by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, LLCC
Spices and their certain combinations herald in the seasons. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves are mixed to make a tempting and aromatic blend that finds itself in everything from latte to linguini starting in September all the way through November. This combination of spice has probably become more popular than salt and pepper, or at least as autumn arrives.
A similar combination of spices are in one of my favorite beverages, chai tea. The history of chai goes back 5,000 years. The story goes that chai was created by a king, in what later would become India, to be a cleansing, Ayurvedic beverage. The Merriam-Webster definition of Ayurveda is “a form of alternative medicine that is the traditional system of medicine of India and seeks to treat and integrate body, mind and spirit using a comprehensive holistic approach especially by emphasizing diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing and physical therapy.”
During the holidays another alternative form of medicine is alcohol. This works quicker but can pack a wallop and must be used with caution. Like spice blends, certain combinations of liqueurs can create one super, tasty cocktail. One of the most popular martinis at my restaurant was the chocolate martini. It was cool and creamy with notes of vanilla and walnut that made them disappear just as quickly as they filled the glass.
The chocolate martini recipe below is always a winner. The chai concentrate is very adaptable to specific diets. I like to use coconut sugar as my sweetener, and since I have a lactose sensitivity I enjoy my chai with soy milk. This will also make your kitchen “stink really good!”
Chai Concentrate Hot or Cold
6 cups water
1/3 cup sugar, Splenda or sweetener of your choice
2-3″ fresh ginger, sliced
5 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 vanilla beans
3 star anise
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
In a medium pot, bring the water and sweetener to a boil and simmer until the sweetener is fully dissolved.
Add all of the spices, and continue to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat, add the tea bags, and let them steep for 10 minutes.
Strain out the spices and tea bags and store your chai concentrate in the fridge (it will last for several weeks)
Mix the chai concentrate 1:1 with milk or soy milk etc. Serve over ice or gently heat in a small saucepan until it reaches the desired temperature. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.
1 ounce vanilla vodka
1 ½ ounce Bailey’s Irish cream
1 ½ ounce Godiva Carmel liqueur
1/2 ounce Kahlua
1/2 ounce Frangelico
12 ounce ice, cubed
Add some ice to your martini glass with water and allow to chill while you make the cocktail.
Add more ice to a cocktail shaker and then add the boozy ingredients. If your shaker is the kind that completely seals shake it vigorously until the outside begins to frost – otherwise just blend all the ingredients well.
Empty the martini glass and shake out water. Drizzle chocolate syrup around inside of the glass and strain in the blended booze. Enjoy responsibly – they sneak up on you!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.