Category Archives: chile peppers

Spicy cocktail contest finalists

Did you enter the “build us a spicy cocktail” contest? In case you missed all the excitement, spice goddess Monica Bhide is hosting this contest to find the best original spicy cocktail — and I have the pleasure of judging the entries. So over the weekend, I made (and drank!) the three finalist cocktails. Here they are:

Poddy Toddy, submitted by Lamb’s Munchings & Musings

1/4 cup shots boiling water
4 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 teaspoon honey
1 thai chili, cut in half lengthwise through the stem
2 shots brandy
whipped cream
ground cardamom (optional)

Steep cardamom pods in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Strain, and stir honey into water, add the chili halves, and reheat water until hot or boiling.

Remove chili halves and reserve. Add brandy. Divide liquid between two mugs. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream, a very light dusting of ground cardamom atop the cream, and hang half a chili from the side of each mug.

Panaka Punch, submitted by Panfusine

1 oz chilled Lemon flavored Vodka
2 oz Domain de Canton Ginger liqueur
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered dry ginger
2-3 pods Cardamom (seeds lightly crushed)
1/2 a lime ( juice squeezed )
3 ounces chilled sparkling water or lime flavored seltzer

Muddle the brown sugar, cardamom seeds, ginger powder and lime juice till the sugar dissolves. add the vodka, and ginger liqueur along with the seltzer/sparkling water. Strain into glasses (rimmed with sugar if desired) & serve chilled.

Saffron Mojito, submitted by nitu didi

To make 1 cup of saffron syrup, boil 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water for about 6 minutes and add a pinch saffron to the sugar water mixture.

30 ml of white rum

60 ml of saffron sugar syrup
a few mint leaves
20 ml of lime juice
lots of crushed ice

In a fancy glass crush the mint leaves with the back of the spoon to emit their flavor. Add the rum, sugar syrup and the lime juice and taste. You can always make it sweeter, more sour or even more potent!!! add the crushed ice and give it a stir!!!!!!!!!!

and the winner is…..? 

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Filed under bar techniques, chile peppers, Drink recipes, Spice & Ice, Spicy spirits, Uncategorized

Chile Pepper Magazine returns!

Mark Twain once wrote, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

And despite my earlier “R.I.P Chile Pepper Magazine” post,  I’m pleased to confirm that Chile Pepper Magazine is alive, kicking, and now officially owned by a new publisher, Mcaby Media, a Houston-based company which also publishes Pilates Style and H Texas magazine. 

The April/May 2011 issue is now out on newsstands, and includes my article, “Bloody Good – The New Bloody Mary,”  featuring drinks from Cochon, Judy Bennett’s brand-spankin’-new book on Bloody Marys, and more. The issue also includes a fun article on BBQ by Southern food expert Kendra Bailey Morris as well as a slew of recipes from Andrea Lynn, who I swear contributed at least half the content in this issue. 

Although I’m not returning as a regular spirits columnist, I will continue to contribute occasional articles to the magazine.

However, while Chile Pepper  languished over the last year, a competitor stepped on to the playing field:  Last month Dave DeWitt, the self-described “Pope of Peppers” and original publisher of Chile Pepper magazine, unveiled a digital-only publication, Burn! Magazine. It’s still early days, but so far I like what I’ve seen. It’s lively, colorful and sassy. The first issue included stories like “Killer Bacon!” and had a recipe for Bacon and Habanero Infused Vodka.

What do you think…. is this town is big enough for two spicy-food pubs?

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Filed under chile peppers, Food and wine writing, Spicy spirits

Spicy Spirits: Belvedere Bloody Mary

I’m a sucker for hotel bars with history. So of course I couldn’t resist an invitation to a spirits preview event at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel, where the Bloody Mary was born — and where 5,000 Bloodies are served each week.

The spirit in question was Belvedere Bloody Mary, which will launch nationwide in April. Truth is, I know of a gazillion Bloody Mary mixes, where the instructions are “just add vodka” (or tequila, or other alcohol of choice). But this is the first spirit I know of where the flavoring is within the vodka, and the instructions are “just add tomato juice.”

Clare Smith, Head of Spirit Creation and Mixology for Belvedere (she was a brand ambassador before the term became ubiquitious) was on hand to explain how the product was made:  each flavored ingredient is distilled separately, and then the flavored vodkas are blended together. So the Bloody Mary includes seven different distillations:  fresh tomato, black pepper, horseradish, bell pepper, chile pepper, lemon, and vinegar.

