Uptown’s Spice Route

Salty meets sour in the Dirty Chutney at dosa by DOSA.


Find the Dirty Chutney at dosa by DOSA, 2301 Broadway, Oakland.

Photo by Lori Eanes

“Cocktails” and “India” rarely appear together in the same sentence, but here’s the funny thing: Mixed drinks actually originated in India. The 17th-century predecessor to the cocktail was an Indian communal drink known to us as “punch,” from the Sanskrit word panc meaning “five,” so named because it was made from five ingredients: distilled spirits, sugar, citrus, spices, and water. And history’s first individual cocktail — the gin and tonic — also originated in colonial-era India as an anti-malaria potion.

So it makes perfect sense that dosa by DOSA, the new Oakland incarnation of San Francisco’s avant garde South Indian eatery DOSA, has an extensive cocktail selection to complement its array of highly praised subcontinental street food, such as prawn masala roti wraps and vada pav potato sliders. Each and every cocktail foregrounds the “spice” part of panc, with Indian flavors at the center of such concoctions as the Fenugreek Molecule and the Chickpea Sour (featuring coriander and aquafaba).

Bar Manager Nora Furst, recently of Lolinda and Delarosa, is the mastermind behind this drinkable spice market.

“The building of flavors through spice is a very new and exciting thing we are playing with for this menu,” Furst explained. “A few items that were new to me are jaggery, meti leaves, and black cardamom — all very exciting and unique ingredients with distinct and complex flavors.”

Her Dirty Chutney cocktail — “dirty” being bar-jargon for “savory” — bravely marries Western spirits and Indian flavors without any sweetness to mollify the intense salty/sour pungency. Unique to this cocktail is kalonji oil, pressed from pinhead-sized, jet-black nigella sativa seeds and exploding with an Indian taste matrix that defies any English-language summation.

If it all becomes too intense, dosa by DOSA also offers up an ice-cold sweet curry-topped cocktail slushie to cool the palate — perhaps as an after-cocktail cocktail.



The Dirty Chutney


1.5 ounces gin or vodka

.75 ounce blanc vermouth

2 dashes celery bitters

1 drop saline solution


Stir over ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass. Express and discard lemon peel. Add 3 drops kalonji oil to surface. Garnish with pickled mango on a bar pick.

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