Cocktails from the Middle East – The Green Zone

“Your prayers are your light;
Your devotion is your strength;
Sleep is the enemy of both.
Your life is the only opportunity that life can give you.
If you ignore it, if you waste it,
You will only turn to dust.”

– Rabi’ah al Adawiyya

I love cocktails, the exotic, and the Middle East. So last year, when I read about The Green Zone, a pop-up cocktail spot maestro’ed by Chris Hassaan Francke that utilized ingredients from the Middle East, I knew I had to head over.  Unfortunately, a misplaced credit card and car problems derailed my two previous trip attempts. Like clockwork, I came home yesterday to wash up and head over only to discover that the power was out in my apartment – perhaps some unseen force was trying to keep me away from all the cocktail goodness? But I wouldn’t be deterred a third time, and my determination paid off – the Green Zone is a great scene fueled by cool folks and delicious drinks. Oh and there’s music and dancing/drunken movements.

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Such revelry is to be expected when the drinks are so good – I drank the six featured cocktails along with a few, hazy extras, a requirement to achieve cocktail champion status there (WOOT WOOT). Liked them all and loved four standouts. First up was the “Winter Janissary,” named after the fascinating slave troopers of the Ottoman Empire. Made with Green Hat Ginavit, pistachio syrup, and lemon, I enjoyed this wonderful standout and its intriguing, nutty, and cool taste. The fun ingredient here was the pistachio syrup which I don’t believe I’ve tasted before – sweet and rich off of the gin, it plays so well with the citrus. Drank this beauty fast because it was so good. Next up was my favorite of the evening, “Down with Sectarian Regimes!” with quince brandy, quince syrup, mastic liqueur, lemon, and cinnamon. The delicious quince flavors lend a truly new taste that plays cool and full on the front end, then dives into some herbal softness with the mastic and cinnamon. That two-stage taste was the tops, and I really wanted another one, ASAP.

Moving on to the “Saz’iraq” with rye, demerara syrup, Arabian bitters, and sharqtreuse spritz. This was a solid take on the old sazerac, very heavy rye taste with a real punch, bordered a bit by the sweet demerara. This was powerful stuff, sip carefully. We got savory and rich with the next drink, the “Turc Noir” with coffee, pisco (!), turkish coffee liqueur, and cardamon. This was fabulous, the pisco, surprisingly, paired so well with the coffee flavors that I almost didn’t pick up on the usual pisco burn. Instead, it creates this warm, fluffy, and killer simmering and rich taste that I loved. A true standout, go get it, right now!

Alright, moving on, I had the “Bal ve Duman” which is hot fire. Made with Turkish honey, smoke, and scotch, I liked this savory and rich powerhouse, which is refreshing with the ice. Scotch comes in heavy in the second half, I thought, and the honey offers a nice, settled base. Good taste, good stuff. The final drink was a warm one, the “Wadi Rum” a great standout with tea, sage, smoke, and rum. Compared to a Bedouin campfire, this offers a relaxing and long kick that finds a great home in the herbal and sage-y bed. The next campfire I make, or maybe the next time I turn the stove on, I will make this. Good times at The Green Zone, excited to make my way back soon!

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