A New Year’s Eve Present: A Baker’s Dozen of Sri Lankan-Inflected Cocktails

Here’s a New Year’s Eve present for you all — a baker’s dozen of mostly Sri Lankan-inflected cocktail / mocktail recipes. Just in case you’re looking for inspiration for tonight or tomorrow!

The plan is to develop several more recipes, and then winnow down into the favorites, trying to develop a mocktail for every cocktail that is equally delicious and interesting. And then of course there’s the formatting, layout, copyediting, proofreading, etc. — many steps between here and finished book!

So please consider this a very early draft — we’ll eventually have an ebook available for purchase, though possibly not until the holidays NEXT year. 🙂

For now, enjoy!


Serendib Cocktails
by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Table of Contents
1. Bollywood Rose and Watermelon Cocktail / Soul Refresher: Watermelon and Rose Iced Tea
2. The Flying Hibiscus
3. Ginger and Blood Orange Vodka Press
4. High Summer (Rose, Elderflower and Indian Gooseberry)
5. Island Aviation
6. Jackfruit Taprobane
7. Moru Thanni / Spiced Yogurt Drink
8. Passionfruit Moscow Mule
9. Pistachio Margarita Float
10. Redbud Sour (with Float Option)
11. Rose Fizz
12. Vegan Vampire (Arrack Optional)
13. Watermelon Margarita & Mocktail


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!

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/2022/07/23/bollywood-rose-watermelon-cocktail/

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.

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/2022/07/23/soul-refresher-watermelon-rose-iced-tea/


The Flying Hibiscus

If I ever open up that cafe / bookstore / flower shop / art gallery / textile arts shop / bar (it’s not going to happen, I have books to write, but y’know, a girl can dream), I’d have to offer this cocktail. I even gave it a fun name. Put a bird on it!


2 oz. hibiscus tea (boil a few handfuls of hibiscus flowers in 8 oz. water to make hibiscus tea)
juice of 1/2 a lime
1-2 T rose syrup (to taste), or honey
1 oz. vodka (optional)

1. Make hibiscus tea. Combine 2 oz. tea with lime juice and rose syrup (or honey). You can enjoy it just as it is — a little tangy, a little sweet, beautifully floral.

2. Stir in vodka for the alcoholic version. Garnish with hibiscus flower and enjoy!



Ginger & Blood Orange Vodka Press

This would be a nice brunch cocktail.

3 oz. orange juice
2 oz. blood orange soda
1 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. ginger liqueur
dash of orange bitters
slice of clementine

1 tsp chopped crystallized ginger

1. Combine orange juice, blood orange soda, vodka, ginger liqueur, dash of orange bitters.

2. Garnish with clementine and crystallized ginger. Enjoy!

NOTE: I enjoy locally-produced Koval ginger liqueur in this drink, along with Ketel One’s Grapefruit Rose vodka, and Strongwater’s orange bitters.

For the mocktail version, use a ginger simple syrup instead of ginger liqueur, and you can get non-alcoholic bitters (Dram Apothecary makes some, for example). Skip the vodka!

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/ginger-blood-orange…/

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!


Cocktail Version

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.


Mocktail Version

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.

Pictures here: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/high-summer-rose…/

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.

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/2022/07/28/island-aviation/

Island Aviation Mocktail

I tried Seedlip Garden 108, and I like it as a mixer! I mean, it’s definitely not alcohol, so if you go into it expecting it to taste or act like gin, it won’t. And I wouldn’t drink it straight up — that just tastes like slightly herby water.

But if you’re looking for something with interesting botanical notes that works well in a non-alcoholic cocktail — well, I’ve tried making one so far, and I’d happily serve it to guests, so I’m going to call that a win for Seedlip.


2 oz. Seedlip Garden 108
1/2 oz. maraschino syrup
1/2 oz. violet syrup
1/2 – 3/4 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
Garnish: maraschino cherries

1. Add the Seedlip Garden 108, maraschino syrup, violet syrup and lime juice to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.

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



Jackfruit Taprobane

(makes 2)

This is one of my more complex cocktails, and requires a few notes:

a) It’s getting easier to find fresh jackfruit in American grocery stores; if you can’t find fresh, look for frozen. You can also buy canned ripe jackfruit, but that usually comes in a sweet syrup, so the end result will be noticeably sweeter.

b) For the ingredients here, I looked to some of what I’d typically use in a jackfruit curry — tamarind, cinnamon, and lemongrass. Lemongrass found in American groceries is often quite woody and tough; if you’re not growing your own fresh sprigs, you may want to either skip the lemongrass, or simmer and steep it in the vermouth, removing the stalks before using.

c) Tonic water (a favorite in colonial South Asian cocktails for its inclusion of quinine, which treated malaria) lends this concoction a bitter edge; if you don’t enjoy bitter, use seltzer water instead.

