Hot stuff: Pepper Jelly Cocktails

I’ve been mulling this idea ever since I ran across the Rose City Pepperheads stand at the fabulous greenmarket in Portland OR last year.  The vivid colors and amazing flavors of their pepper jellies  (Thai Mandarin!  Hawaiian Jalapeno!) practically scream “mix me into a cocktail.”

Of course, jam cocktails are nothing new. In fact, they’re rather old: In 1862, mixiologist Jerry Thomas included a guava jelly-spiked Barbados Punch in his Bartender’s Guide, and in 1930, The Savoy Cocktail Book included a gin-based Marmalade Cocktail. More recently, UK bartender Salvatore Calabrese created and popularized the Breakfast Martini, which incorporates marmalade along with gin and Cointreau.

But that’s not going to stop me from playing with the pepper-jelly palette. I found a medium-heat, bright red pepper jelly, which I thought might lend itself to a darker, whiskey-sour style cocktail.

A couple of thoughts for those also thinking of tinkering with pepper jelly cocktails:

Know thy jam. Read the ingredients list carefully — garlic? onion powder? Think twice before adding these to a cocktail. Vinegar? Ok, maybe, but you might need to dial down the citrus a bit, since vinegar is an acid too. Be sure to taste the jam first to gauge for sweetness — you might need to add agave nectar or simple syrup.

Don’t lump it. I posed this question to drinks experts who frequent the Mixoloseum, and they had some great advice.

#1: To avoid a drink with unappetizing lumps, before adding ice to the cocktail shaker, stir together the liquid ingredients with the jam, and use a spoon to smush out any remaining lumps. Then add ice and shake and strain as usual.

#2:  To avoid lumps, dissolve the jam in other liquid ingredients before adding the booze, then double-strain for bits of peel, unless you like ’em.

Hot Pepper Jelly Cocktail

1 heaping tablespoon pepper jelly (I used Four Monks medium Jalapeno Jelly)

2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Spoon the pepper jelly into a cocktail shaker, and use the spoon to mash it against the sides of the shaker to break up any lumps. Add the Bourbon, and stir to dissolve the jelly. Add the lemon juice and ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass.

If you have a favorite jam-based cocktail, I’d love to hear about it!

P.S. What do you think of the photo? I’m actively trying to up my photography game.

A drink for salmon-chanted evening

Gimme salmon-else to drink, please.

Remember my post on 5 things NOT to put in cocktails?  Number 2:  FISH.

Enter Alaskan Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka, from Wasilla, Alaska aka Sarah Palin’s hometown.  Grossed out yet? No? Then take a gander at this quote from an article from The Associated Press on how this lovely item is made:

“Once the fish is smoked, the skin is removed and employees masticate the fillets.”

What??!?!?  Masticate?  As in chew it up and (presumably) spit it out?  I’m hoping this is an error, and they meant to use the word macerate, which is commonly used in the world of spirits infusions.

I’m all for umami in cocktails, but I’m sticking to my guns and calling “disgusting” without having ever tried the product.

But just to play devil’s advocate….I’m also including a recipe  from Salvatore Calabrese’s book, Cocktails by Flavor. His drink calls for using the actual smoked salmon, which I could see adding a pleasantly bracing brininess, dirty-martini style. If you must go the salmon route, folks, at least do it right, OK?

Sassy Salmon by Salvatore Calabrese

1 2/3 oz. vodka

1 piece smoked salmon, two fingers wide

1 small piece dill

2/3 oz. dry white wine

2/3 oz. fresh lemon juice

2 thin slices chile pepper

garnish:  sprig of dill

Gently muddle the smoked salmon, dill, and chile with the lemon juice in the bottom of a shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of dill on the drink.