Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which along with Cinco de Mayo, make two of the year’s best excuses to get hammered early. Like other revelers, I’m looking forward to a day filled with shots of Irish whiskey and pints of Guinness, and harassing whoever dares walk into the bar without sporting any green.
This year however, the green I’m wearing has a deeper significance than it did in years past. For me, the green has come to represent the aspirations of my people in Iran, having become the color adopted by the renewed freedom movement in Iran. Green is also the color of Spring, which makes it all the more appropriate that the Persian New Year is just a few days away (the first day of Spring, March 20th), with the two-week long festivities having already begun.
So this year I decided to create a drink in celebration of the Persian New Year. The traditions of the Persian New Year, or Norooz as we Persians call it (which means "new day") date back thousands of years to the time of the ancient prophet Zoroaster, whose philosophies were the basis of the Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrianism, which predates the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam; ironic how closely related those three religions are, right?), was the primary religion of Persians until the brutal Arab conquest in the 7th century.
The cocktail I created highlights traditional Persian flavors and ingredients, and as you can see, is not green in color. Ultimately it was too difficult to make a green-hued drink without coming off as supremely corny and contrived. In the end I realized it was more important to represent culture and history through ingredients and flavors common to Persian cuisine, than to simply present a color, which could have easily been done with a few drops of artificial food coloring. But as we’ve learned from the environmental movement, green is a mindset before it is anything else. And that’s something I try to bare in mind in every cocktail I create, and that’s why you always see me pushing folks to use fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients whenever possible and practical.
That being said, behold the Persian Rose.
2 oz Gin
1¾ oz sweet lemon juice (not regular lemon, not Meyer lemon; see info below)
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz Cherry Heering (can substitute other cherry-flavored liqueur)
¼ oz rosewater
¼ oz agave nectar (can substitute simple syrup)
Tools: cocktail shaker, strainer
Glass: chilled cocktail glass or coupe
Garnish: rose petal
Place ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into your glass and garnish with a rose petal if you have one handy.
Those of you not familiar with Persian cuisine may be wondering about this thing called the sweet lemon—I’ve even seen a totally misinformed thread on Chowhound discussing this. Sweet lemons can be found at many middle eastern grocers. They may look like lemons but they don’t taste anything like regular lemons, as they have a subtle honey-like sweetness and none of the sourness that’s characteristic of both regular and Meyer lemons. They also have a very bitter pith, so rather than peeling and eating as one would an orange, it’s better to also peel the membrane holding the fruit, and eat only the lightly sweet flesh. You can also drink the juice or use it in a cocktail as done here, but bare in mind that as with all citrus, the juice is best when fresh.
Because the flavor of the sweet lemon is so subtle, I used more than I normally would when I use juices in cocktails, and had to be really careful with the other ingredients so as not to overpower it. You especially have to watch the rosewater, as it can easily dominate.
Rosewater and cherry are also common ingredients in Persian cooking, especially in our desserts. The combination of rosewater, cherry, and lemon juice is one of my favorites, most commonly used in a dessert called Faloodeh, which is essentially a Persian noodle-sorbet flavored with the aforementioned ingredients.
Cherry Heering can be found at many liquor stores (though you may have to go to a specialty or higher end one), and is still probably the best cherry-flavored liqueur out there. You can use another cherry liqueur, or a cherry syrup if you can’t find Heering. The same goes for the agave nectar. If your nearby health store doesn’t carry it, you can use simple syrup instead, which you can make by simply dissolving sugar in an equal amount of hot water, then allowing it to cool.
Now I must go get my drink on. Cheers! Sláinte (Irish)! Salamati (Persian)!
*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.