Carrot Kefir Punch
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled 8 to 10-ounce goblet with one large ice cube.
Garnish with grated nutmeg.
I’m never going to turn down a mimosa or a bloody mary for Easter brunch, or any brunch for that matter, but sometimes I’m in the mood for something different. The brandy milk punch is a traditional New Orleans brunch cocktail composed of brandy, vanilla extract, simple syrup and milk, half-and-half or a combination of the two. Rich and decadent, it’s almost a meal in itself, but then New Orleans isn’t exactly known for restraint. What if, I wonder, I made a healthy-ish twist on a milk punch?
I start by substituting kefir for the milk. It has the body of half-and-half without the tendency to land like a brick in your stomach. In addition, it has a nice acidity to temper the sweeter elements of the classic. Kefir (pronounced kuh-FEAR) is a fermented milk drink originating in Eastern Europe made by inoculating cow, sheep or goat milk with a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter knows as kefir grains. Chocked full of probiotics, it is believed to restore balance in the gut, hence aiding digestion. I’m looking at you, Easter ham.
Since I’ve been thinking about making another cocktail with carrot juice (my first – a send-up of the current orange-tinged leader of our sometimes disappointing nation – was called He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), I run a pound of organic carrots through my juicer with a peeled, two-inch long piece of turmeric. In addition to more saturated color, the turmeric adds a gingery complexity with a bitter edge the drink needs to avoid being cloying.
Finally, instead of a straight simple syrup, I decide to make a tamarind syrup because it has a sour, sweet, yet earthy taste that will meld nicely with the carrot and turmeric juice. I start by shelling half a pound of tamarind pods and peel off the root-like stem that runs through it. Next, I make a light simple syrup by mixing 3/4 cup of sugar with a cup of water. I’m avoiding the typical one-to-one ratio since tamarind has a high sugar content on its own and I hate an overly sweet cocktail. I stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar then use a potato masher to crush the pods as I bring it to a boil. I boil it for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let it steep for about twenty minutes as the syrup cools. Finally, I strain it, set it aside and reach for my shaker.
Now that I’m finally ready to mix my drink, I consider which of my brandies best suits it. I settle on the Daron Calvados, an apple brandy from northern France. I experiment with various levels of each ingredient and get what I want from half an ounce of tamarind syrup, one-and-a-half ounces carrot turmeric juice, two ounces of kefir and two ounces of calvados. I add the ingredients to a shaker in that order, then fill it with ice, shake for about 20 seconds, and strain it over a large ice cube into a chilled goblet. I garnish with grated nutmeg and take a sip. It’s exactly what I want from a brunch drink — boozy, complex, and appetite inducing.
Now please pass the ham.
Carrot Turmeric Juice
1 pound organic carrots
0.25 oz turmeric root (about 2 inches long with 1/2 inch diameter)
Run the carrots and turmeric through your juicer. The yield is approximately 1.25 cups.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 lb tamarind pods, shelled with root-like stem removed
Mix sugar with one cup water in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar then use a potato masher to crush the pods as you bring it to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let it steep for about twenty minutes as the syrup cools. Finally, strain and set aside. Will keep in refrigerator for two weeks.