• May 4, 2017

Cocktail of the Week: Creole Waltz

Alexis Jesup
By Eric Twardzik

“I feel like there’s a rebelliousness that trickles through Peruvian history,” says Will Thompson, beverage director for restaurant group COJE Management and the brains behind Ruka’s drink menu.

You don’t always get history lessons from bartenders, but it’s fitting here: the Chinese-Japanese-Peruvian hybrid presents its cocktail menu as an illustrated booklet, with explanations delving into the history of each tipple.

One of these is the Creole Waltz, for which Thompson is quick to dispense a condensed history.

“Creole Waltz was an indigenous appropriation of a very European style of dance,” he says. “The Spanish moved the waltz into Peru, but then the working class took this thing that was just for rich people and blended it with an array of song and dance traditions, making it their own.”

Making the Creole Waltz may not involve dancing, but it does involve some very Peruvian ingredients. Yet pisco is found at most liquor stores, and if you don’t have a food processor at home you can purchase the mango purée at a South American grocery store (just make sure its ingredients don’t involve anything besides mango and sugar).

The aji chili pepper used in the drink’s chili pepper tincture is a bit more elusive—try that South American grocery store—but Thompson notes that it can be substituted with jalapeño in a pinch.

The drink’s signature garnish is Tajín, a dried blend of peppers, citrus peels, and salt. Thompson makes his own “Nikkei Tajín” with Peruvian ingredients, but for home bartending he endorses the shortcut of simply buying a bottle at the grocery store.

There’s also that light jasmine syrup, which is remarkably easy to replicate thanks to the cold-processed method Thompson employs.

The final product looks like an easy highball that could be gulped right down (and it does get a lush, tropical flavor from the mango). But the floral notes of jasmine coupled with a spicy kick of chili tincture render this a sharp, complex drink that’s more likely to be savored. The kicked-up acidity of the Tajín rim adds a whole other dimension to flavor: Try licking it off the side of the glass and taking a sip for an entirely different experience.

Creole Waltz
1 ounce Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star

1 ounce Macchu Pisco
½ ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth
1 ounce light jasmine syrup*
½ ounce mango purée
¾ ounce lime juice
3 dashes aji chili tincture**
Tajín, for garnish

Rim half a Collins glass with Tajín and fill with crushed ice. Combine ingredients in shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled, 12 to 15 seconds. Strain into glass.

*Light Jasmine Syrup (yields 8 ounces)
8 ounces water
4 ounces sugar
2-3 teaspoons jasmine tea leaves

Soak the tea in cold water for 24 hours, then add sugar and let dissolve. Syrup will keep one month, refrigerated.

**Aji chili tincture
1 aji chili pepper (can substitute with jalapeño)
4 ounces high-proof alcohol (Thompson uses Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum)

Break up pepper and soak in alcohol for 24 hours. Use eyedropper to apply dashes in recipe.

Brad Bahner