Recipe Riff: Ginger-Kumquat Smash Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I’ve been on a bit of a fancy citrus bender lately, putting the squeeze on Meyer lemons for Whiskey Sours, slicing blood oranges into wedges to garnish Old Fashioneds, and juicing them to make crimson-hued Margaritas. So, when I spotted some beautiful fresh kumquats at the market the other day, my first thought was: Cocktails!

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Ginger-Kumquat Smash: ginger, brown sugar, muddled kumquats, dark rum, and a splash of club soda. (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Problem was, I didn’t have any kumquat drinks in my repertoire. But these little egg-shaped citrus fruits with edible rinds were just bursting with potential. Maybe I could improvise something.

I figured I should take a taste first to get me started – it’d been nearly a year since I’d had anything with kumquat in it. I took a bite and was instantly zapped with bittersweet orange flavor. Bracingly astringent, juicy, and sweet all at once.

Maybe I could try a new riff on the Old Fashioned. Instead of cocktail bitters, I could use kumquat.

I put some granulated sugar in the bottom of a glass. I tossed in a kumquat and muddled it before adding a shot of whiskey and a few cubes of ice. The verdict? Okay, but quite honestly, it really just made me crave a regular Old Fashioned. Next.

So then I tried the recipe with a small dash of bitters and kumquat. Interesting. But the bitterness was just too intense this way. Time for a different approach.

I hit the Internet. On the Leblon cachaça website, there was an intriguing recipe for a Kumquat Ginger Caipirihna: a shot of cachaça, 5 kumquats, a pinch of ginger, and some superfine sugar. This could be the one.

I made up a sample drink and took a sip. Much better. Fresh and citrusy, though maybe a little more summery than what I was in the mood for this time of year. I asked my husband to try it. With its distinctive funky, herbaceous taste, cachaça‘s not for everyone – and not for my husband, as it turns out.

I wasn’t going to give up yet. I wanted something with a deeper, richer flavor profile for winter. Maybe I could make something with dark rum.

Using the Kumquat Ginger Caipirihna recipe as a jumping-off point, I started to improvise again. Instead of cachaça, I used Gosling’s rum. I knew it tastes great with ginger beer in Dark and Stormy cocktails, so it seemed like a good choice to mix with fresh ginger here. I cut back on the kumquats, using just two fruits instead of five, muddling them with rich-tasting brown sugar instead of white. And I amped up the ginger, using about a half teaspoon of the freshly grated stuff, mostly juice.

I gave it all a stir and added a few cubes of ice. I took a sip. It was crisp and citrusy with the spicy heat of ginger and the boozy warmth of rum. I added a splash of club soda to mellow things out. Delicious. I’ll definitely be making this one again.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Ginger-Kumquat Smash
makes one drink

1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 kumquats
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (juice and pulp)
1 1/2 ounces dark rum (I used Gosling’s)
club soda or seltzer

Place the brown sugar in the bottom of a rocks glass. Slice the kumquats in half (through the equator) and remove any large seeds. Using a muddler or the back of a spoon, smash the kumquat against the brown sugar until the fruit’s juices release and its rind is lightly bruised. Add the freshly grated ginger, the dark rum, and a few cubes of ice. Stir gently. Top up with a splash of club soda or seltzer.

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.

(Images: Nora Maynard)