Peppery Gin Cocktails | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Peppery Gin Cocktails

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Summer is hot and spicy with a gin cocktail.

In the 1880s, William “The Only William” Schmidt was New York’s celebrity bartender. Frequently covered in the press, Schmidt and his complex cocktails — some with as many as a dozen ingredients — had a national following.

In 1891 Schmidt published “The Flowing Bowl,” a 300-page cocktail manual, which includes the earliest recipe for a spicy cocktail that I’ve seen (a drink called “My Hope,” which is a mixture of brandy, port, bitters and red pepper). But Schmidt’s book also includes a warning (quoted from “Food and its Adulterations” by Arthur Hassall) on the danger of adding spices to alcohol: “It is impossible to conceive of more scandalous adulterations of spirits than those by cayenne pepper. ... The introduction into the stomach of raw spirits is sufficiently destructive of itself but the addition of such powerful and acrid substances as cayenne pepper and grains of paradise forms a compound which no human stomach or system however strong could long withstand.” For the next century, it seems that most bartenders heeded this warning

Until recently, with the exception of the Bloody Mary — with its Tabasco and horseradish — spicy cocktails have been a rarity. However, over the past decade, as both spicy foods and craft cocktails have become increasingly popular, more cocktail bars are putting spicy cocktails, with ingredients like jalapenos and pepper-infused syrups, on their menus.

While spice can be a pleasing addition to many different types of liquors, gin is a particularly good base for spicy cocktails. The botanicals in gin tend to play well against spicy ingredients, creating cocktails with real depth and complexity. The following gin cocktail makes for good, hot summertime drinking.
 

Servings & Times
Yield:
  • Cocktail
Active Time:
  • 15 min
Total Time:
  • 15 min
Ingredients
Special Equipment Needed:

Cocktail shaker

3 tablespoons gin

4 jalapeno slices, deseeded

2 basil (or cilantro) sprigs

3 cucumber slices

A small piece of celery

Tonic water

Steps
  1. Place the gin, two slices of jalapeno, a sprig of basil, the cucumber and celery into a cocktail shaker, muddle the mixture with a wooden muddler, or wooden spoon, then fill with ice and shake well.
  2. Strain into a small (8-10 oz.) tumbler, filled halfway with ice.
  3. Top up with tonic water and garnish with the remaining jalapeno and basil.