How This Mystery Ingredient Helps Make the Perfect Caribbean Cocktail

Photo by Nigel Spence. Cocktail as replicated by Gavin - Bartender at the Boardwalk Village in Negril.
By

By Nigel Spence
CJ Contributor

Have you ever woken up with a particular craving and nothing you eat or drink throughout the day satisfies you until you get exactly what you are craving?  Well, that was me the other day. I could picture it, could almost taste it, could not rest until I got it and it had to be done just right…

This was not a commodity you could find easily as the season was over in March and if you did manage to find some leftovers, not all are created equal.  But I was determined – I had no choice if I was ever going to find peace within.

Back in the day, this would never have been an issue.  All I had to do was wait until I reached school, then during lunch break join the rest of the group and “stone” the two huge trees we had on property.  Of course, keeping a lookout for teachers and the general powers that be, only made gathering the spoils even sweeter.  I would gather enough bunches for eating on the spot as well as to take home and eat again.

Besides being caught by the Principal or a teacher, the other entity with which I had to keep a sharp eye was a tiny, little competitor – Ants!  Mek one or more ah those drop in your shirt back…Elephant Man or Beenie Man (singer/artistes) woulda have a new dance – ha! Those teeny weenie critters were always present on that particular tree.  They knew a good thing when they tasted it – Sweet and meaty – yaass!

By now I bet you have tried guessing as to which fruit tree I am referring, right?  Mango?  Nope … guess again.  Did I hear plums?  Nah – not that either.

Anyway, the story goes on.  Now you know as a child you don’t pay much attention to warnings or advice; in other words actions that are meant to protect you.  Well, it wasn’t so much that I was in danger, but had I heeded the advice earlier, it would have saved a lot of aah … uncomfortable moments, to put it delicately (LOL).  I was told one of the good uses of this particular fruit is to act as a laxative when over indulged. Okay, so I proved the theory correct, over and over and over again!  That never stopped me though – I kept right on truckin’.

Over the years, I developed a greater respect for this fruit as I learned more about it and the ways in which it could be utilized.  For instance, it is written that mixing it with water and some salt then placing it on sprained or swollen areas reduces inflammation and pain. It is even said to heal fractures, eliminate body odor, treat and cure jaundice and flatulence and even fevers.

Another use is to free nasal and chest congestions when made in a hot soup from the concentrated extract and blended with fresh black pepper and salt.  I don’t know if Scurvy is a thing of the past as I only remember it mentioned in books about pirates and slave ships – but in case it is still around, this fruit is said to cure it as it is high in Vitamin C. It is also alleged to rid children of stomach worms – I am sure I must be worm-less with the amount I have consumed over the years.  I could go on and on but I will save some for another time.

Okay, have you figured out the fruit yet?  Alright, you can stop scratching your heads now. Time to reveal.

I use it to make a sweet and sour candy sometimes; I use it in my spice rub to pump up the flavor on meats and poultry and other culinary creations; I eat it in its natural form and now use the pulp in my latest, sought-after, mixed-drink concoction…the thing I have been craving all week … TAMARIND – surprised?

Did you know that tamarind is the main ingredient in our “browning” sauce? Ever wonder why your Worcestershire sauce would make nice on your meat dishes?  Tamarind is the secret ingredient.  Well all this talk about it has only served to heighten my cravings…luckily I have some I was saving to make another batch of my thirst-quenching, crowd-pleasing cocktail. Why not join me for a drink?  Here’s the recipe below…go ahead and blend it up and tell me what you think.

Cheers!

REMEMBER TO FORGET COCKTAIL

2 parts Tamarind concentrate
1.5 parts Spiced Dark Rum
1 part Ginger syrup
1 part Triple Sec
Dash of Bitters

Shake well and pour into rocks glass with lots of ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for three years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cookoffs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show, Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.