Several Portlanders went on a lightning trip to Guadalajara and Tequila Country recently, and they came back buzzing about some of their cocktail experiences. One of the cocktails that got quite a lot of buzz (and repeated applications) was the Tequila Tamarindo, a simple and superb mix of Tequila Blanco, tamarind juice, and lime juice.
Tamarind is not as well known here as it deserves to be, but is considered a staple in the cuisines of Mexico, Central and South America, and the Pan-Asian cuisines of the Pacific Rim. The brown fruit is not that visually appetizing, but the flavor is tantalizing, fruit sweetness with a sour edge to it that can be refreshing and brisk.
A favorite simple summer refresher in Mexico, for instance, is agua fresca with tamarind. Agua fresca is icy cold water that has been lightly flavored with natural fruit juices by way of a short maceration and infusion of fruit, and it’s not uncommon to see three or four different agua frescas in Latino restaurants and taquerias throughout the summer. And one of the favorite agua frescas is tamarind.
Tamarind is also one of the prevalent flavors of the popular Mexican soft drink brand, Jarritos. Tamarind is also used extensively in cooking. Pok Pok, one of the most popular restaurants in Portland, uses tamarind quite often in its signature recipes, for instance. And Pok Pok also features a delightful Asian twist on an old classic cocktail, the Whiskey Sour, be re-defining it as a Tamarind Sour.
The barman at Casa de Herradura knows his way around tamarind as well, and during the warmth of summer, one of his most asked for drinks is his Tequila Tamarindo, a delicious concoction of tamarind juice, fresh lime juice, and Tequila Blanco (although the Reposado does a great job too, and adds a bit of flavor that matches well with the tamarind), served up in a Margarita glass rimmed with a combination of salt and finely ground chili pepper. It’s slightly sweet, but sour as well, and the salt and chili pepper add a brief touch of fiery heat against the cold of the cocktail. (If you’d prefer emphasizing the sweetness of the drink, you can substitute sugar for salt in the rim.)
Fair warning though: once you sample one Tequila Tamarindo, you’ll probably want a second one. So you might as well just make up a pitcher to start with. You’ll probably need it.
And once you learn to like tamarind, you’ll begin using it on a regular basis in your cuisine as well. It’s a tantalizing flavor you’ll want to have frequently.