Tamarind Adds Tangy Depth To Cocktails

Tamarind adds tangy depth to cocktails

In Mexico, you'll find tamarind in everything from candies to aguas frescas and well-churned tequila slushies. Now the flavor sensation is crossing the border: The sweet-tart fruit is giving a tangy twist to cocktails around L.A.

Tamarind, a sticky brown pulp that's also used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines, is extremely versatile. But because of its high acidity, it takes a careful balance of acid, sweet and spice to make it work in a drink.

At West Hollywood's Mexico Restaurante y Barra, bartenders use fresh pineapple to cut through tamarind's tartness in the Cabo de Noche margarita‚Äďa perfect match for the wood-fired smoked dishes on the menu. At Street, homemade ginger syrup smoothes out the tamarind-tequila (or virgin) cocktails.

You can buy dried tamarind pods, tamarind paste or tamarind syrup in many ethnic grocery stores, but Loteria Grill's Jimmy Shaw makes his own pungent syrup by simmering dried pods in water and adding sugar.

The fruit adds extra depth to Shaw's citrusy margarita (click here to download the recipe) or a heady straight-up tequila martini; if you ask nicely, the bartender will add it to the cool michelada, too. For even more spicy-sweet balance, the glasses are rimmed with Tajin chile spice.