My Half-Century Cocktail Recipe

I’m doing a full court press in December to finish my new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” Deadline for going to the typesetter is January 2. So for most of December, I’ll be posting retreads traditional holiday posts, as well as a few cat pictures. Enjoy!

We invented this cocktail recipe for my 50th birthday (a couple of years ago — I turn 52 on December 31), and I like it so much I’ve made it several times since. I’m calling it a Half Century. It’s not wildly freaky or anything — it’s roughly a whiskey sour made with lime juice and cardamom simple syrup — but it’s awfully damn delicious. And it has qualities both of a classic cocktail and a weird modern spicy cocktail, which seems appropriate for the occasion it was named after. Plus it has cardamom! Nature’s perfect food.

Half Century

It’s just:

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. cardamom simple syrup (see below)
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Guzzle.

Cardamom Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup whole shelled cardamom

Bring water and whole shelled cardamom pods to a boil. (You can get the unshelled kind and shell them yourself, but it takes for freaking ever — for this recipe, the freshness you’ll get from shelling them yourself is not worth it. It is still plenty cardamomy with the pre-shelled kind.) Stir in sugar until it’s fully dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in fridge for 3 days, checking frequently to make sure it still smells totally awesome. Try to resist temptation to taste it. Fail. Luxuriate in the glory that is cardamom. After 3 days, strain. (I thought this was going to be a huge pain in the nuts involving cheesecloth and whatnot, but a smallish sieve totally did the trick.) Admire the gorgeous amber color. Lick the spoon. Resist temptation to take the strained-out, sugar-saturated cardamom pods and rub them all over your body. Experiment with different cardamom-based cocktail recipes until you get schnockered. Try to figure out correct spelling of “schnockered.” Spend rest of evening driving your best friend nuts with stories about how cute your cats are.

Happy New Year, everybody!

My Half-Century Cocktail Recipe
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7 thoughts on “My Half-Century Cocktail Recipe

  1. 1

    Brewing your own syrup sounds like a fantastic idea. I can see trying this with other spices: cinnamon, perhaps, or star anise. I will have to experiment.

    Is there any particular advantage to letting it steep in the refrigerator for several days, though? I would think that, once the syrup cools, it has extracted everything it is going to get.

  2. 2

    Oh my goodness Greta, you’ve just invented the perfect cocktail for me. Mostly because of the cardamom. I hope I don’t have to wait til my 50th to make this.

  3. 4

    I am confused by “whole shelled cardamom.” I have whole cardamom pods, and Penzey’s sells cardamom seeds (and all sorts of places sell ground cardamom), but this sounds like some third thing. Please help.

    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy @ #3: I think the “cardamom seeds” is what we’re looking at. You know how cardamom comes in these pods with a sort of fibrous husk, with a few seeds in each pod? You can buy whole cardamom in the pods still, or you can buy the seeds with the husk taken off. The first time I made cardamom simple syrup, I shelled the pods myself — but it’s a huge job for that many seeds. If I’m using just a little cardamom I like to shell them myself, but for that many, there’s no point.

    And no, you definitely don’t want to use ground cardamom. We tried to do that once, when we hadn’t made enough cardamom simple syrup for the party and tried to make some more ad hoc; but when you use the ground spice in the simple syrup, you get a nasty residue at the bottom.

  4. 5

    Vicki, the place where I buy spices calls it “decorticated cardamom”, which is a fancy way of saying “We cracked the pods and took the seeds out for you. You’re welcome”. Looks like this.

  5. 6

    I’m gonna try that! Cardamom syrup also goes great with coffee, a little brandy (or a lot…I’m flexible) and whipped cream. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. 7

    Another cardamom fan here. I think people get confused because there’s brown cardamom (with the dark, fibrous husks), green cardamom (smooth pods), and the seeds within the husks or pods. When I cook with cardamom I always start with the seeds within the green pods (I decorticate them myself); they are one of the principal ingredients in my homemade garam masala, roasted with other spices and ground. Also, the best commercial ground cardamom is made from the dried seeds of the green pod. You wouldn’t want to cook with the brown husk or the green shell (not much flavour and a lot of cellulose) and ground cardamom made from both pod and seed is of lower quality and price. Also, green cardamom (Wikipedia lists this as the third most expensive spice by weight) is the one you want to use for Indian spicy cuisine like curries, and for sweet dishes and drinks (including this syrup); brown cardamom is more common in South-East Asian cuisine (Vietnamese, Nepalese, Chinese), it has a smokier flavour that complements red meat dishes (and Indian cuisine so rarely includes beef 😉 ).

    I’m definitely going to experiment with this cardamom syrup, see if I can’t invent a few drinks of my own!

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