Cocktail Challenge: Asafetida | Cocktail Challenge | Chicago Reader

Cocktail Challenge: Asafetida 

Aaron Dexter of the Owl gets a whiff of "devil's dung."

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Asafetida­ is derived from the Latin foetida, which means "foul-smelling." Challenged by Jonathan Van Herik of Rainbo Club to create a cocktail with the pungent spice, made from the dried sap of the roots of the giant fennel plant, Aaron Dexter of the Owl says, "It's that kind of funky rotted-garlic smell. It's really powerful.

"It's also used in different cultures to prevent demonic possession, especially in Jamaica. They rub it on babies' stomachs so they're not possessed by demons in the middle of the night." And so Dexter christened his concoction the Preventative Exorcism.

Further research led the bartender to a brand of spiced pickled mango popular in south Asia that includes asafetida as an ingredient. He considered trying to incorporate the so-called "devil's dung" into a drink on its own, but "just holding it in your hand, it seemed like a very evil thing," he says. "I didn't want anybody [at the Owl] or any of my roommates to have to deal with the entire house or bar smelling."

So mango pickle it was. "The other property of asafetida is that it harmonizes sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy," Dexter says. "So I just kind of went really hard in all four of those directions to try to come up with something that was a cohesive whole." After a half-dozen iterations, he settled on a combination of dark rum, Campari, mango pickle, lime juice, and Angostura bitters, topped off with ginger beer, and garnished with basil and candied ginger.

"It's not bad," Dexter concluded. "I did the best I could with the ingredient I was given. I don't know that I'm going to race to put this on a cocktail list anytime soon, though."

Preventative Exorcism - PETER HOLDERNESS
  • Preventative Exorcism
  • Peter Holderness

Preventative Exorcism

2 oz Myers's rum
.5 oz Campari
1 tsp mango pickle
.5 oz lime juice
5 dashes Angostura bitters
Ginger beer
Basil leaf
Candied ginger

Shake the first five ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, basil leaf, and candied ginger.

Who's next:

Dexter has challenged Brian Bolles of Maude's Liquor Bar to create a cocktail with duck fat.

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