Just in time for the start of summer, I give you– The Coco Tamarindo.
I developed this recipe for a Food52 contest, too– the theme was coconut. It didn’t make it into the finals over there, but it sure made its way into our hearts around the indieculinary household. It spawned a joke– “when marital projects collide.” My wife came home from work– intending an entire evening of more work– only to find that I was in the middle of a cocktail photo shoot on the deck. My project won.
My write-up from Food52, below:
The journey to my new favorite summer cocktail was circuitous but ultimately worthwhile.
A couple of days ago, I had a different idea for a coconut-themed recipe. My original intention was to candy some citrus and aromatics typically found in Thai dishes, and then work them into a coconut macaroon. I prepared a rich simple syrup, dropped in my diced lime, ginger, green chiles, etc., and wandered off to do the laundry, daydreaming not only of the macaroons to come, but of the flavorful simple syrup I’d have once the candied items had been strained out. Bonus cocktails!
Then I sniffed something unusual in the air and ran downstairs to discover the concoction had gotten away from me. It had become a rapidly boiling caramel. I pulled it off the heat, pivoted to, “I’ll make a brittle!,” mixed in some peanuts and coconut, and spread it on a silpat to harden. Once it was sufficiently cooled, I tried it out. First bite– “Yum, I think I’m on to something here.” Aftertaste– “Oh my word, that’s bitter.” So that didn’t work out.
But this story is not about the failed macaroons, nor the bitter brittle. It’s about how I mourned, more than anything, the loss of that flavored simple syrup. The whole time it had been simmering on the stove, I’d been dreaming up new cocktail recipes for it, most of them featuring creamy coconut milk. And so rather than try again with the macaroons, I committed myself wholly to developing the sort of cocktail I’d gotten so excited about.
So, simple syrup take two. Still in the mood for the not-going-to-happen-this-week macaroons, I wanted serious coconut flavor in this cocktail. I decided to not only use coconut milk for creaminess and flavor, but to see what I could do to infuse a simple syrup with coconut, too. So I toasted shredded coconut in a hot pan to help its flavors bloom and then added a 1:1 water to sugar ratio that I knew would be enough to dissolve the tamarind pulp. The resulting syrup was all I’d hoped for, with definite notes of toasted coconut mingling with the distinctive sweet-and-sour tamarind.
Strained, combined with rum and coconut milk, shaken, poured, and garnished with a lime wedge, this drink was an immediate hit around the indieculinary household. Round 1 was consumed on the deck immediately following the cocktail photo shoot, round 2 was shaken up to accompany dinner, and round 3 was also enthusiastically poured before the remaining toasted coconut-tamarind syrup and coconut milk were wisely stored and transferred to the refrigerator to await another evening on the deck.
This recipe makes enough syrup for 16 cocktails, best enjoyed outside, in celebration of summer.
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 ounces tamarind pulp
- 2.5 ounces golden rum
- 1 ounce toasted coconut tamarind syrup
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 1 lime wedge, for garnish
- Toast the coconut in a stainless steel pot until lightly golden. (Stir frequently; it will quickly burn if left unattended.)
- As soon as most of the coconut has toasted, add the water to stop the browning process.
- Add the sugar and tamarind pulp directly after the water, and stir.
- Keeping the syrup on a low simmer, stir frequently and break up the tamarind pulp with your spoon as it softens.
- Once the tamarind pulp has dissolved and you have a rich, deep golden brown, sweet-and-sour coconut-tamarind syrup at hand, strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to remove all the coconut and remaining fine tamarind pulp and fibers.
- If you want to have your cocktails right away, (and let's be honest, you do), stick the bowl of syrup in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill a bit. And if you have enormous self control and you're making this syrup in advance, (admirable! and a great idea!), just cover it and stick it in the fridge.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
- Measure and add the rum, toasted coconut tamarind syrup, and coconut milk.
- Shake, strain, and pour into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a wedge of lime.