Food and Drink

Skip the Dirty Martini and Opt for This Cajun-Spiced Version Instead

Cocktail expert Tiffanie Barriere shares her recipe for this savory drink.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Tiffanie Barriere, otherwise known as The Drinking Coach, is a bartender turned beverage influencer-educator. Some know her best from her days gliding cocktails to weary travellers in Concourse E at the Atlanta International Airport’s One Flew South. Today, you can catch her leading virtual cocktail classes, judging competitions, and sharing her recipes and boozy adventures on Instagram. And right now, we’re making her Cajun-spiced Et Toi martini.

The recipe, spurred on by a team-up with seasoning company Tony Chachere’s, was a “no-brainer” for Barriere. “I love putting spices in spirits because we always think sweets and effervescent but we never think savoury for cocktails,” she says. Tony Chachere’s also hails from the Opelousas-Lafayette area. “That’s where I grew up, that’s where my family grew up… So it was really nice for me to share my culture, how I grew up and that Creole-Cajun, south central part of Louisiana that people kind of overlook in the cocktail world,” Barriere adds.

Barriere is here to point to other parts of Louisiana, not just New Orleans, when it comes to fine cocktail culture. “Nothing against New Orleans-great city, such a vibe, such history-but there’s other surrounding cities and neighbourhoods and techniques and traditions that happen outside of it.”While she has a cocktail book in the works, she’s collaborating with other notable voices in the Black culinary world like Jubilee author-historian Toni Tipton-Martin for her upcoming book, Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs, and Juice: Cocktails from Two Centuries of African American Mixology. “We’re talking about that African American culture-everything from pre-prohibition to juke joints to slave kitchens.”

Tiffanie Barriere
Tiffanie Barriere
Tiffanie Barriere

For Barriere, it’s not enough to merely put ingredients and booze in a glass and call it a day. “At this level of my career, my craft is all about sharing cocktails and culture,” she says. “If I can bring in some nostalgia of childhood or, you know, college, high school memories, I’m going to do that because it connects with people right now.” This spice-kissed martini is a great example of that. (And the familiar-to-many Tony Chachere’s is bound to conjure some comfort food memories.)

As for which spirit you should use in Barriere’s recipe, that’s up to you. The never-ending vodka or gin martini debate rages on and Barriere recognises that it’s your martini, after all, so make it as you please. That said, Barriere is team gin. “Gin has that flavour profile we’re looking for…gin brings out so much flavour because of all the botanicals,” she notes.

You can garnish with the classic, the expected olive. “But ​​I thought about what other briny things you can have in the fridge and I love capers,” says Barriere, who adorns her Cajun-spiced Et Toi martini with those green, pickled buds. “Capers-they’re smaller, they’re cuter, and they’ve got a little bit of saltiness.”

Et Toi Martini

Cajun Syrup

Ingredients:
• 2 ounces white sugar
• 2 ounces water
• 1 tablespoon Tony Chachere More Spice
• 1 bar spoon cider vinegar
• 1 bar spoon lemon juice

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium until simmering and sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Transfer to a separate container and refrigerate.
2. Use in Et Toi Martini (below) or spice up lemonade or Bloody Marys. Get creative!

Et Toi Martini

Ingredients:
• 2 ounces gin or vodka (Barriere prefers gin)
• 1 ounce Cajun Syrup
• Garnish such as olives or capers, optional

Directions:
1. Shaken or stirred cold for 15 seconds.
2. Garnish with anything pickled or salty. I used capers.

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Rosin Saez is the senior editor of Food & Drink at Thrillist.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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