Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. The mere mention of these foods conjures up images of a traditional Thanksgiving feast complete with all the trimmings. While many people choose to serve wine with their formal meal, I found a delightful cocktail at Rasika Restaurant in the Penn Quarter that should become a Thanksgiving classic.
Bartender Jason Strich has created a delectable fall cocktail he’s dubbed the Spiced Kentucky Pie. Jason’s seasoned sweet potato-based drink recently took first place in the Washington, D.C. bracket of the Domaine de Canton Bartender of the Year Competition. For his efforts, Jason will travel next year to French St. Martin to compete in the final round of the competition.
Jason came up with the idea while experimenting with ideas for autumn cocktails. He first thought about using pumpkin, but decided to go with sweet potatoes to create something a little more unusual.
The autumn creation begins with bourbon, hence the Kentucky moniker. At Rasika, Jason uses Jim Beam but also recommends making the drink with Basil Hayden’s, a light-bodied small batch bourbon. Next, as a sweetening ingredient, he adds Domaine de Canton. This French ginger liqueur is comprised
of Cognac, Provencal honey, Tunisian ginseng, and fresh baby Vietnamese ginger.
The principal component is Jason’s sweet potato water that he makes from scratch at Rasika. This liquid has a rich orange hue and is made by peeling and juicing fresh sweet potatoes. The extract
is then cooked with water and spices to infuse it with flavor. Jason’s unique spice mixture includes clove, coriander, ginger, star anise and black pepper. The end result is a flavorsome liquid
that tastes like sweet potatoes and maintains a good texture without being too thick.
The cocktail is topped off with a fluffy white head of toasted marshmallow that Jason toasts with a blowtorch and sprinkles with cinnamon. Jason uses a confection he calls “quick marshmallow”
forged from sugar, gelatin and egg white that finishes with a silky meringue consistency. Marshmallow
cream may be substituted, but the topping will not be quite as light and airy.
The robust bourbon taste shines through on my first sip followed by a distinctive kick from the Domaine de Canton and spiced sweet potato mixture.
With the whipped topping and opaque color, the cocktail gives the appearance of a sweet and heavy dessert, but in actuality it is thin and savory. As the marshmallow gradually melds into the drink, the flavor becomes slightly sweetened, but never overly cloying.
The cocktail’s overall appearance bears some resemblance to the tired casserole of canned sweet potatoes and marshmallow fluff that many will endure while dining with their in-laws. It’s sophisticated
and fresh flavor, however, are of no comparison.
Spiced Kentucky Pie
1.5 ounces bourbon
1.5 ounces Domaine de Canton
1.5 ounces sweet potato water
Combine ingredients in a glass and top with marshmallow. Toast with a torch and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Readers may sample the Spiced Kentucky Pie at Rasika located at 633 D St. Domaine de Canton, Basil Hayden’s, and wide selection of bourbons may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.