Indian thandai, literally translated as ‘something that cools’, is a sweet, creamy milk drink flavored with nuts and mixed with spices such as cardamom, fennel, rose petals, and poppy seeds. On Holi, the Indian festival of colors, the refreshment is traditionally served with the addition of bhaang (a derivative of marijuana). Here we’ve substituted gin instead, which accentuates the nutty, warmly-spiced, floral flavors in thandai perfectly.
- 1⁄3 cup raw whole almonds
- 3 tbsp. melon seeds (from 1/2 cantaloupe)
- 3 tbsp. poppy seeds
- 2 tbsp. raw cashew halves
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. raw shelled pistachios
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 10 black peppercorns
- 10 green cardamom pods
- 1 (1″) stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
- A few strands of saffron (optional)
- 20 rose petals, plus more for garnish
- 8 oz. floral gin, preferably Hendricks
- 1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, as garnish
- Combine almonds, seeds, cashews, and pistachios with 2 cups of water; soak for 1 hour. Remove and discard skins from almonds and pistachios. Drain nuts and seeds; set aside.
- Bring milk to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan. Add sugar and saffron, stirring until sugar is dissolved; set aside. Toast the fennel, peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon in an 8″ skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes; let cool slightly. Transfer spices to a food processor, along with the nut mixture, 1 tbsp. milk mixture, and rose petals. Puree to a smooth paste. Whisk paste into milk mixture, and strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids. Refrigerate strained milk mixture until chilled. Stir in gin and divide between serving glasses; garnish with grated nutmeg and rose petals, if you like.