MxMo: Spice (must flow)

Posted by Anita on 12.15.08 10:54 PM

(c)2008 DPaul Brown - all rights reservedWhen Sean and DPaul asked me to contribute a signature cocktail to serve with the appetizer course at their holiday soirée last weekend, I kept running into dead ends. For my previous stint behind the Hedonia bar, I’d whipped up a pair of well-received drinks, but for the holidays I wanted to try something a little more classically festive — and what’s more festive than bubbly?

But, if you know those Hedonia boys, you know that their parties are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate; a simple Champagne cocktail — classic though it may be — would not do. No, I needed a conversation starter, a ‘wow’ of a drink that would be sure to set off the beautiful hors d’oeuvres. I toyed with a number of ideas, but kept coming back to the idea of poinsettias and other holiday flowers. Then, while digging through the liquor cabinet, I noticed a jar of candied hibiscus flowers: pretty, festive, and a perfect holiday red.

The purveyor of these little antipodean garnishes suggests dropping one blossom into a flute of bubbly, with or without a splash of its syrup. But even before I remembered Craig‘s choice for this month’s Mixology Monday theme, I knew that I wanted to avoid fruity flavors and move things more into the spice realm.

At first, I tried a simple Champagne and Ginger cocktail, using Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. Although sweet and pleasant, it really didn’t have the oomph I was looking for. A few hearty dashes of super-spicy whiskey barrel-aged bitters helped a bit, but really didn’t carry the drink into fabulousness.

Then I remembered an experiment from two winters ago. In the days before Domain de Canton hit the shelves, I’d spent a few months trying different techniques to get a strong ginger flavor into a cocktail without using ginger beer, mostly unsuccessfully. But then a “so simple it couldn’t work” idea paid off, and I ended up with a batch of spicy, faintly sweet infusion with a true ginger flavor. A repeat batch of this crystallized ginger digestif turned out to be just the thing to make my holiday sparkler shine.

But back to the garnish: I sampled some of the syrup the blossoms were preserved in, so I had a good handle on their flavor. However, the jar of flowers only held 11 blossoms and I had 10 guests to serve, so I hoarded them all for party night. Little did I know that, instead of the pretty little flowers shown in all the marketing shots, the blooms would become translucent red aliens in the cocktail glass, wicked half-plant/half-animal mutants straight out of a sci-fi movie.

Luckily our hosts and friends were gracious enough to humor our cocktail folly; only one guest refused (vehemently, I might add) to sample the flower, which does indeed taste like a sweet-tart berry. And once the bizarre garnish was gobbled up, everyone asked for refills on their spicy Champagne.

Looking through the photos that DPaul graciously sent over (I managed to bring my camera, but forgot the memory card), I realized that the hibiscus blossom looks like the head of a snake, or a sandworm from the movie version of Dune… a story that’s — appropriately enough — all about spice.

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Shai Hulud
1 oz homemade ginger liqueur
- or 1 oz Domaine de Canton plus 1/2 tsp ginger juice
5 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters
Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
candied hibiscus flowers

Measure the ginger liqueur and bitters into a coupe. Top with bubbly and garnish with a hibiscus flower.

Ginger Liqueur
3 oz crystallized ginger chunks
- available in the baking aisle or bulk foods stores
8 oz 80-proof vodka

Combine in a lidded jar. Let steep for two days, then shake; you should notice dark, syrupy threads diluting into the vodka. Continue to steep, shaking once a day, until you reach your desired level of spiciness.

drinks, Mixology Monday, recipes



Comment by Tiare

Ah…so that`s how these hibiscus flowers look in reality! i`ve seen them so beautifully and bright red in the ads and been wondering if they really are like that..but never been able to try as they aren´t sold here. Good to know.

Great post and pics as usual.

Posted on 12.16.08 at 2:14AM

Comment by Sean

Mmm … I can still taste it on my mind’s tongue. I was so taken by the sweet-tart burst of the hibiscus flower that was almost juicy when you bit into the blossom end. And you can make anything with ginger, in my book. Thanks for kicking off our event with such a high-class drink. (P.S. Who vehemently opposed to the flower?)

Posted on 12.16.08 at 7:19AM

Comment by Lee

I don’t know…I saw the photo on flickr first and thought it was gorgeous. I guess I’m all for candied alien-like flowers in my drink! Now that I know your secrets, I may have to try this for Xmas Eve. Thanks!

Posted on 12.16.08 at 7:34AM

Pingback by Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments » Blog Archive » Mixology Monday Wrap-up December 2008 - Spice

[...] Anita at Married with Dinner offers Shai Hulud, named after the likeness of the hibiscus flower garnish to those pesky sand worms. The Spice is life!   [...]

Posted on 12.17.08 at 4:43PM

Comment by Amelia Sauter aka Felicia

As I started reading your post, I clicked on the hibiscus flower link and it looked so beautiful on their website. Sad that it turned into an odd creature in the glass. The cocktail sounds amazing nonetheless. – Felicia

Posted on 12.18.08 at 5:03PM

Comment by Chris

…there is no fear…fear is the mind killer…

Sorry, got carried away; this sounds ridiculously great. I’ve never seen these before, despite doing all manner of things with hibiscus, so cheers & thanks!

Out of curiosity, do you think this recipe would work well with a good dry hard cider (apple or pear); a modified Jersey Cocktail if you will?

Posted on 12.25.08 at 1:09AM

Comment by FJK

Ginger and champagne — two flavors I love, plus I just reread Dune .. . so I’m up for trying this. I have some Trader Joe’s dried hibsicus flowers at home — they are not candied, but I wonder if they’d work.

What a creative idea!

Posted on 01.12.09 at 10:38PM

Pingback by Colonel Tiki’s Drinks » Blog Archive » Mixology Monday Wrap-up December 2008 - Spice

[...] Anita at Married with Dinner offers Shai Hulud, named after the likeness of the hibiscus flower garnish to those pesky sand worms. The Spice is life!   [...]

Posted on 04.06.09 at 8:05PM

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