I’m sure it’s no surprise for me to admit that I spend a lot of time perusing the Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails book. I was looking at whiskey cocktails a while back when I came across a recipe for a drink called Banks of Islay made with an intriguing list of ingredients: Laphroaig 10-year Scotch, lime juice, cane sugar syrup, grenadine, and curry leaves. I thought the combination of the Laphroaig, which is very smoky, and lime juice was different and unexpected and I was eager to give this cocktail a try. I was good with having most of the ingredients on hand until I saw the 6 fresh curry leaves. Definitely not something I had waiting for me in the fridge! Since I couldn’t easily solve the mystery of where to actually find fresh curry leaves, I vowed to stay on the lookout for them and I put this cocktail in the file in my head labeled “Try this another day.” Last week I happened to be shopping a local organic market called Mom’s (located throughout the Mid-Atlantic states) and suddenly right before my eyes there was a bag of fresh curry leaves. I knew there was a Banks of Islay in my near future!
Recalling our discussion about Scotch whisky last fall, if the distiller allows peat smoke into the kiln or the malted barley grains are dried over a peat heated fire, the resulting product can have a very smoky aroma and taste. Laphroaig produces a heavily smoked Scotch from the Isle of Islay, and has been doing so since 1815. In terms of cocktail recipes, a smoky Scotch is often only floated on top of a drink (like in a Penicillin) rather than used as the main spirit as it is in this drink. This was one of the other factors that made the Banks of Islay so attractive to me. Fresh curry leaves have a kind of a citrusy anise flavor that pairs extremely well with lime. The sugar component in the drink comes from the simple syrup and the grenadine, both of which help to balance the acidity of the fresh lime juice. I’d been waiting so long to make this cocktail and I was not disappointed by it. In fact, as someone who loves smokiness in a cocktail, I thought it was absolutely amazing! If you want to give it a try and can’t find the fresh curry leaves, don’t be tempted to use curry powder instead. They are not the same thing. There are dried curry leaves on Amazon which would be closer, but not with quite the same punch as the fresh ones. If you’re near a Mom’s then you should be in luck; I’m also told that Whole Foods will occasionally carry them as well.
Banks of Islay Thomas Waugh from Death & Co., NYC
6 fresh curry leaves
1½ oz Laphroaig 10-year Scotch
¾ oz lime juice
½ oz cane sugar syrup*
1 tsp grenadine*
In a shaker, gently muddle the curry leaves. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice, then double strain into a coupe or a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a curry leaf.
*Death & Co. recipes available online. You can substitute regular simple syrup or a store bought grenadine as long as it’s one that is good quality from a small producer.