You know when you’re tasting tamarind. Its tart and sweet flavor lends a distinct punch to sauces, sweets and stews alike. Commonly found in cuisines of places like Mexico, India and Malaysia, tamarind grows in special tree pods filled with pulp; that pulp is the source of the fruit’s distinct flavor.
“I like tamarind for its rich and fruity characteristics,” Noah Small, beverage director of Empellón Al Pastor, says. “It has a sort of raisin or dried-fruit quality that is an excellent complement to gin, whiskey and agave as well.”
So it makes sense that tamarind has been finding its way into cocktails across the country, giving classics like the gin and tonic and whiskey sour a pungent twist. Read on and find out how you can up the tamarind factor in your cocktails at home.
① Tamarind Whiskey Sour, Pok Pok (Portland, OR)
The tamarind whiskey sour has been a longtime staple of the Pok Pok menu and for good reason: The dynamic flavors make it the perfect cocktail complement to the restaurant’s spicy, lively Thai street fare, like the Vietnamese fish sauce wings or the lemongrass beef stew. “Tamarind is sour, a bit fruity and used in a lot of our food recipes. We had tons of it around,” chef/owner Andy Ricker says. “It was a no-brainer.”
② Tamarind Punch, Chomp Chomp (New York, NY)
Tamarind Punch | Photo: Courtesy of Chomp Chomp
This cocktail from the Singaporean spot is not for the heat-averse. In addition to tamarind juice, fresh lime juice and palm syrup, the drink’s spicy secret is jalapeño-infused tequila. It’s the ultimate beverage for those who don’t mind a little bite.
③ Trouble in Thailand, Victor Tangos (Dallas, TX)
The drinks at Victor Tangos—one of Dallas’s most beloved gastropubs—are known for their forays into new and unusual ingredients territory. In the Trouble in Thailand, beverage manager Matt Ragan uses fresh tamarind syrup (made by cooking down tamarind pods with sugar and water) to create the cocktail’s bold sweet-and-sour notes. He then mixes it with rum, Amer Gingembre (a ginger-based liqueur), lime juice and a sizeable slice of Fresno chile.
④ Delhi Sour, Boheme (Houston, TX)
Boheme, located in Houston’s trendy Montrose neighborhood, has a simple, unpretentious vibe that extends into the crowd-pleasing cocktail menu. The Delhi Sour, made with tamarind, rye, lemon and cloves, is incredibly drinkable, its tartness offset by the smoothness of the rye.
⑤ Tamarind Gin and Tonic, Empellón Al Pastor (New York, NY)
Tamarind Gin and Tonic | Photo: Courtesy of Empellón Al Pastor
Chef Alex Stupak’s casual joint specializes in spit-roasted pork tacos and beyond. The place recently revamped its cocktail menu, adding flavors that match the Mexican-inspired setting. The tamarind gin and tonic is an ode to chef Stupak’s favorite drink, cut with Von Humboldt's Natur Wasser Tamarind Cordial (a nutty, supersweet concoction made with lemon and tamarind pods). Small says the tamarind adds “salinity . . . without taking away the things that make the original so great.”