Strong and well-flavored, this cocktail came to me through a friend who made it last year at Thanksgiving. So this year, I decided to try it for our turkey day festivities. It was a hit!
What my friend described at the time was a sort of a pumpkin-spiced cocktail, not unlike a Moscow Mule.
Her instructions were vague: “I made a pumpkin spice-infused vodka with cinnamon and cloves and ginger, I think. And shook it with pumpkin purée. And then finished with ginger beer. I think garam masala would work, too!”
Charlotte ultimately gave me more precise instructions, which came from two sources. The Chai-spiced syrup came from The Spruce Eats, and the cocktail proportions, initially for the Moscow Mule, came from Difford’s Guide.
I modified the recipes slightly to suit my tastes, and although the vanilla in the chai syrup recipe isn’t necessary, I do like to use a product that’s easy to find nowadays in France: powdered vanilla pod. It’s basically the whole pod – beans and long pod containing them – that gets buzzed into a tasty powder.
This one (right) comes from the supermarket, but I usually pick some up at G. Detou when I’m down in the Montorgueil area of Paris. Olivier, my favorite salesperson there, explains the shop’s different vanilla options so well!
The chai syrup will keep in the fridge for a week or two, long enough to make a couple of rounds of these cocktails, and the drink proportions given below are for one cocktail – just multiply by the number of people or cocktails you’d like to make.
The best part? This drink resembles one of my very favorite cocktails, Dark and Stormy, which also uses ginger beer. And with ginger beer now widely available – there’s even a French brand! – there’s just no good reason not to make this cocktail to brighten the holidays just a little more.
For the Chai simple syrup:
- 12 green cardamom pods
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger chopped
- ½ teaspoon powdered vanilla OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cocktail:
- 2 shots vodka
- ½ shot freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ shot Chai sugar syrup from above
- 1 tablespoon puréed pumpkin or butternut squash pushed through a fine strainer if possible
- 3 shots ginger beer
- Ice cubes and crushed ice
How to make it:
- Gather the spices and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Lightly crush cardamom and peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or by pounding them slightly in a plastic bag.
- Place cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan, and toast until very aromatic (about five minutes).
- Meanwhile, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small casserole. Lower the heat and add the now-toasted spices, ginger, and vanilla.
- Simmer gently for 3 minutes, and then turn off the heat and cover the casserole. Let this mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. The longer it infuses, the stronger it will be, so taste as you go.
- Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve and pour into a very clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- To make the cocktail, pour vodka, lime juice, Chai syrup, and pumpkin purée into a glass and stir. Fill glass two-thirds of the way up with ice cubes. Top with the ginger beer and some crushed ice. Serve immediately. Santé et bonheur!