Anatomy of a Drink: Labu Kelapa
"You're kind of dumb if you don't do something with pumpkin in the fall," Joaquín Simó says very matter of factly at his Alphabet City cocktail bar, Pouring Ribbons. "It's like not doing hot drinks in the winter. It's what people want."
Simó is, indeed, giving the people they want with the Labu Kelapa ($14), one of 30 new fall drinks dreamed up by his team and debuting at the bar this coming Tuesday. But don't expect some dessert-inspired nonsense.
"I think I've done and had every iteration of the boozy pumpkin pie, and I'm tired of that specific flavor profile," he admits.
Instead, for the offbeat, licorice-y and not at all pie-like Labu Kelapa, Simó took inspiration from Asia. Here, he breaks down his delicious new pumpkin cocktail.
The drink and its maker, Joaquín Simó
① Doctored pumpkin purée: "We had this great drink with a five-spice rim that I loved. So I started thinking about that, but added a couple more spices," Simó explains. To the usual suspects of star anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel and peppercorns (here, tingly Sichuan), he adds coriander and cardamom, then uses the spice mixture to liven up canned pumpkin purée. Then, he lightens the purée with a bit of frothy coconut cream. "I wanted to add a tropical fruit note and bring it down South," Simó says.
② Lemon and orange: "The drink needed a little brightness," Simó adds. So these two citrus workhorses give the spice-laden cocktail some acid.
③ Super dry gin: Save the whiskey for your pecan pie. "A barrel-aged spirit adds vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, and I wanted to steer clear of the baking influence," Simó explains. Instead, he reaches for a bracing London-style gin—Ford's to be exact—to cut through the richness of the spices and add some botanical complexity.
④ Javanese rum: "It still needed funk," Simó explains, "so I turned to Batavia Arrack, which is largely sugar cane juice distillate with a little fermented red rice." Just that bit of musty red rice gives this rum an earthy kick. "It adds a diesel-like nose and a lot of aromatics, depth and complexity." Simó loves the unexpected combination of gin and Indonesian rum: "I've never used them together before, and I was happily surprised!"
⑤ Garnishes: Simó tops the icy drink with freshly grated nutmeg and a smattering of toasted coconut flakes. "I wanted a nice, big aromatic component," he explains. "Plus, it looks nice with the varying shades of golden brown."
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