potables and comestibles

The Masochist's Mixer: Sampling the Habanero Vodka

Habanero Vodka Sample Last night I transferred the bottle of habanero-vodka infusion into the freezer against tonight’s tasting . . . very cautious tasting, I might add. It was nicely chilled when I removed it and held it up to the light.

The vodka has acquired a very faint orange tint and has become slightly cloudy with tiny, floating particulates. I decanted a small amount (about a half-ounce) into a shot glass. The smell is quite wonderful, quite definitely habanero with a faint sweetness.

M—— took the first sip and was immediately in dire straits. I had to fetch a salt shaker for her, and fast. (This, by the way, is a good tip: If you eat something that’s painfully spicy, don’t reach for your water glass, which is about as effective as throwing water on a grease fire. Heavily salted tortilla chips are much more effective.) Her report: undrinkably painful, but with interesting potential.

I took a sip.

Hot sauce vendor Dave, of Dave’s Insanity Sauce fame, claims to have developed his concoction as a method of “encouraging” drunken, troublesome patrons to leave his bar. I suspect this vodka could be turned to similar ends, or possibly used as a weapon for interpersonal combat.

My initial impression was of a surprisingly tasty industrial solvent. I was extremely glad that the sip was a very small one. It took a moment for the sensation of heat to arrive, but arrive it did. The powerful burning sensation was most pronounced on the roof of my mouth and my lips. The strength of the infusion had become much hotter than I expected in such a short amount of time. Even though it was not unbearably painful, it felt a bit as if my palate were dissolving. I decided to exercise caution before proceeding.

I fetched a bowl of tortilla chips and doused them with salt, then added more salt. M—— immediately began consuming them.

Thus fortified, I ventured a second sip. While the potency of the capsaicin is certainly foremost in the experience, the flavor is actually quite good, with a curious sweetness lingering on the tongue. The flavor melds quite well with the salty corn of the chips, and it does indeed have a lot of potential.

For any sort of reasonable use, this batch will need to be diluted. I suspect that around 2–3 parts pure vodka to 1 part habanero infusion will be about right for use as a drink mixer . . . this will make a mean bloody mary. (M—— indicated that it would have to be 3:1 before she would consider trying it again.) This could work well in recipes, as well. I’d like to try using this in a marinade for a fish, perhaps striped bass.

Oh, and I did finish the sample, sipping slowly. I’ve always loved hot sauces that were more than a bit too hot to be comfortable, and this brought back memories of sitting in my dorm room in college with a bowl of chips and a bottle of Inner Beauty Real Hot Sauce.

Post Scriptum: It seems that Inner Beauty, alas, is no longer being produced. Perhaps I’ll use up a few of my habaneros on this recipe for a home-made substitute.