Dubai Desert Classic in a cocktail
The aromas of the souk, the warmth of nutmeg, the refreshing bite of citrus, a hint of creaminess… all this in a cocktail but…
…I like wine.
It’s endlessly fascinating encompassing history, geography, geology, agriculture, language, culture, climate change, politics, fashion and food-matching. Oh, and at times, it’s the most sublime liquid evoking a unique sense of place, time and overwhelming sensory pleasure.
I love the idea of them. I like the ritual too. The Bloody Mary on the plane (I know I’m not alone in this), minty Mohitos with your mates, the end of week gin and tonic, sipping Moscow Mules while wrapped in a fur blanket watching the sun disappear behind a mountain. The theatre and anticipation of watching the bartender prepare your cocktail heightens the expectation… which can often be dashed as you sip a bland, watery, sweet, underwhelming drink.
So when I met a man who said he liked wine but found it very boring compared to the infinite variety and interest offered by the world of spirits I was intrigued. Denzel Heath heads up the Bar Academy at MMI. There are two main suppliers of alcohol in Dubai, MMI and A+E, and both offer training to the staff of hundreds of bars and restaurants here, ultimately to foster loyalty of their brands and services. Denzel is like a whirlwind behind the bar and you can almost see his mind whirring through options and flavours as he decides which drink to create for you. He knows a phenomenal amount about his topic and recently hosted an entertaining and illuminating gin tasting house at my house. He also makes stellar cocktails.
Keen to learn from him, he’s come up with some gin-based recipes for me which fit into the Dubai calendar. We started the year with his tips on making the perfect gin and tonic. February is a big month for golf with the legendary Dubai Desert Classic. I’m the original golf widow, don’t play, have the sport gene missing, but even so thoroughly enjoy this tournament. Wandering around Emirates Golf course watching the best in their field then returning to the club house where many mingle with the members there, sipping a cocktail…
Dubai Desert Classic
So a classic cocktail with a twist – a Dubai Desert Classic – based on a gin fizz. This has to have three things: gin, citrus and something fizzy. Denzel added the flavours of a date-studded carrot cake and some camel milk for a touch of creaminess. If you can’t get camel milk where you live use single cream but it will be a little heavier. Laban works well too adding an extra touch of sourness. Camel milk is actually very light and this is a refreshing, moreish cocktail. Ophir is very scented and described as an oriental spiced London Dry Gin. As well as obligatory juniper it has a whole range of spices including cubeb berries, black pepper, coriander, cardamom and cumin making its aroma and taste warm and earthy, evocative of wandering through the spice souks in this part of the world.
- A shaker
- A strainer
- Long glass
- 60ml Ophir gin
- 30ml fresh carrot juice
- 20ml date and pineapple syrup*
- 15ml fresh lemon juice
- 15ml egg white (approx 1/2 large egg)
- 30ml camel milk
- Soda water
- Cubed ice
- Nutmeg, star anise and dates (optional).
- Edible sand (optional – see below)**
How to mix
- Put all the ingredients into a shaker without ice and shake it hard so that the egg white turns into foam.
- Add some ice into the shaker and shake hard for another 20 seconds so that the liquid is very chilled.
- Pour 50ml of chilled soda water into the Collins glass and strain the cocktail over the soda.
- Garnish with grated nutmeg and star anise. You can also serve with a side dish of dates, some edible sand (see below) and a parasol for that extra Arabian desert vibe.
*Date and pineapple syrup
Denzel makes his own syrups often using a sous vide but you can buy both date and pineapple syrups. For homemade I wouldn’t bother making date syrup – it looks like a real faff but here’s a very simple pineapple syrup recipe.
Crush 5 digestive biscuits (Graham crackers if you are in the US) into fine crumbs using a food processor or putting into a sealed plastic bag and bashing with a rolling pin. Combine with 2 tablespoons of Demerara sugar and 1 teaspoon of caster sugar.