Indian cream liqueur doesn't go with Campari (and other lessons from Somrus) | Bleader

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Indian cream liqueur doesn't go with Campari (and other lessons from Somrus)

Posted By on 02.26.15 at 12:30 PM

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Last fall Burr Ridge resident Pankaj Garg and his wife Swati released Somrus, an Indian cream liqueur—the first product in what they intend to be an entire line of Indian-inspired drink products. In Hindi, the name apparently means "nectar of gods," which seems like a pretty high bar to set, but it does sound nice.

Pankaj Garg, a management consultant, decided to create his company—Sompriya, which means "dear to gods"—after noticing a void in the market (there's another product that bills itself as an Indian cream liqueur, Voodoo, but it doesn't appear to be available outside of India). Somrus has a cream and rum base flavored with cardamom, saffron, almonds, pistachios, and rose. I was given a complimentary bottle recently, along with a press kit containing a number of cocktail recipes. The liqueur sounded pretty good, but I was more intrigued by some unlikely-sounding cocktails. Who pairs a creamy ingredient with tequila? Or with Campari and gin?

First, though, I tried the Somrus by itself. It's very sweet and floral; the spices take a backseat to the creaminess, but there's a faint spicy tingle on the finish. The rose and cardamom flavors are the most pronounced, and I could swear I taste orange peel as well, although there's no indication that the liqueur contains any. (My friend was reminded of a Creamsicle, but that could be the power of suggestion, since I'd already said I tasted orange.) Liqueurs are usually too sweet for me and this was no exception, but its flavors are lovely, and on the rare occasion that I'm in the mood for a sweet, creamy liqueur I'd consider it a good option.

The cocktail suggestions are a different story. I only made the ones that used ingredients I already had on hand, which limited my options. I started with two of the weirdest-sounding ones: the Balancing Act, with Somrus, Campari, and gin (and rose petal garnish, which I skipped since I didn't have any roses handy); and the Somarita, with Somrus, reposado tequila, triple sec, and a rosemary garnish. Both are, of course, takes on classic cocktails: the first is a negroni with Somrus in place of the sweet vermouth, while the second is a margarita with Somrus instead of lime juice (both use different ratios for the ingredients as well; recipes are below). I'm all for trying new things in cocktails, but both of these substitutions are patently insane.

The Somarita (left) and Balancing Act
I was hoping, though, that by some miracle the combinations of ingredients in the two cocktails would work. They did not. The Somarita wasn't as bad as I expected—but it was still pretty bad. The tequila completely disappears, while the orange flavor takes over; it tastes a little like orange candy, but more astringent and somehow even more fake-tasting. Some of the blame could lie with the cheap triple sec I used, but it's not any worse than the one the recipe called for. Even with better-quality orange liqueur I don't think this would be a good cocktail.

The Balancing Act looked alarmingly (and unappetizingly) like faded Pepto-Bismol, and tasted even worse than it looked. The creamy sweetness of the Somrus somehow compounds the bitterness of the gin and Campari rather than mitigating it, making the cocktail taste harsh and chemical-like. I expected my palate to adjust to the bitterness the way it does with a negroni, but with every sip the flavor got worse. It didn't take long before I had to give up on the drink entirely.

I saved the most traditional recipe, Earl of India, for last. In a development that will surprise no one, pairing Somrus with hot Earl Grey tea, scotch, and honey worked beautifully. It turned out kind of like a creamy, slightly smoky variation on a hot toddy (minus the lemon), and it's one of best drinks I can think of for a cold night. I liked it with chai in place of Earl Grey too, but my friend found the combination too spicy. (There's one recipe I didn't try that sounds good: the Kulfisicle, a take on the Indian frozen dessert kulfi. I'm including the recipe below.)

Somarita
1.5 oz Somrus
1.5 oz El Jimador reposado tequila
.75 oz Stirrings triple sec
8 oz crushed ice
Rosemary sprig
Combine Somrus, tequila, triple sec, and four ounces crushed ice in a shaker; shake vigorously. Place the other four ounces of ice in a margarita glass, strain the cocktail into the glass, and garnish with the rosemary sprig.

Balancing Act
1.5 oz Somrus
.75 oz Campari
1.5 oz gin
Rose petals
Add all ingredients except rose petals to a glass with ice and stir until chilled. Place more ice (preferably a large ice sphere or cube) into an old-fashioned glass and strain the cocktail over it. Garnish with rose petals.

Earl of India
1 oz Somrus
.5 oz Great King St. Blended Scotch
.5 oz honey syrup
8 oz freshly brewed Earl Grey tea
Combine all ingredients in a toddy glass and stir to combine.

Kulfisicle
1 part Somrus
1 part filtered water
2 parts light or heavy cream
2 cups ground pistachios and almonds
Combine all ingredients except nuts, stir, and pour the liquid into popsicle molds. Freeze overnight. Place molds in a bowl of warm water to loosen the popsicles, and dip each into the ground nut mixture before serving.

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