According to Smith, the bottled blend is “recipe #37,” and over 200 flavor combinations were tried. The winning recipe includes equal parts black pepper and horseradish, and roughly 0.1% vinegar distillate, which “mimicks freshness without the hit of heat Tabasco would bring.”

Some of the flavors that were tried but discarded included habanero peppers, birds-eye chiles, green peppers, garlic, sundried tomato, and onion.

“The onion was nice on the nose, but it tasted awful,” Smith confided. “It was like the taste of onions the day after you’ve eaten them.”  Gross.  Thanks for sparing us that particular flavor. But knowing that all those flavors are in the Belvedere bank, I’m curious as to what blend might be released next.

So how was it? The finished vodka is clear — not red — which was a shrewd decision, since it can be blended into other drinks.  Tasting the vodka straight, it has a distinct black pepper aroma, with warm hint of  fresh tomato essence. On the tongue, it’s sweet, with a sharp, tangy finish (I presume that’s the vinegar/horseradish note), and a soft feel.

I also tried the Belvedere Bloody Mary cocktail (that’s it in the photo above) made with the vodka, tomato juice, Merlot, lemon juice, Tabasco, and a touch of salt. It’s a slam dunk in the drink — as it ought to be — and although I prefer my Bloodies with a bit more heat, the vodka surely should make for idiot-proof Bloody Marys at hangover brunches galore. (“It’s awful that the drink is relegated to one you drink when you feel terrible,” Smith said. I concur.)

I also tried the Belvedere Spiced Island Daiquri (Bloody Mary vodka, fresh pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup, a touch of smoked paprika). Unfortunately, this drink didn’t work as well — the black pepper and an odd vegetal twang come through where you don’t really want it.

Now, here’s the drink I would have preferred to try:  Smith recommended a dirty martini with a lemon twist. I can easily imagine that — super well-chilled, served with a briny/savory snack like smoked salmon on toast. Now that sounds like an appealing drink to me.

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Filed under chile peppers, Drink trends, Product recommendations, Spicy spirits

From Saveur: Boozy Hot Sauce

photo credit: Saveur

I was psyched to open the all-chef  edition of Saveur Magazine (Jan/Feb 2011) and spot, in big-ass, all capital letters:  “BOOZY HOT SAUCE,” with the accompanying photo at right.

This item, #25 on the “Saveur 100″ list, was contributed by Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country Barbecue here in NY. She describes this as “homemade hot sauce,” but if you ask me, this is infused tequila. Karmel says:

“I buy a half pint –or sometimes a pint– of the best tequila that the liquor store sells and pour myself a shot or two. That leaves enough room to stuff the bottle with red-hot bird peppers, peppercorns, and just a few pods of cracked smoked black cardamom. I put the top back on, shake it, and let it sit for at least a week before I use it. The longer it sits, the more delicious it gets.”

The  full recipe is posted here, on Saveur’s website.  I say bravo for toasting the spices (note: the recipe says cumin and allspice berries, rather than cardamom pods) before adding them to the tequila, and again — bravo for enjoying a shot of the hooch straight up. But in my opinion, a weeklong steep might be a bit much, even with dried chile peppers.

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Filed under chile peppers, Drink recipes, hot sauce, Spicy spirits

Two parties, two punches

Last week, I participated in two events, and punch was the featured libation at both. A few snaps (and recipes) to share:

Event #1:  The Holiday Spirits Bazaar – This event was hosted by The Dizzy Fizz. I was there selling copies of Spice & Ice, so of course I showcased a drink from the book, writ large in punch format.  I also had hot sauce available for sale, the hottest I could find!

Punch #1:  Sparkling Ginger Daisy Punch (click for recipe)

  
 

 

Event #2: Monastic Liqueurs & Cheeses – This was an event hosted by The Culinary Historians of New York, and focused on the rich foodways that monks have provided throughout history, and continue to provide today. The event was held at the National Arts Club, who provided the gorgeous silver punchbowl.

Recipe #2:  Alchemist Punch  The punch (recipe after the photo) showcases Benedictine, a liqueur once made by monks as long as 500 years ago. It’s not supposed to be bright red (I used blood orange puree since I couldn’t find mandarin orange puree). But it sure does look festive, doesn’t it?

