Kumquats are stubborn little buggers.
For starters, this tiny orange citrus fruit originally grown in Southeast Asia yields almost no juice. What’s the point of them then, you might ask? Especially when lemon, limes and grapefruits—by comparison—produce a river of vitamin C–rich liquid goodness.
Well, kumquats have an amazing flavor profile that sits somewhere between a lime and a tangerine. These characteristics can be extracted and enjoyed in cocktails in several other ways that don’t involve juicing.
The most common technique is to muddle the fruit into a pulp of sorts. Dimitris Kiakos, the owner of the wonderful Gin Joint in Athens, Greece, does this in his Kumquat Smash. I like to do the same in my Camparinha (recipe below), a twist on Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha. Also riffing on that theme is Travis St. Germain at the cocktail temple, Clover Club in Brooklyn. In his Smash of the Titans (geddit?), he muddles kumquats with fresh oregano and shakes this with Four Roses bourbon, sugar and simple syrup.
There isn’t a spirit out there that doesn’t find a happy place with kumquats, no matter the form. One such application requires cooking the fruit into a marmalade, perhaps with some hard spices. Then you simply shake this into a cocktail, such as a riff on the iconic Breakfast Martini created by London bartender Salvatore Calabrese, now at the helm of the Playboy Club.
Brown spirits also play nice with kumquats. Try turning the fruit into a syrup by boiling down with water and sugar to reach a ration of 1:1. Shake this into a Whiskey Sour with egg white, fresh lemon and your chosen dram and you have something sublime. Or if you want a more warming drink, use this syrup in a Hot Toddy.
If you find yourself close to Dade City, Florida, next month, you might want to visit the town’s annual kumquat festival organized by the local chamber of commerce. It attracts thousands of visitors, and the nearby town of St. Joseph is the self-proclaimed kumquat capital of the world.
Contributed by Naren Young
- 1 oz Leblon Cachaça
- 1 oz Campari
- 4 Kumquats, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 teaspoons Raw sugar
In a rocks glass, muddle the kumquats and sugar. Add the cachaça, Campari and crushed ice. Stir well, and top with more crushed ice.
Contributed by Naren Young
- 1.5 oz Gin
- .5 oz Cointreau
- .75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 1 heaping barspoon Kumquat Marmalade*
Garnish: Orange twist
Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
- 1 quart White sugar
- 1.5 quarts Water
- 2 cups Kumquats, cut in quarters
- 3 star anise
- 12 black peppercorns
- Pinch of saffron
- 1 tbsp. grated ginger
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cardamom pods
Add the water and sugar to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a low boil. Add the kumquats. Press down using a potato masher to release more flavor from the fruit. Bring back to a low boil and add remaining ingredients. Allow to cool and store in the fridge for up to a month.
Naren Young is a 20-year veteran food and drinks journalist and an authority on all things cocktailian. He’s created the cocktail programs at many of New York’s most critically-acclaimed bars and has been recognized as one of the top drinks writers in the world at Tales of the Cocktail. Find out more about Naren at forkandshaker.com or follow his rants on Twitter.