Top Bartender Claire Sprouse’s Current Obsession: Single-Origin Turmeric
The sustainability-minded bartender behind Brooklyn’s new bar Hunky Dory can’t get enough of Diaspora Co.’s golden spice.
Just a few days before the inaugural service at Brooklyn’s new bar Hunky Dory, owner Claire Sprouse started developing a cocktail recipe designed specifically as a vehicle for an ingredient she did not yet possess.
Fortunately, just in the nick of time, her package from Diaspora Co. arrived with a jar of the company’s sole product—an intensely golden, single-origin turmeric powder.
Hunky Dory, which opened a few weeks ago, is Sprouse’s first solo project and a beacon of sustainability—the culmination of a years-long mission by the acclaimed bartender to promote conscious and responsible work behind the bar. She discovered the spice while researching ingredients that fit into her theme for the overall cocktail menu, in which each drink would explore a facet of sustainability. In this case, origin.
“We take our sourcing really seriously and we’re always trying to find ways to support ingredients that are high quality, but also very sustainable and have some other sort of added social value,” says Sprouse. “Diaspora Co. is a woman-owned, minority-owned, and queer-owned spice company. Their goal, as they put it, is to disrupt the status quo for current ingredient sourcing and the current spice trade industry.”
She began working on the recipe with store-bought turmeric, planning to swap in the single-origin spice once it arrived. When it finally did, however, she found that the turmeric powder was nothing like she anticipated. It was better.
“It completely changed the cocktail’s aromas, flavors—I was surprised at how much it tasted like fresh turmeric,” says Sprouse. “It was wildly more aromatic and earthy [than store-bought turmeric], but then also super floral which I wasn’t really expecting. There’s even a slight fruity note to it. It’s crazy.”
Down to the wire, Sprouse created the Smoky Mountain Song Bird (the recipe is below), employing mezcal, madeira, and lemon juice, alongside a turmeric syrup. She admits the process of incorporating the ingredient into the menu was “a bit stressful,” but, in the end, totally worth it. “It added this layer of fruit notes and this really awesome layer of earthiness. It really tied [the cocktail] together and complemented the mezcal.”
Based in the East Bay of San Francisco, Diaspora Co. founder Sana Javeri Kadri sources the organic, heirloom Pragati turmeric directly from a fourth-generation farmer in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India. The company’s goal is to work towards decolonizing the commodity spice industry by ensuring that farmers are paid well, treated equitably, and given power over their business. There’s no middle man, which according to the company means that farmers are paid up to six times more than the standard commodity price.
Also, unlike the bulk, commodity spices typically sold in grocery stores, the company emphasizes freshness, guaranteeing that what you’ll get was harvested and milled within the last year, and resulting in double the potency.
“As a cocktail bartender, I think we really geek out about where our coffee, spirits and wines come from, but we really undervalue where botanicals and a lot of dried goods come from,” says Sprouse. “For me, it has started this whole deep dive into exploring where and how I professionally source ingredients that we take for granted.”
Currently, the turmeric is available in various sizes, from a 1.75 ounce jar that costs $8 to a large, two pound “Chef Bag” for $55—marginally more expensive than the brands common in grocery store chains, particularly when considering its freshness.
“It’s cool to have this great example of something with social value that’s sustainable and that is accessible to a lot of people,” says Sprouse, adding that one of her goals over the next year is finding ways to make sustainability more inclusive. Finding this ingredient “wasn’t about checking any single box, but it was about how do all of these things overlap—deliciousness, sustainability, being owned by badass women. For me, that’s the golden ticket.”
As Sprouse continues her search for new and exciting ingredients to add to her sustainable arsenal, she’s also looking forward to more releases from Diaspora Co.
Kadri, the company’s founder, confirmed that Diaspora Co. plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in April 2019 prior to releasing its cardamom offering—and Sprouse already has plans to incorporate it into Hunky Dory’s cocktail menu.
“I’m really looking forward to having my mind blown,” says Sprouse. “It’s like the matrix—I got cardamom, but it’s completely not what I thought it was at all.”
- 1.5 oz Henriques & Henriques 3-Year-Old Rainwater Madeira
- 1 oz Derrumbes Mezcal, San Luis Potosi
- 1 oz Turmeric syrup*
- .5 oz Lemon juice
- Glass: Large bucket glass
- Garnish: Dehydrated citrus wheel
Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with pebble ice. Shake, and strain into a large bucket glass filled with one jumbo ice cube. Garnish with a dehydrated citrus wheel.
- 800g Hot water
- 400g Sugar
- 1g Diaspora Co. turmeric powder
Add all ingredients to a heat-safe jar and stir until the sugar and turmeric are fully dissolved. This recipe makes one quart and Sprouse recommends measuring by weight.