My awesome friend and bourbon buddy Sam came to band practice a few weeks ago toting a mason jar with what I assumed was alcohol in it. I accepted this gift curiously from her, swirling the deep golden liquid and noting the way it clung to the sides of the jar – whatever it was had some sweetness to it.
Still unsure of what I was holding, I unscrewed the lid to take a whiff. Peanuts. The stuff smelled gloriously and pungently of roasted peanuts.
I took a sip. It tasted of the delicious sugary peanut butter you might find in the middle of Reese's Pieces candy, which I would personally be happy to eat out of a tub with a spoon but isn't for everyone.
As it turned out, Sam had recently gone to SoCal, and despite being there on business, she found some time to scour the local whiskey scene (as one does). A bottle of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey found its way back home with her, and knowing how much I love unique and hard-to-find booze, she cracked open her precious souvenir and brought some over for yours truly.
I couldn't repay such selflessness by mixing it into my hot cocoa and calling it a day, could I? It wouldn't remotely meet the standards of the tattooed hipster dudes who apparently enjoy it straight, downing shots during breaks at the International Fedora Wearer Conference. Besides, what better challenge for this here blog than to invent something cool with it? (Do hipsters even say "cool?" I'm far too old to know.)
And with that, I let the idea marinate for a few weeks. Chocolate? Banana? Chocolate banana? PB&J? All too easy. I briefly considered a new take on the Torito, one of the most delicious drinks in the universe as far as I'm concerned, and may still pursue that angle, but the foodie in me ultimately took over and decided that Thai cuisine would be our inspiration.
A quick review of the contents of my refrigerator produced Calvit's ginger and lemongrass shrub mix, homemade ginger simple syrup, fresh basil, and limes (just some everyday staples). My gaze lingered on a bottle of Pad Thai sauce for just a moment before I came to my senses. "Gross, no way," I said, and promptly shut the door.
I checked the liquor shelf. Sitting under a layer of dust was a bottle of Blaum Bros. Hellfyre – it's really good, I swear, but seriously, what does one do with hot pepper-infused vodka outside of a Bloody Mary? Add some heat to a Thai-inspired concoction, apparently.
Now, these are some really strong flavors – not exactly the makings of a palatable martini, for example. The shrub mix is meant to be mixed with something watery anyway, so I filled a Tom Collins glass with ice, fizzed up some soda with my SodaStream, and got to work.
Sour, sugar, fresh herbs, soda... I thumbed through my trusty PDT cocktail book, and without even consciously thinking about it, found myself looking at a Mojito recipe.
Not "enough" of anything except the Hellfyre, really – not sweet enough, not sour enough, not peanutty enough, a bit too much hot pepper, and it needed way too much ice/soda to properly fill out the glass.
For the second pass, I evened out the Hellfyre and Skrewball, brought the ginger simple syrup back out of the fridge, upped the lime juice, and mixed up the shrub properly with the soda to splash in at the end vs. including the concentrated shrub mix in the cocktail proper.
Much better, but it was still missing something.
I opened the refrigerator and lifted the Pad Thai sauce off the shelf, turning the bottle to peer at the ingredients. Water, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind, vinegar, salt. "CONTAINS ANCHOVY" – disgusting, was I really considering this?
"God hates a coward," I heard my father-in-law say, and with that imaginary pep talk, I threw a splash into my drink, stirred, and took a cautious sip.
The "something missing" – whatever it was – wasn't missing anymore.
Pad Thai Mojito (for Sam!)1 oz. Blaum Bros. Hellfyre Vodka
1 oz. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
.5 oz. ginger-infused simple syrup
.75 oz. lime juice
.25 oz. King of Siam Pad Thai Sauce
Calvit's Ginger + Lemongrass shrub (prepare by mixing 1 oz. concentrate with 5 oz. soda)
10 fresh basil leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
Muddle simple syrup, lime juice and basil leaves in an otherwise empty cocktail shaker. Add ice, vodka, whiskey, and Pad Thai sauce, and shake vigorously.
Strain into a Tom Collins glass filled with crushed ice, top with shrub soda. Garnish with lime wheel and basil sprig.
Ideas for future tweaking:
- Use regular fish or oyster sauce and add grated fresh tamarind when infusing the simple syrup.
- Add peanuts and fresh lemongrass to the muddle, and add a (charred? bruised?) stalk of lemongrass as garnish in addition to the lime wheel and basil.
- House-infused vodka or rum using appropriate types of peppers – the Hellfyre is tasty, but Thai cuisine doesn't typically involve jalapeño and habañero peppers...
- Fresh Thai basil – all I had was the regular stuff.