Coconut Ginger Caipirinha

This was one of the cocktails served by Audrey Saunders and Dale DeGroff at their Spirited Dinner at Commander’s Palace during Tales of the Cocktail 2007. Well, sort of.

The original recipe was a Coconut Water and Ginger Caipiroska, being made with Absolut vodka rather than cachaça. Still a good drink, but when I make them at home I swap out the vodka for cachaça. If you want to try the exact drink we had at the dinner (which was full of stunning cocktails and stunning food), just use Absolut and change the name to a Caipiroska.

Second Cocktail: Coconut Water and Ginger Caipiroska

Coconut Water and Ginger Caipirinha

1-1/2 ounces cachaça
4 eighths lime
1 ounce coconut water
1 piece of ginger, peeled, the size of a fingernail
1 ounce agave nectar or aloe vera nectar

Muddle the coconut water together with the ginger. Add the limes and the syrup and muddle again. Using the Old Fashioned glass the drnk will be served in measure a glass of ice into the shaker glass and shake well. Pour the entire contents of the glass back into the Old Fashioned glass.

This was one of the two best pairings of the evening, and a drink we’ve made at home since. I love coconut water (which is what sloshes around inside ripe and especially young coconuts, which we buy for a buck each at the nearby Filipino market, hacking off the top, drinking the glassful of water it contains and scooping out the tender, creamy flesh with a spoon), and I love to see it used in a cocktail instead of the thick, overly sweet cream of coconut you see all the time. The ginger’s peppery counterpoint to that was wonderful, and the mysterious element added by muddling the ginger with agave nectar instead of sugar as the sweetener was genius.

I was a little baffled by the use of vodka instead of rum, though, and I suspect it had to do with certain requirements that sponsors’ products be used throughout the event. I understand — events like this could not take place without the support of the sponsoring liquor companies, and bartenders and consultants often make a big chunk of their living creating cocktails on commission from spirits companies. That said, my personal taste runs toward having little to no use for vodka in cocktails, I think I’d definitely use a nice cachaça or white rum.

The brilliance of this drink particularly came through once the course was served:

Second Course: Rum Butter-Poached Lobster Calaloo

Rum Butter-Poached Lobster Calaloo, with Caribbean curry, ginger, okra, taro, sweet potato and house-distilled roasted coconut liqueur. Oh my Gawd.

Calaloo is sort of the Caribbean version of gumbo, often thickened with okra, usually containing a mixture of greens, and like gumbo can be done a zillion different ways. This one was a stew rather than a soup, featuring that beautiful, beautiful lobster. I learned the technique of poaching lobster in butter from Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry after reading his book (and eating the dish), and next time I do it you can be damned certain that I’ll be adding rum to the butter, and serving this drink with it.