One sip of paan cordial and I’m back in my childhood, asking my grandma to make me some paan. She loved her paan, and everyday she would take out her little box of paan with the sudi (betel nut cutter) and prepare her chew. My brother and I would run up to her and ask for her to make the sweet chew for us as well. Hers had tobacco, katha, and chuno (lime), which she left out of our kid-friendly version.
Paan is made from betel-leaf, which I recently learned is enjoyed not just in India, but throughout much of Southeast Asia. The plant is a member of the pepper family (Piperaceae). It is closely related to longpepper and black pepper. Although betel leaf has a flavor all of its own, there is certainly a resemblance to black pepper in it.
I’ve always loved to try out different infusions and drink mixes. This experiment worked out well. It’s one of my favorite creations to show off when I have guests over.
It’s not a difficult recipe to put together. The only challenges are that it needs to sit for about a month to get the full flavor of the betel leaves. And betel leaves (paan), can be hard to find.
Where to Get Betel Leaves
Betel leaves can be a challenge to find. That said, I’ve actually found a few sources near me.
The first is an Indian store. That will take a little luck. Out of the 3 that I frequent, one of them sells betel leaves.
I’ve also been able to get betel leaves from neighbors. It turns out they are used in Vietnamese and Thai foods. They use it as a wrap for grilling, and they put it in curries. Since gardening is prevalent in these communities, if you have a Vietnamese or Thai neighbor, there is a not-too-unlikely chance they are growing some.
Betel Leaf is a pretty aggressive vine. This is good news if you want to try growing it yourself because it will root easily from clippings. I have a few sitting in water that I hope to plant outside soon.
Enjoying Paan Liqueur
I think of paan cordial as an ideal after-dinner digestif. Paan is already traditionally used that way, as an after-dinner mint. It is only natural that the liqueur would make for a nice after-dinner drink.
Like any flavored liqueur, there are probably hundreds of drinks you could try adding this to. To really enjoy the paan flavors, I think the simplest way is the best. Pour a couple of ounces over a glass of ice and top it off with club soda.
I also like it with lemonade instead of soda.
Paan Cordial | Paan Liqueur
- 500 ml vodka 2 1/4 cups
- 200 g sugar 1 cup
- ½ cup water
- 10 paan leaves 30g
- 6 rose petals dried (~1/2 Tbsp)
- 1 tsp fennel candy
- 5 cardamom pods
- 10 strands saffron
- 2 cloves
- Wash and dry paan. Chop into 1/2 inch wide strips.
- Dissolve sugar in hot water (not boiling).
- In a large container, such as a jar, combine all ingredients and seal.
- Place in a cool, dark place, away from light for 30-45 days. Shake every couple of days.
- Pour into your final storage container, running it through a sieve to remove the leaves and spices.