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…..? 

Endlessly awesome: new things to put in your drink in 2010

The endlessly awesome blog Endless Simmer put together a must-read drink trends list, “Top 10 New Things To Put in Your Drink in 2010.”  Some fabulous ideas here for those who love bold and brazen cocktails, including:

Saffron (Spiced ice! ’nuff said.)

Mole – especially in the form of those lovely Xocolatl Mole Bitters from Bittermen’s.

Sriracha – a very cool idea, and one I’ve not yet tried. Personally, I think the texture of Sriracha is a little thick and ketchup-y for cocktails, but what the hell, it’s worth a shot.  And I’m forever indebted for the link to a how-to on making your own sriracha from scratch. Swoon.

Chinese Five Spice – the ultimate for glass rims and syrup infusions. Although I say why stop at five spices?

Smoked Coke – We’re going to be seeing a lot more in the way of smoky flavors in the year ahead. Just ask Ryan Maybee about the Smokin’ Choke.

Drink Recipe: Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

Technically, it’s still summer for another couple of weeks. So I’m hanging on to that last shred of warm weather-worshipping with this cocktail, the Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice. Why I like this one:  the ice cubes are striking, and then as they melt the drink takes on a golden tone and a hint of sizzle.

Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

This cocktail is inspired by saffron-infused cubes served at New York’s Pamplona restaurant, created by chef Alex Urena. I asked him why he infused the ice at all – let alone with saffron.

“It’s about the taste and the color,” he explained. “We chose saffron because it is very Spanish.” And why infuse ice? “Because the liquor doesn’t freeze.” Apparently, you can combine water and liquor together and then it will freeze, “but it won’t be as good as straight liquor.”  At the time, he was also experimenting with fruit-infused ice cubes too, making popsicle-like peach ice cubes to use in peach mojitos.

As usual, I can never have too much of a good thing, so I took his idea to double-dare level by spiking the ice cubes with hot habaneros! 

Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice

Yield:  1 drink

To make 1 tray of Spiced Ice Cubes: 

1 sliced habanero pepper

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

8 Saffron threads, crumbled

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boiling point. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about five minutes. Allow to cool, then remove the pepper and pour into ice cube tray. Freeze until solid.

To make one drink:

2 ounces gin (I suggest Old Raj, which is infused with saffron; or substitute your favorite gin)

4 ounces tonic

4 Spiced Ice Cubes

Pour gin and tonic over 4 “spiced ice” cubes in a tall glass and stir. Serve with a colorful swizzle stick.

© “Spice & Ice – 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.”  Photo credit:  Antonis Achilleos / Chronicle Books