The “Edwina’s Affair” is one of those drinks that just about kills you. I had one at Dishoom in London last month and lived to tell the tale.
From the menu: The hush-hush love triangle of gin, rose and cardamom, in a secret garden of fresh mint, strewn with candied rose petals. Light, refreshing, captivating. 8.00.
It’s served in a small metal julep cup, polished perfectly to go with the distressed mirrors and breezy atmosphere that makes the Bombay-style décor of Dishoom so welcoming. I asked the bartender about the drink and he told me it’s based on a legendary love triangle between a British major, his wife and his Indian mistress. The gin, rose and cardamom representing each member of the triangle.
My drinking companion seemed to suggest the name came from a more recent political scandal involving a different Edwina. This Edwina is Edwina Currie who supposedly seduced British Prime Minister John Major (in office in the 1990s).
Well cheers to both saucy Edwinas for inspiring this delightful drink. The Evening Standard has published a recipe that seems a bit dodgy: 35 ml Bombay Dry Gin, 10ml Rose Liquore, 15 ml rose and cardmom syrup, 25 ml guava juice, 30 mint leaves, 15 coriander leaves (they mean cilantro), wedge lime. Roll the herbs to release the flavor, place in Julep cup and squeeze in the lime. Add all other ingredients plus crushed ice and churn with a bar spoon. Cap with more crushed ice, garnish w/ more fresh mint and candied rose petals, and add two julep straws.
This recipe seems odd for many reasons, the first being that 30 mint leaves and 15 coriander leaves is a whole lotta herbs. The second reason is that it assumes one has rose and cardamom syrup on hand or that one knows how to make it. How much rose? How much cardamom?
And candied rose petals? Friends, I tried. I tried Martha’s recipe and I failed.
But I did add dried rosebuds for the effect but they are purely aesthetic. Actually I picked these rose buds up for about two bucks at the massive Chinese grocery store in Sunset Park. So do ignore this recipe and try mine.
I had the memory of this drink firmly planted in my mind. It was cold, very cold thanks to the crushed ice. The strongest flavor was rose, but it was balanced so perfectly with the cardamom so as to not be overwhelmingly perfumy as rose water often is. There was certainly some sort of fruit juice. Now that I’ve read the purported recipe it makes sense that it would be guava. To me, the most obvious first step would be to infuse the gin with whole cardamom pods and to avoid using syrup all together so as not to veer into Cosmopolitan territory (that’s the infamously sweet drink with vodka, cranberry juice and Cointreau).
This is a girly drink yes, but it’s not oppressively sweet. While it may LOOK like a cheesy and ill-fated attempt at adorning one’s marriage bed with romantic rose petals, the sharpness of the cardamom and the vibrancy of fresh mint make it more distinguished. A sip of this drink makes you feel like a high-ranking official on the sub-continent in the 1850s. Rudyard Kipling in Bombay. In fact, that’s what I’ll call it.
Kipling in Bombay
or, alternately: a riff on Dishoom’s Edwina’s Affair
Makes one 4 ounce cocktail
10 fresh mint leaves
1 ounce cardamom-infused gin**** (you can go for a classic like Bombay or something floral like Hendricks)
1 1/2 ounces guava juice
1/2 ounce rose water
some sort of dried rose petals (optional but impressively elegant)
****Don’t worry. Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you how to make this? It’s very simple: just add gin to a jar with some whole cardamom pods (ground cardamom won’t do). You’ll use just 1 ounce (a shot) for each cocktail so plan to make at least 6 ounces if you’re having a party. Crush 3 cardamom pods per 1 ounce of gin (for 6 ounces use no more than 6) in a mason jar with a muddler or a wooden spoon. Add the gin and carefully and forcefully muddle a few more times. Cardamom is STRONG so your gin will be through infusing after two hours. Strain out the cardamom, discard and keep the gin in a sealed jar until you’re ready to use it.
1. Add the mint leaves (save some for garnish) to a cocktail shaker with the guava juice. Use a muddler to release the oils from the mint.
2. Add the infused gin, rose water and ice cubes, shake vigorously and then strain into a cocktail class. Garnish with a few ice cubes, mint and dried rose petals.
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