Gin & Tonic Cheesecake

I spent the long weekend with a selfish agenda— to celebrate MY birthday! This was the first time in four years that I was back home and so a classic “at home” birthday with the fam was set in motion for this past Sunday— a day before my actual birthday. My birthday (or the days around it rather) has never really had bad weather. It's the perfect winter time with a bright sun, clear skies (even in Delhi!), and temperatures warm enough that a lunch outside supplemented by some drinks, is enough to keep you warm. With the venue set, my parents and I began thinking of what we will make. Our final menu was an amalgamation of all our strengths combined. Mom was in charge of the vegetarian main course: paneer koftas in a cashew curry with cumin rice, while dad made a lamb biryani with the lamb slow cooked and then smoked, with cooked saffron rice, and I made two boozy birthday cakes - a classic tiramisu with Old Monk rum and a Gin & Tonic Cheesecake made with a hobnob crust, gin soaked lemon rind, and vanilla bean paste. 

Now, people who know me know that I’m not a fan of desserts and neither do I currently have a functioning oven. However, I wanted the challenge of being in charge of something that kind of epitomizes a birthday. The metaphorical cherry on top, so to say. The other reason was that one of our go-to cakes for any occasion was either a blueberry cheesecake or tiramisu from a bakery at Galaxy Hotel in Gurgaon. In a way, I wanted to recreate those desserts but with my own twist.

The Gin and Tonic Cheesecake came from my incessant push to infuse gin into everything I make. I find (good) gin to be very delicate: neutral with floral overtones — almost like what a vodka infused with flowers might taste like. While cooked vodka has a smoky flavor, cooked gin loses most of its flavor but helps bring out nuances in the food it surrounds. I felt compelled to find what uncooked gin might do to food. It took me some time to understand how I will go about this recipe, with the biggest challenge being not knowing what it would actually taste like. While I call it a Gin and Tonic cheesecake, I’ll let you in on a sad fact: there is no tonic in this. I add some salt to get that classic flavor (though there could be other ways to get that). I use lemon rind and soak it in a sweet slurry made with sugar and good (read: expensive) gin. I create the floral aromatics by using lemon rind and a vanilla bean paste, though I do think a rose essence might help too. 

I am not going to lie, this cheesecake was not my best. Though, to be honest this was my second attempt at cheesecake. The first being a Red Velvet Oreo Cheesecake that I made with Hannah in Michigan which was quite honestly, amazing. I do believe that a constant effort in recreating this would result in something amazing. Although, no one but I have even remotely critiqued this dish or mumbled anything while secretly eating it and hunching over the fridge with a cold knife that now resides with the cake tin in the fridge.  

I do hope you give this recipe a try, make your own changes to it, and share them with me!

Full Cheesecake

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For the base

150 grams of graham crackers / hobnobs

150 grams of unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ginger powder

For the filling

Rind of 1 lemon, medium

60ml good quality gin, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray both work well 

2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste

200 grams of cream cheese 

200 grams of mascarpone cheese

150 ml of heavy cream 

1 cup of icing sugar


Step 1

Start by soaking lemon rinds in gin and adding 50 grams of icing sugar. Mix well and keep aside.

Step 2 

Make the base by blitzing hobnobs with melted butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a food processor and pressing down in a well greased spring form tin. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Step 3 

Take all of the remaining ingredients for the filling and begin to mix using your hand or a mixer on high. As you incorporate air, slowly add the gin-rind mix. Taste as you go along. 

Step 4

Take out your tin and pour in the filling and refrigerate without covering for 6 hours or overnight if possible.