Saffron is a beautiful spice that is plucked from the center of a crocus flower. Each strand is hand harvested from the flower, and it is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron has a sweet earthy flavor, and imparts a yellow-orange color into any dish it is composed with. It is most commonly used in risottos, Indian dishes and Persian cuisines.
Many of the chefs that I know are returning to comfort foods with a gourmet twist. Plated and composed dishes are pushed out in favor of familiar dishes with a culinary twist. As the consumer becomes more educated in culinary arts, the chef needs to think more and more outside the box. This has even extended to drinks. Long gone is the simple lemonade and vodka or gin and tonic. Mixologists are brought in to create signature drinks for customers, to set the restaurant apart from its competitors. Culinary items such as culinary dried lavender, fresh mint and homemade infused simple syrups are being utilized. I have even seen spices incorporated into drinks. Cardamom, cinnamon and even saffron are being introduced to the culinary savvy customer.
Saffron is the perfect pairing to citrus and simple syrups. The sweet, earthy flavor with undertones of honey blend well with the tang of the citrus and the sweetness of the simple syrup. Pair this drink with a paella or risotto with asparagus and lemon, and it will guarantee to impress even the pickiest of eaters.
Saffron Lemonade Recipe
- 6 cups water, + extra for saffron
- 3-1/2 cups superfine sugar
- 2 cups lemon juice
- 2 quarts ice cubes
- saffron threads
- 8 oz. Vodka may be added to make this an alcoholic drink
In small stock pot, bring the water to a full boil. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, melt the sugar without any water over high heat. It’s important to carefully watch the sugar; as soon as the edges of the pan start caramelizing, immediately lower the heat to medium-low. Gently move the saucepan in circles. Do not stir. Lower the heat to the lowest setting when there are only a few remaining non-caramelized pieces. You want a very light amber color.
When all the sugar is an amber color, remove from the heat, let sit for a minute (be careful of splattering when the water is added), then slowly add the boiling water. Simmer the liquid until all the caramel is dissolved.
In a mortar and pestle, grind 3/4 teaspoon of saffron threads into a fine powder. Add the saffron to the sweetened liquid. Add about 1/2 cup of water into the mortar and pestle to gather the possible remaining of saffron powder. (Saffron is quite pricey, don’t waste it!). Pour the saffron liquid to the sweetened liquid. Let it cool completely. Add the lemon juice. Garnish with the remaining saffron threads. Stir well.