I am so excited and thrilled to feature a guest post by my friend Payman today. I met Payman last year around May or so through twitter. Payman is your go to guy for any cocktail that you might have any questions about. I love reading his weekly post where each Wednesday he introduces his readers to a new cocktail. I had the honor of meeting him and his lovely wife Vanessa last December while they were in town visiting his family. I thought it would be fun to ask him to come up with a cocktail and be a guest host on MPK. I hope you will enjoy this post as much as I did!
I present to you, Persian Rose!
Spring has finally arrived, which marks the beginning of a new year for the Persian Diaspora. However you don’t have to be Persian to appreciate the significance of Spring. For most cultures around the world—even the ones which observe the Gregorian calendar—Spring symbolizes hope, renewal, and perhaps casting off of the ills of the past.
For obvious reasons, many also associate the color green with Spring. Incidentally, for many Persians green has taken on a deeper significance these days than it did in years past. It has come to represent the aspirations of Iranians seeking a democratic government, having become the color adopted by the renewed freedom movement in Iran. It is said that hope springs eternal, so it’s all the more appropriate that the color of Spring has also become the color of national hope.
Since Sanam was kind enough to invite me to contribute to her blog, I decided to share a cocktail I recently created in celebration of the Persian New Year. The traditions of the Persian New Year, or Norooz as we Persians call it (which means “new day”) date back thousands of years to the time of the ancient prophet Zoroaster, whose philosophies were the basis of the Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrianism, which predates the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam; ironic how closely related those three religions are, right?), was the primary religion of Persians until the brutal Arab conquest in the 7th century.
The cocktail I created highlights traditional Persian flavors and ingredients, and despite all my waxing on, is not green in color. Ultimately it was too difficult to make a green-hued drink without coming off as contrived. In the end I realized it was more important to represent culture and history through ingredients and flavors common to Persian cuisine, than to simply present a color, which could have easily been done with a few drops of artificial food coloring. However as we’ve learned from both Iran’s democracy movement and the environmental movement—two movements that have embraced the symbolism behind the color green—the color itself is meaningless if it’s devoid of a meaningful underlying philosophy. That’s what I focused in creating this cocktail.
That being said, behold the Persian Rose.
2 oz Gin
1 ¾ oz sweet lemon juice (not regular lemon, not Meyer lemon; see info below)
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz Cherry Heering (can substitute other cherry-flavored liqueur)
¼ oz rosewater
¼ oz agave nectar (can substitute simple syrup)
Tools: cocktail shaker, strainer
Glass: chilled cocktail glass or coupe
Garnish: rose petal
Place ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into your glass and garnish with a rose petal if you have one handy.
Those of you not familiar with Persian cuisine may be wondering about this fruit called the sweet lemon—I’ve even seen a totally misinformed thread on Chowhound discussing this. Sweet lemons can be found at many middle eastern grocers. They may look like lemons but they don’t taste anything like regular lemons, as they have a subtle honey-like sweetness and none of the sourness that’s characteristic of both regular and Meyer lemons. They also have a very bitter pith, so rather than peeling and eating as one would an orange, it’s better to also peel the membrane holding the fruit, and eat only the lightly sweet flesh. You can also drink the juice or use it in a cocktail as done here, but bare in mind that as with all citrus, the juice is best when fresh.
Because the flavor of the sweet lemon is so subtle, I used more than I normally would when I use juices in cocktails, and had to be really careful with the other ingredients so as not to overpower it. You especially have to watch the rosewater, as it can easily dominate.
Rosewater and cherry are also common ingredients in Persian cooking, especially in our desserts. The combination of rosewater, cherry, and lemon juice is one of my favorites, most commonly used in a dessert called Faloodeh, which is essentially a Persian noodle-sorbet flavored with the aforementioned ingredients.
Cherry Heering can be found at many liquor stores (though you may have to go to a specialty or higher end one), and is still probably the best cherry-flavored liqueur out there. You can use another cherry liqueur, or a cherry syrup if you can’t find Heering. The same goes for the agave nectar. If your nearby health store doesn’t carry it, you can use simple syrup instead, which you can make by simply dissolving sugar in an equal amount of hot water, then allowing it to cool.
Now I must go get my drink on. Beh salamati! (to good health!)
Paystyle grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) and now lives in Brooklyn where he does cocktail consulting for restaurants and special events with his company Life’s a Cocktail. His wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani provides the stunning photography of his cocktail concoctions. He also writes a weekly cocktail column which posts every Wednesday on the food blog Umamimart.