Alchemist Punch

Alchemist Punch (courtesy of Benedictine)

Organic honey (50 ml)

Water (300 ml) (10 oz)

1 bottle of Benedictine (70 cl)   

Mandarine Puree/Nectar (500 ml) (16.6 oz)   

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (350 ml) (11.6 oz)

Fresh slices of lemons (2 lemons)

Fresh wedges of tangerines (3 tangerines)

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Glassware:  Punch bowl + glasses.

Method:  Start by diluting the honey with hot water in the punch bowl. Assemble all the other ingredients, stir to harmonize all the flavors, fresh fruits last. Macerate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Take the punch out. Serve in a cup/glass with ice cubes and garnish with fresh thyme.

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Filed under chile peppers, Drink recipes, Drink trends, Spice & Ice, Uncategorized

Just in time for Halloween, the Ghost Pepper Cocktail

At the recent Chile Pepper Fiesta (great write-up & photos here), I was shaking up drinks a few booths over from the Bhut Jolokia folks, who make products using the Bhut Jolokia chile pepper, also fondly known as the Ghost Pepper.

If you’re not already familiar with these bad boys, Bhut Jolokia peppers are waaaayyy up there on the Scoville scale — hotter than Habaneros, hotter than Scotch Bonnets, and allegedly, the hottest known pepper of all. The peppers are widely sold at Kalustyan’s and elsewhere, but the Ghost Pepper guys in Brooklyn were smart enough to package and sell them — and best of all, they make a Spicy Ghost Pepper Watermelon Candy. Oh yes. And it’s inspired me to create a boozy version:  The Ghost Pepper Cocktail.

Here’s the recipe. It may seem a little sweet – but trust me, you need a little extra sugar to help mellow the Bhut Jolokia burn. I dare you to serve this at your Halloween party this year!

Ghost Pepper Cocktail

1/3 cups watermelon puree ( fresh watermelon chunks, seeded and pureed)

3/4 ounce Ghost Pepper simple syrup* (recipe below)

1 1/2 ounce vanilla vodka

Juice of 1 lime

Lemon-lime soda

Pour the watermelon puree, simple syrup, vanilla vodka, and lime juice into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, and strain into a tall glass. Top up with lemon-lime soda. Serve with a straw (or two).

Ghost-Pepper Simple Syrup (enough for several drinks)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 dried jolokia chile pepper (aka Ghost Pepper)

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil, continuously stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the water starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the dried pepper to the simmering liquid.

Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Remove the dried pepper. Pour the syrup into a container and keep in the refrigerator.

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The awesomeness of Firecracker Sake

Last week, I had the honor of hosting Drink.Think, “the first-ever reading series dedicated to celebrating what we drink.” (Photos here)

In addition to the general awesomeness of listening to some of my favorite writers read about booze, wine, coffee, and more, there was still more awesomeness in store after the event. Author Ramin Ganeshram, who read an amazing piece about homemade ginger beer (and shared samples too – thanks!) brought along sustainable food activist and restaurateur Bun Lai. And Bun brought….Firecracker Sake.

It’s delicious – warming, sweet and savory, and faintly fiery in a way that gently builds up to a “holy crap!!” finish. Here’s how Bun describes it on the Miya menu (his sushi restaurant in New Haven, CT):  “aged hot chili pepper & citrus sake. painfully euphoric; contains over a thousand secret flavor components. the perfect sake to sake bomb. not for the meek.”  Painfully euphoric. Love it.

In addition to selling it by the glass and by the bottle (!), he also uses it in cocktails such as the Immigrant Cocktail (chinese firecracker sake, club soda, and Coca-Cola), and Korean Hongkee Punchu (fresh watermelon sake, cerveza (beer), and chinese firecracker sake).  As for me, I’m looking forward to trying it lightly mixed with pineapple juice, and maybe a splash of ginger ale.

I also have to flag the inspiring language in the cocktail description — clearly, this is a menu written with heaping doses of joy and humor….aged ume sake is “like a mouthful of sunstreaked ocean,” while the shinjuku shimmy cocktail is described as “a staple of japanese drag queens in kabuki theatre for centuries….england’s favorite schoolboy beverage since it was popularized in the nineteen eighties by singer boy george.” 

When was the last time a cocktail menu — or any menu — made you laugh out loud?

Ramin and Bun, thank you again for sharing with me the awesomeness of Firecracker Sake.

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Filed under chile peppers, Spicy spirits