No themed dinner party can begin without the relaxing mood enhancer and conversation stimulator that is the specialty cocktail. Since India (outside of the big cities) doesn't have much of a drinking culture, I'm turning to Dale Degroff, the king of cocktails, for inspiration.

According to Degroff, in its day — during the 19th century when East India existed — the East India cocktail was similar to the cosmopolitan in popularity: Everyone enjoyed it. The mixture of cognac, pineapple juice, and orange curacao pairs perfectly with Padma Lakshmi's salty, crispy kahti rolls.

For the main course serve cold beer, a Pinot Blanc, sweet Reisling, or an unoaked Syrah. To look at the recipe for the East India cocktail, read more.

East India Cocktail

East India Cocktail

East India Cocktail

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces cognac
1 ounce orange curaçao
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
Flamed orange peel, for garnish
Nutmeg, for grating

Directions

  1. Combine the first four ingredients with ice, and shake.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, dust with freshly grated nutmeg, and garnish by flaming the orange peel over the top of the drink.

Makes 1 drink.