Cocktail Challenge: Lentils | Cocktail Challenge | Chicago Reader

Cocktail Challenge: Lentils 

Natalia Cardenas of Balena makes a deliciously leguminous adult beverage.

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Natalia Cardena's lentil cocktail

Natalia Cardena's lentil cocktail

Andrea Bauer

Challenged with lentils by Blackbird's Mary Rose Braun, Balena bartender Natalia Cardenas started with the legume itself, making some white lentils (aka urad dal) spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and a little coconut milk. From there, she says, "I was inspired by horchata," the taste and texture of the cooked lentils having reminded her of the Mexican drink made from rice water. Her adult horchata calls for an aged rum infused with chocolate pu-erh tea, flavors she accents with mole bitters and cinnamon. The drink's punny name derives from a children's book by Roald Dahl (get it?).

(Recipe below slideshow)

Danny, the Champion of the World

1 oz spiced white lentils*

3/4 oz Carpano Antica vermouth

2 oz Ron Zacapa 23-year-aged rum infused with chocolate pu-erh tea

1 whole egg

3 drops Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

Grated cinnamon stick, for garnish

Combine all ingredients and dry shake. Add ice and vigorously shake some more. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.

*Spiced lentils

1/3 c white lentils

1/2 c Demerara sugar

4 cinnamon sticks

1 T grated fresh ginger

4 cardamom pods

1 T coconut milk

Combine and cook until lentil are soft, about 40 minutes.

Who's Next

Cardenas has challenged Lisa Selman of Little Market Brasserie with balsamic vinegar.

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