cilantro

The bright, spicy flavor of cilantro has long enhanced the flavor of dishes in the human repertoire. A wild herb that dates from the Neolithic era, the leaves and seeds of cilantro have been used to make perfume in Ancient Greece, rye bread in Russia, beer in Belgium and sausages in South Africa.

Known in most of the world as coriander (or as Chinese parsley), this pungent herb is widely used in the cuisines of Asia, Africa, India and the Mediterranean. Spanish explorers, who called the plant cilantro, brought it to the New World where it quickly became popular in Mexican cooking.

The health properties of cilantro are manifold. Like many herbs, cilantro contains powerful antioxidants, and it also seems to lower cholesterol levels. Used as a traditional treatment for diabetes, cilantro has also long been known to relieve anxiety and insomnia in Iran. Also a digestive aid, cilantro seeds can be boiled down to make a potent diuretic.

From tropical curries to fresh guacamole, cilantro is a taste-making star that tingles the tongue with its zingy flavor. Perfectly suited for a warm summer afternoon, the following cilantro cocktails make the best use of this green leaf to bring new light to your favorite beverages. Buy organic cilantro whenever possible, wash the leaves well, break open that delicious zesty flavor and just try not to crack a smile.

All these drink recipes make one cocktail; increase the ingredients and call over some adventurous friends!

Cilantro Mojito – Replacing mint with cilantro, this refreshing Cuban cocktail is a sweet and sour island treat. Start with ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves. Add cilantro to a cocktail shaker along with 1 lime (cut into eighths), 1 tsp sugar and ½ oz. simple syrup. Shake vigorously, and then add ½ cup of ice and 2 ounces white rum (such as Bacardi). Strain into a highball glass half full of crushed ice, and garnish with a lime wheel and a pretty sprig of cilantro.

Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita – This drink is not for the faint of heart, but Mexican food lovers will adore the piquant beverage. Start by making cilantro simple syrup. Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan, and bring it to a slow boil while stirring continuously until all the sugar has dissolved. Just as the mixture begins to boil, add 1 cup of fresh cilantro. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and let cool (this syrup will keep in your fridge for about a month). Next, in a cocktail shaker full of ice, add the juice of one lime, ½ ounce cilantro syrup, 1 ounce Blanco tequila, 1 ounce Reposado tequila and 4 small slices of jalapeno (remove the seeds if you are scared). Shake vigorously, then strain into a lowball glass. Garnish with a slice of lime, a slice of jalapeno and a sprig of cilantro.

Cilantro Martini – With citrus vodka, gin and fresh ginger, this tingly cocktail is invigorating and a little wild. In a cocktail shaker half full of ice, add ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, the juice from one lime, and ½ oz. simple syrup. Muddle well, and then add 2 ounces citrus vodka (lemon or orange) and ½ oz. gin. Shake vigorously, strain into a chilled lowball glass and garnish with a slice of orange or lemon and a sprig of cilantro.

Cucumber Cilantro Cooler – The fresh taste of cucumber offsets the spicy cilantro for a cocktail that pops. Add ½ cup chopped cucumber (seeds removed) to a cocktail shaker along with a large handful of cilantro leaves. Muddle well, and then add 2 ounces vodka, the juice of one lime, ¾ ounce simple syrup and ice almost to fill the shaker. Shake well for twenty seconds and then strain into a lowball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a wheel of cucumber and a sprig of cilantro.

Image: Jamiesrabbits