In a former hole-in-the-wall joint just over the Providence border in Pawtucket, a Cape Verdean-inspired tapas bar called Ten Rocks is quietly flipping a lot of scripts. It’s a bit more upscale than what its neighborhood was used to, for one, after transforming a dingy nook into something brighter and finer. Second, it’s mainstreaming Cape Verdean culture in a place that still bears its very blue collar, very blue-plate-special roots. And, last but not least, it’s garnered the first endorsement of a flavored martini that this column has ever put on record. Let’s pause while that sinks in.
Some background: Most cocktail enthusiasts and, ahem, booze columnists wince at “martinis” that bedazzle the drink’s classic formula of gin or vodka, vermouth and bitters. (See for reference: Chocolate-tini) The proper reaction is almost always a shudder – and yet, somehow, Ten Rocks serves up a tamarind rum-based version that totally charms. Named for Brava, one of the ten Cape Verdean Islands where tamarind grows wild, the cocktail is a heady mix of sweet, sour and a little sticky. Ginger and lemon keep it this side of treacly, and the homage to home is hard to resist. Even hardened-liver, hard-nosed critics can be swayed, it seems.
The anchor of this cocktail is a tamarind ponche, made by infusing the region’s local rum (called grogue), with tamarind. Plenty of DIY recipes float on the internet, but charisma and a good tip might buy you some in a pinch. Or, you could sidle up to the bar at Ten Rocks any night of the week but Monday, and enjoy their handiwork.
1.5 oz tamarind ponche
.5 oz vodka, plain
.5 oz orange-flavored vodka
Splash of ginger liqueur
Squeeze of lemon
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass, then garnish with lemon. Ten Rocks uses a wedge, but a thin strip of peel would work nicely, too.
1091 Main Street, Pawtucket