I’m a big fan of the spicy flavour of cardamom, especially in gin, where it is one of the twenty most popular botanicals used. Given this enthusiasm, the concept of a cardamom liqueur really appealed to me, so when I saw one reasonably priced at the Whisky Exchange, I eagerly took the opportunity to try it.
This particular cardamom liqueur is made by Sikkim Distilleries Limited. Sikkim is based near the Himalayas in East Sikkim (India) and is the state’s oldest distillery, having been founded in 1954.
Sikkim make a varieties of other products, including spirits such as whisky, rum, brandy and gin (Golden Swan and Sikkim Juniper Gin), as well as a host of other liqueurs, from the classics, such as Cherry Brandy and Creme de Menthe, to the more unusual, such as Paan Liqueur.
In Sikkim and West Bengal, cardamom is an important spice crop for the economy. And Sikkim Liqueur (bottled at 25%ABV) use the distilled essence of cardamom to flavour the liqueur.
1) On its own
A light lime green colour.
Nose: Spicy, with notes of cardamom, as well as some hints of nuts, vanilla and chocolate.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth. Sweetness is then followed by the spicy cardamom, hints of cinnamon, anise and creamy vanilla. Very good, with a pleasant crescendo of spicy cardamom at the end. This is definitely a fine quality liqueur that is not too sweet.
2) Cardamom Sidecar
[40ml Cognac, 10ml Cardamom Liqueur, 5ml Lemon Juice - SHAKE]
Courvoisier (as well as other Cognacs) have spicy notes, which fit in well alongside this liqueur. Spicy and more complex than a normal Sidecar, it had a good, smooth balance. It was rich and had a slightly chocolatey finish. The cardamom does adds something to this drink, but it is more subtle than in some of the other drinks.
3) Green Gin & Tonic
[30ml Classic Gin, 15ml Cardamom Liqueur, 100ml Tonic Water]
A delicious, fresh and spicy Gin & Tonic with cardamom and hints of dark chocolate. The drink has a very slight green tint to it, which signals that this G&T is a bit different. I found that it worked particularly well with Plymouth or Sacred Gins.
4) Negroni Variation
[30ml Gin, 15ml Cardamom Liqueur, 15ml Red Vermouth, 30ml Campari]
Despite the extra sugar from the liqueur, the balance of sweetness is undisturbed and the usual Negroni flavours have an extra boost from the spicy cardamom. I’d recommend using a Classic Dry Gin for this drink.
5) Cardamom Collins
[20ml Classic Gin, 20ml Cardamom Liqueur, 20ml Lemon Juice, 120ml Soda Water]
This was a rather zesty Collins, with the lemon and cardamom working well together. It was tart and not as sweet as a usual Gin Collins (although, if you like a little more sugar, you can – of course – always add some). This would be a great drink to use to cool down on a hot, sunny day.
6) Old Fashioned Cardamom
This had a sweet, woody nose with lots of vanilla and cherry. To taste, it was smooth to start, followed by a rush of quite aggressive alcohol. Overall, it was dry, but it went through periods of a lighter, spicy woodiness, a herbal dryness, and “flashes” of a sweeter, fruity flavour. This cocktail was rather odd for an Old Fashioned, being so dry, but wasn’t unpleasant.
7) Green Grouse
[30ml Famous Grouse Spiced, 15ml Red Vermouth, 15ml Cardamom Liqueur - SHAKE]
Gorgeous – the spiciness from the whisky gradually increased along with hints of a sweeter spiciness, more like that of biscuits or cookies. More savoury, herbal elements appeared on the finish, along with cardamom, ginger and herbal notes from the vermouth. This had a lot of flavours, but they all worked together exceptionally well.
8) Green Spicy Lady
[30ml Classic Dry Gin, 30ml Cardamom Liqueur, 30ml Lemon Juice - SHAKE]
A spicy and citrus drink; crisp and very fresh. This drink is a great way to use cardamom-botanical gins, such Boodles, Sacred or No:209. It also works well with lime juice (instead of lemon). Well-balanced, being not too sweet and with a pleasant tartness and a long, spicy cardamom finish. Excellent.
Cardamom is a superb flavour for both food and cocktails, but cardamom liqueurs seem to have been overlooked. However, with quality liqueurs such as this one by Sikkim, there is no longer any real reason for them not to be used and I hope to see more people use the flavour.
Sikkim Cardamom Liqueur is available for around £11 for 50cl from The Whisky Exchange.