1 c. ripe jackfruit (fresh or frozen)
2 oz. mango puree
2 oz. coconut milk
2 oz. gin
1 oz. vermouth
1 oz. tonic water or seltzer water
1 t. tamarind puree
1 t. chopped lemongrass, optional
2-3 ice cubes
lemongrass, cinnamon stick, and jackfruit to garnish

1. Combine all ingredients except garnish in blender; blend to combine.

2. Garnish and enjoy!

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/2022/07/21/jackfruit-taprobane/


Moru Thanni / Spiced Yogurt Drink

(15 minutes, serves 4)

On a hot day, this a wholesome way to cool down!

1 c. yogurt or vegan yogurt (use your favorite; I like Culina, which is coconut milk based, but versions based on cashews would also work for this)
1/2 t. asafoetida powder / hing (optional)
1/2 – 2 t. salt (to taste)
3-4 c. water (to your desired drinking consistency)
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 green chili, chopped fine
1 t. coriander leaves, chopped fine
1 t. vegetable oil
1 t. black mustard seeds
1-2 T lime juice (to taste)

1. In a large pouring container, mix yogurt with asafoetida powder (if using) and salt.

2. Add 2-4 c. water, stirring to combine, to your desired drinking consistency.

3. Add chopped onion, green chili, and coriander to the beverage.

4. In a small pan on high, heat oil and add mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, remove from heat and add to the beverage, stirring to combine.

5. Add lime juice and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve cold as a refreshing beverage; it can also be served as an accompaniment to a rice meal, and in that instance, would be poured over the rice.

NOTE: To turn this into a refreshing cocktail, feel free to add a shot or two of arrack to the glass!


Passionfruit Moscow Mule

(makes two servings)

I would say that this is tasty, but only if you like sour. Between the grapefruit vodka, the passion fruit, and the lime juice, you have three kinds of sour going here. If I were making it again, I’d rim the glass with jaggery sugar, for sure.

Kev and I were talking about how this compares to a whiskey sour (which is often my bar drink of choice; I’m a girl who loves the tang), and he said that whiskey has more complex flavors for the sour to play against, so it works better. I think that’s probably right — this cocktail is fine, but I wouldn’t say it’s really interesting, as it stands? Will have to think about how I’d want to tweak it.

Side note: I do have a particularly sour batch of passionfruit puree on hand right now, so that may be affecting my assessment slightly. Fresh passionfruit is often more sweet than this. So maybe just adding in a little sugar would address it. I’d also like to make it with some fresh passionfruit, because all the little seeds would look cool in the drink. So expect to see another variation on this sometime, whenever I can get my hands on fresh passionfruit. (Pete’s sometimes carries it…)

4 ounces vodka
1/2 cup passion fruit pulp
2 tsp lime juice
8 ounces ginger beer
fresh lime to garnish

Pictures here: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/passionfruit-moscow-mule…/


Pistachio Margarita Float

(makes one giant dessert drink)

Ready to be indulgent? When my daughter and I were traveling in Sri Lanka, she decided that Sri Lanka was the land of ice cream, because we ended up eating it most places (especially when the dishes were too spicy for her). I wouldn’t serve her this drink, but for an adult libation poolside, this lush concoction will delight. (The pistachio margarita is still tasty, even if you skip the float entirely.)

3 oz. tequila, chilled
1.5 oz. pistachio orgeat (syrup)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
dash of Strongwater’s Virtue bitters (rose, alpine, and sage) (optional)
2 oz. lemon-lime soda
lime and sugar for rim
pistachio ice cream (or to kick it up a notch, use bastani: Persian pistachio-rose-saffron ice cream, see below)
chopped pistachios and/or rose petals for garnish

1. Rub fresh lime along rim of cocktail or margarita glass, and dip in sugar.

2. Combine tequila, pistachio orgeat, fresh lime juice, dash of bitters, and lemon-lime soda.

3. Top with scoops of pistachio or bastani ice cream, garnish with chopped pistachio. I recommend serving with a spoon and/or straw.


