With the humid DC summer almost upon us, it’s time to start thinking about cool, refreshing drinks. Ayran, a salty yoghurt beverage, is one of my favorites to have in Turkish restaurants. Fortunately, it’s an easy drink to prepare at home, too. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with making it on my own and have become addicted to the stuff.
The first step is to mix yoghurt and cold water in roughly equal proportions. This sounds, and looks, unappetizing, as the yoghurt gobs together in the hazy water. Stir it together until it’s smooth and liquidy. Low-fat yoghurt works surprisingly well; if you use it, just cut back on the water a bit and substitute an ounce or two of whole milk for thickness.
Now you have something that looks drinkable, but it’s pretty bland. Add salt, Kosher if you’ve got it, to spice it up. Be liberal with it. The first time I had ayran I could only finish half the glass; it’s an acquired taste, but once you’ve got it the saltiness becomes one of the most appealing parts. Stir in the salt and you’re finished. Sit back and enjoy your counter-intuitively delicious beverage.
So that’s ayran. Great for a hot day, but what about at night? Is there some way to make this drink alcoholic? Given current events, the cocktail practically names itself: it can only be called the “nuclear ayran.”
Coming up with liquor that tastes good with a salty yoghurt drink is harder than naming it, but last night my creative bartender friend Sean and I took a stab at this unholy prospect. The salty aspect of ayran got him thinking about margaritas. Thus the first prototype consisted of white tequila, Cointreau, ice, and ayran shaken and poured into a martini glass. Here’s a shot from my camera phone:
The result? Not so good. It was improved somewhat by the addition of Agnostura bitters, but was still missing something. Also, the ayran and liquor tended to separate in the martini glass, so that had to go.
For round two we poured it into a rocks glass over ice, added a splash of soda, and muddled in some basil. This was actually a decent drink, but after all these additions and manipulations the ayran was no longer expressing itself. Next time we’ll keep the soda and rocks glass, perhaps muddle something spicier (jalepenos?), and try out a different liquor. The search continues…