Llajua

The llajua is a cocktail with singani – a spirit distilled in Bolivias higher altitudes preserving its aromatic profile.

“Bolivia is famous for its elevations: El Alto airport is the world’s highest international airport, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake and La Paz is the world’s highest capital city (depending on how you define the term ‘capital city’ – Bolivia has two). In La Paz, the wealthiest neighborhoods don’t have the best views – they are located at the lowest points of the city, where the air is richer in oxygen. And it’s thanks to Bolivia’s sometimes unforgiving altitudes that the national spirit, singani, has such a unique flavor.

Like pisco, singani is a clear, unaged grape-based spirit. But Bolivia’s altitude makes singani a little different: the boiling point of ethanol is lower in high elevations, which means less heat is required to distill singani. This means that more of the grape’s aromatics are kept intact – and since singani is made from the notoriously aromatic Muscat of Alexandria grapes, the resulting spirit offers a bouquet of floral grape characteristics.

Singani’s unique flavor profile – light, floral and complex – makes it a natural team player in cocktails, and it can replace gin, pisco, tequila or light rums with ease. It forms the basis of the cocktail list at Gustu, the La Paz restaurant owned by Danish chef Claus Meyer that serves meals and drinks made from exclusively Bolivian ingredients. The Llajua – a tangy, slightly savory cocktail – is made using the excess liquid from preparing the restaurant’s llajua (spicy Bolivian salsa). This version swaps in a spicy tomato and locote chili shrub.”– Chad Parkhill


Excerpted with permission from Around the World in 80 Cocktails by Chad Parkhill, published by Hardie Grant Books October 2017. Click here to purchase your own copy.

Ingredients

  • 60 milliliters (2 fluid ounces) singani
  • 30 milliliters (1 fluid ounce) tomato and locoto chile shrub (see tip below)
  • 15 milliliters (1/2 fluid ounce) lime juice
  • cherry tomatoes, to garnish

Serves 1

Preparation

  1. Build ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake thoroughly to chill. Double-strain into an Old Fashioned glass. Top with ice. Garnish with cherry tomatoes.

*BARTENDER’S TIP: To make the shrub, place 1 cup white vinegar in a clean container with 1/2 ripe banana, sliced. In a separate bowl, place 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes, 2 finely diced Bolivian locote chilies (or 2 small red chilies) and a handful of finely chopped quirquiña or a mixture of coriander (cilantro), rocket (arugula) and mint and 1 cup white sugar. Mix well and cover. Leave both the sugar and vinegar mixtures in the refrigerator overnight to infuse.

Strain liquids from both sugar and vinegar mixtures, lightly pressing the solids to extract all liquid. Combine both liquids and whisk to incorporate. Store the shrub in a sterilized glass bottle in the refrigerator.

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