Bastani: Persian Pistachio-Rose-Saffron Ice Cream

8 egg yolks
2 c. sugar
2 c. whole milk
1 c. chopped roasted pistachio nuts (salted is fine)
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. rose extract (or 2 T rose water)
1/2 t. cardamom extract (optional)
generous pinch saffron threads
pinch salt
2 1/2 c. heavy cream

1. Beat egg yolks with sugar until smooth and foamy.

2. In a medium thick-bottomed pot on medium-low, heat the milk to boiling while stirring. Add vanilla extract, rose extract, cardamom extract, saffron threads, and salt.

3. Slowly and carefully, pour the foamy egg/sugar mixture into the fragrant milk, using a whisk vigorously while pouring (to avoid scrambling the eggs).

4. Turn heat to low and continue heating, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens. (It should thinly coat the spoon).

5. Pour custard mixture into a bowl, and refrigerate until well chilled (at least 4 hours, and overnight is not unreasonable.)

6. Churn in an ice cream maker (be sure bowl has frozen for at least 4 hours, overnight is likely better), or hand-churn (stick in freezer and stir every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals, until it is well-mixed).

7. When ice cream is at soft-serve consistency, stir in chopped pistachios, then freeze until hard (about 2-4 hours).

Pictures here: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/pistachio-margarita-float/


Redbud Sour (With Float Option)

So you’ve simmered down some delicious edible redbuds in a sugar syrup, and you have plenty of pretty pink redbud syrup on hand. After a long day of spring gardening, here’s a lovely floral relaxer. Scoop of ice cream optional, but a nice addition.

1½ – 2 oz vodka (I used Ketel One’s Grapefruit Rose vodka)
1 oz lemon or lime juice
2 oz redbud syrup
Lemon slices and redbud flowers to garnish
Scoop of vanilla bean ice cream

1. In a cocktail glass, combine vodka, lemon or lime juice, and syrup; stir to combine.

2. Garnish with slice of lemon and redbud flowers, and if you like, add a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!

Redbud syrup: https://serendibkitchen.com/2021/04/15/redbud-syrup/

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/redbud-sour-with-float…/


Rose Fizz

We may not be able to visit a tropical island right now, but I did make myself a cocktail to enjoy poolside in a plastic cup.

1 oz. rose simple syrup
2 oz. vodka (I used rose-grapefruit vodka)
1/4 t. citric acid (you could use lemon or lime juice instead, but then your finished drink will be cloudy and yellow)
ginger beer

1. Mix syrup with citric acid and vodka, add ginger beer, top with rose petals and enjoy.


(Rose simple syrup is basically boil water and sugar until sugar dissolves, reduce heat to simmer, add rose petals and cook for ten minutes, strain out rose petals; should store well in fridge for months. This batch I used was actually from the previous summer — I made ice cream with it the next day.

Pictures: https://serendibkitchen.com/2020/07/18/rose-fizz/


Vegan Vampire (Arrack Optional)

Yes, I bought myself the cutest little mushroom glass on the planet for this recipe. I wasn’t sure I was up for a mushroom cocktail (which are apparently a thing), but beets are nice and earthy…


Delicious, yet also full of healthy nutrients. This will make enough for several cocktails.


2 c. beets, peeled and roughly chopped
2 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. sugar or jaggery
1/4 c. lime juice
1 t. ground cardamom


1. Combine juice ingredients (first five) in blender and liquefy. (For a thinner cocktail, add up to 2 c. water.)

2. For each serving, stir 1-2 oz. arrack into 3/4 c. juice (or skip this step for the mocktail version). Serve cold.

Optional spicy variation: Some chopped green chili would go nicely with this!

Pictures here: https://serendibkitchen.com/2021/07/09/beetroot-cocktail/


Watermelon Margarita

I didn’t invent the watermelon margarita; it’s a classic. But I had fun making it. Pretty pretty. I honestly wouldn’t serve it with watermelon in the bowl like this, though — you wouldn’t easily be able to get to it once you finished your drink. Not practical! Better to just fill that bowl with ice, help keep your drink cold.

2-4 oz. watermelon juice (to taste)
1 oz. tequila (you can infuse the tequila with green chili if you like)
1/2 oz. lime juice
garnish of watermelon slice and green chili slice, salt for rim


Watermelon Mocktail

Non-alcoholic drink — watermelon juice, lime juice, green chili.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *