Desert Rose + dusted garnishes.
I like to roll out a bubbles based recipe on auspicious occasions but the five year anniversary of this blog came and went without my notice. Let’s put things right with a tasty cocktail that I devised for the opening of a restaurant that never did (gee, thanks Corona). Well it did eventually but not in the way we originally planned. It’s a long story* but basically Jack’s BBQ Shack is now an (excellent) BBQ and sports bar specialising in beer and bourbon instead of a classy Middle Eastern themed eatery with crafty cocktails designed by yours truly. Which brings us to the Desert Rose. It’s handy to have a bubbles based cocktail for larger groups and events that is easy to make yet gives a hint of the establishment’s vision. Rose is a key flavour across the Middle East yet is seldom used in Western recipes and I doubled down on its delightful taste and fragrance in the Desert Rose. Now you can just use the rose water that can be found at literally every Middle Eastern specialty store (although some are more flavourful than others) but there is a way to elevate that rose flavour a little further if you’re the type who wants your drinks to really shine. And we are – right? Cool. So:
Get your hands on some dried rose petals – often also called “rose tea”. They are pink and feather light yet packed with flavour with those coming from Iran typically being the best. You do not want the ones which are still in bud form for this. We’re going to process those pink flakes in two ways. First we make a rose tincture by soaking half a cup (120ml) of rose petals in a cup (240ml) of vodka (preferably 50% abv but if using 40% extend the steep a little) for 3 days shaking at least daily. Strain through a coffee filter or superfine sieve pressing down gently with a spoon to extract the rosy goodness. I then mix this tincture 50:50 with commercial rose water to get the best of both worlds and call the result “rose mix”. The mix can go cloudy but that’s just a harmless flocculation that is fixed with a quick shake – it’ll keep for months without refrigeration. Yes, you can just use commercial rose water on its own but addition of the tincture gives a more natural flavour (the former can taste a little “artificial” on its own) and it’s really not a lot of hassle to do the upgrade – especially as your going to need the rose petals anyway to make some amazing:
Now, while we’re messin’ with those poor rose petals I’ll show you another handy trick. At first I sprinkled a few dried rose petals on top of the drink as a garnish but they tended to get stuck to your lips and teeth which is a bit annoying. In a madcap moment I threw a handful in a spice grinder** and spun it into a superfine dust. The dust is best dispensed from a container – such as a pepper shaker or cocoa duster – with very fine holes in the cap directly onto the finished drink where the aroma hits the guest like a rosy kiss and the dust is swallowed down with the cocktail adding its flavour to the drink instead of adhering to their pearly whites. The first time I rolled out my rose dust garnish the head chef exclaimed, “This stuff is like f***in’ crack!” It turns out dusted dried flowers are a super easy yet visually impressive garnish. The same trick works using hibiscus “tea” and probably a bunch of other dried flower based ingredients that I haven’t got around to trying yet. You can sprinkle as much as you like and I went in pretty heavy for the above picture but a lighter dusting is also quite classy giving a kind of gold dust sparkle that might be more appropriate for other cocktails where you don’t want to add too much rose flavour.
Not much more to say other than that the lemon, rose and pomegranate*** give the Desert Rose the flavours of a delicious yet bubbly Turkish delight. If serving more than a few guests pre-batch a mix of the first three ingredients and use a hair over an ounce per drink.
Into a chilled Champagne coupé pour:
0.5oz (15ml) fresh lemon juice.
0.5oz (15ml) grenadine syrup (made from pomegranate juice).
1 teaspoon (5ml) rose mix (see text) or rose water.
Add 4-50z (120-150ml) of a dry sparkling wine such as cava.
Dust gently with rose dust (see text).
Toast Sting and Cheb Mami.
*Which involves the first Corona lockdown coming literally the day before we opened!
**Often sold as coffee grinders but basically a little jugless blender with a superfast whirling blade. Not expensive and IMHO essential but never to be used for coffee.
*** As long as you use some proper pomegranate based grenadine – preferably a homemade one.