Few ingredients can transition seasons as seamlessly as cardamom. Black cardamom’s the champion of savory dishes, packing a slightly smoky and minty flavor. In contrast, green cardamom adds a citrusy sweet kick to confectionary treats, and white cardamom has the mildest flavor profile of the varieties.
Regardless of the type of cardamom used, it’s a power-packed, aromatic spice that can give cocktails an enjoyable, zesty kick—when wielded correctly. “Cardamom is a delicate yet aggressive ingredient; a little can go a long way,” says Ryan Andrade, beverage director at The White Hart Inn & Restaurant in Salisbury, Connecticut. “However, if balanced correctly with the right ingredients, it can truly create a beautiful thing.”
Cardamom bitters make their way into Andrade’s Lolita cocktail, which he first crafted at home after noticing the enthusiasm among the bar’s guests for Negroni variations, and their taste for tequila. “I decided I wanted to craft something that would appeal to those who’d like a Negroni, but would also be intrigued by the sweet yet spicy notes of cardamom, and enticed by the exotic, yet homey notes that came with it.”
1 1/2 oz. reposado tequila
1 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. Bigallet China China (or substitute Ramazzotti)
2 dashes cardamom bitters
Tools: barspoon, strainer
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: orange twist
Stir all of the ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled glass. Twist the orange peel over the drink, and use as garnish.
Ryan Andrade, White Hart Inn, Salisbury, Connecticut
Cardamom’s the ingredient of choice among other bartenders searching to create a harmonious spice-sweet balance. At Elysian Bar in New Orleans’ Hotel Peter and Paul, bartenders use a pinch of ground cardamom to add fragrant depth and a spicy resonance to the Fletcher’s Paradise cocktail (created by former beverage director Ben Hatch), made with Madeira, pineapple liqueur, and Cognac. Cardamom’s aromatics are further enhanced with a sprinkle of cardamom as garnish, along with a light spritz of cardamom tincture.
1 1/2 oz. Madeira (Elysian Bar uses Broadbent 5 year old)
1 oz. pineapple liqueur (such as Giffard)
1/2 oz. Cognac
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 pinch of ground cardamom
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: julep cup
Garnish: dried pineapple, fresh mint, cardamom tincture (optional), ground cardamom
Shake all of the ingredients with ice, then strain into a julep cup filled with crushed ice. Add more crushed ice to form a dome, then garnish with a spritz of cardamom tincture (optional), ground cardamom, a mint sprig, and dried pineapple. Serve with two short straws.
Cardamom TinctureIn a jar, lightly crush 1 Tbsp. of cardamom pods with a muddler or wooden spoon, then add 4 oz. of vodka, preferably higher proof. Let infuse for 3-5 days, shaking the jar every day, until it’s reached the desired intensity. Strain and bottle for use; keeps indefinitely.
Ben Hatch for Elysian Bar, New Orleans
Alexandria Craig, senior bartender at Valkyrie in Tulsa, Oklahoma, came up with the Flower, a spicy, gin-based riff on a hibiscus lemonade. She includes cardamom in the drink (designed for a recent plant-themed menu) to give it a hint of warmth and complexity. “I feel like cardamom is used some, but not as frequently [as it should], considering how cool it is as an ingredient for cocktails. It adds an extra note that carries through the dynamic of the cocktail,” Craig says. “Cardamom is unique in a way that’s almost minty or eucalyptus, but it also has that black pepper note. It isn’t just sitting there—it’s throughout the cocktail without getting watered down or becoming too spicy.”
1 1/2 oz. hibiscus gin
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. hibiscus syrup
1/4 oz. honey syrup (1:1)
1/4 oz. cardamom syrup
1/4 oz. elderflower liqueur
6 drops rose water
4 drops salt solution (4:1 water to salt)
Glass: Old Fashioned
Garnish: edible flower
Shake all of the ingredients with ice, then pour into a glass and garnish.
Hibiscus GinIn a large jar, combine 1 liter of gin (Valkyrie uses Hayman’s Royal Dock) with 1 1/2 cups of dried hibiscus flowers. Let infuse for 20 minutes, then strain and bottle for use. Keeps
indefinitely, though the color and flavor will fade over time.
Hibiscus SyrupIn a saucepan, combine 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus flowers. Simmer over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. Squeeze 7 strips of lemon peel (from 3-4 lemons) into the syrup, then strain into a bottle. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Cardamom SyrupIn a saucepan, combine 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of water, and 1 Tbsp.
of cardamom seeds, coarsely broken in a spice grinder. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat and let infuse overnight. Finely strain the syrup into a bottle. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Alexandria Craig, Valkyrie, Tulsa