I’d been planning to concoct a photogenic and tasty Kwanzaa-colored pousse café for this holiday edition of MxMo, but I was introduced to a drink this weekend that’s much more deserving of attention. It’s neither a traditional favorite nor easily prepared en masse, but I’m definitely going to be serving it in the coming weeks and beyond.
The Pepper Delicious #2
2 oz. aquavit
1 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
1/4 red bell pepper, sliced
6-8 mint leaves
Muddle the pepper, mint and simple syrup. Add lime juice, aquavit, and all the ice you can manage. Shake well and strain, floating a thin pepper round and a sprig of mint on the surface.
That’s right: a red bell pepper. Don’t knock it… it imparts an unexpected, fresh vegetal element and tints the cocktail a wonderful warm color. The garnish, along with the odd escaped flake of muddled mint, makes for a particularly Christmas-colored presentation.
Christian Krogstad of House Spirits Distillery was mixing these up at their open house on Saturday, employing his eponymous Krogstad Aquavit. Make it with gin, he says, and you have the Pepper Delicious #1. I assumed at the time that the recipe originated with Ryan Magarian as a vehicle for House Spirits’ Aviation Gin, but Citysearch informs us that the Pepper Delicious is on the menu at Canlis, one of Seattle’s premier restaurants, where they use Plymouth in theirs. Food and Wine Magazine thought enough of the Pepper Delicious to feature it in their list of top holiday cocktails for 2006. They attribute it to Canlis but don’t call the gin. Whomever is responsible deserves plaudits… I’d call Canlis, but it’s a bit late and the MxMo deadline looms. If you know (or are) the drink’s author, please comment.
Aquavit hasn’t been a stock ingredient in my bar, so I can’t say how the Pepper Delicious #2 fares with other brands, but the Krogstad has earned a place on the shelf now. I’ve tried a Pepper Delicious #1 with both Plymouth and Aviation gins, and in both cases it’s a somewhat milder affair. The #2, with aquavit, is a slightly hotter drink, whose caraway and anise notes nudge it just that much closer to a “holiday” flavor profile. With gin, it’s softer, and the pepper has a bit more room to show its influence. It’s an excellent drink in either incarnation — Ms. Thirsty favors the gin version — so don’t let an absence of aquavit stop you from treating yourself and those you love to one (or more). Go on… it’s the holidays.
Update: 28 other drinks for a festive occasion await your attention.