elements were a bit of coffee in the batter to bring out the chocolate-y-ness, and a bit of cayenne for a little excitement. Oh well…maybe I’ll try to recreate it at some point.

Cherries are ripe now, in the height of summer, but the overall look of the cake is very Christmas-y. A dilemma!

Soul Refresher: Watermelon & Rose Iced Tea

I promised you mocktail recipes! Here’s one.

Soul Refresher: Watermelon & Rose Iced Tea

(serves 6)

Rooh Afza is a traditional syrup formulated in 1906 in Ghaziabad, British India by Hakim Hafiz Abdul Majeed, combining several ingredients commonly believed to be cooling agents, such as rose — its name is sometimes translated as “refresher of the soul”. Ingredients vary; my current cordial bottle primarily mixes fragrant screw pine (kewra) with rose, lending complex flavor and beautiful fragrance. It can easily be found online or in South Asian grocery stories.

– 3 c. watermelon, plus more garnish
– 1 T Rooh Afza
– 3 c. cold tea (use tea of your choice; I used elderflower, but caffeinated black tea would also work well — try Lady Grey for a delicate variation, or PG Tips if you’re looking for something more sturdy)

1. Brew tea (2-3 tea bags and 3 c. boiled water) and let cool, chill for two hours in fridge.

2. Blend watermelon and Rooh Afza together.

3. For each glass, combine 1/2 c. watermelon blend with 1/2 c. cold tea. Serve iced, with a garnish of watermelon slice.

NOTE: For a more luxurious version, top each glass with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Bollywood Rose & Watermelon Cocktail

(makes two)

This is the delightfully simple cocktail you’ll want to sip as you dance through a rain shower, your pink sari plastered to your body, while your eyes flirt demurely with your stunningly attractive admirer.

1 c. watermelon chunks
1 oz. vodka
1 t. rosewater
1 t. kithul treacle (or honey)
rose petals to garnish

1. Combine in blender, garnish with rose petals, enjoy!