|Utopia at Dave & Kerry's place. Photo by Dave & Kerry.|
That makes it the perfect moniker for this marvelous, refreshing cocktail, which was invented by my dear (and genius) friends Kerry and Dave, using black peppercorn-infused vodka that my wife and I presented to Dave as a birthday gift. The overnight infusion process is easy; especially well-suited to those of us who do not wait patiently. It is worthwhile to make the infused vodka in order to try this cocktail. I have additional bespoke recipes for the black peppercorn-infused vodka here that you can also try.
This drink earned its name because of its distinctly Asian flavors - combining the bite of ginger, the spicy richness of the peppercorn, and the tartness of the lemon in a beautiful, well-balanced way. Shangri-La is a fictional place, of course, but it is located (I think we can agree) in Tibet. Other names considered along the way were the Cato; Hummingbird; Peppery Tart; Shanghai Surprise (forget about the terrible movie; the rude Urban Dictionary definition would indicate a drink that starts off with one impression, but ends with a different one - though in this case, both are welcome); Bangkok Bite; and even Lost Horizon. There was a dubious moment when we considered calling this the Phuket Cocktail - but maybe that's for another drink, another time...
We stayed with Shangri-La because of its romantic, dawn colors; its floral notes; and its sharp-yet-subtle layers of sweetness, warmth, spice, and tang. Plus, to quote Dave: drinking this takes you to a beautiful, hard-to-reach paradise.
The Shangri-La Cocktail
- 2 oz black peppercorn-infused vodka (recipe here)
- 1 oz ginger liqueur (avoid artificial flavors: I've tried this with Stirrings Ginger Liqueur, Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur, and G.E. Massenez Crème de Gingembre - each of which has the requisite ginger "snap")
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
And now, as a postscript, a quick report on my experiments. I tried this with a small dollop of Sriracha chili sauce in the bottom of the glass (which, in a dream earlier, gave rise to the aforementioned name Shanghai Surprise), and also with a moderate dash of Angostura bitters (not at the same time as the chili). Of the two versions, the Angostura worked best, imparting a bit more depth; the chili sauce came off a bit viscous, and this drink has no need to be spicier than it is. Neither ingredient actually added anything to this drink, which is already quite well-balanced. Nonetheless, there are many possibilities for research: try it with a dash of Peychaud's bitters, or even orange bitters. Feel free to leave your suggestions and comments!