During our occasional dry spells, it’s not just the booze that we end up missing; it’s the balance and the complexity. Few soft beverages have the same depth as cocktails, especially once you veer beyond the coffee and tea categories. Instead, there’s a categorical and monotonous reliance on sugar, particularly when it comes to options for something refreshing and light.
We went on a hunt for something that could appeal to this monopoly, and we found our answer in a rather obvious ingredient: salt.
There’s a longstanding tradition of spiking citrus-y drinks with salt in Southeastern Asia, as a means of battling intense heat temperatures (electrolytes and all that). In Vietnam, there’s chanh muoi, a kind of salty lemonade in which a salt-preserved lemon (or sometimes plum or lime) is muddled with granulated sugar and topped with soda. The salt adds edge to the drink, propping up both the lemon and the sugar in equal measure.
In India, jaljeera has a similar makeup, but with the specific addition of cumin (jeera translates to cumin in Hindi). The base of the drink is usually a spice mix (cumin, black salt, fruit powder such as amchoor, ginger and mint), sometimes with the addition of muddled dates or tamarind.
We took our cues from the latter, creating an inspired drink with with what we had on hand in our pantry. The date gives the drink rich sweetness, while the salt and cumin commingle to create a distinct, almost shrub-like effect.
Add the date, salt, cumin and lime juice to a shaker. Let sit for 5 minutes, then muddle well so the date is pulverized. Add ice and shake until chilled, then pour the contents of the shaker into a tall glass. Fill to the rim with ginger beer and stir well to combine. Garnish with a mint sprig.