Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Shangri-La Cocktail

Utopia at Dave & Kerry's place. Photo by Dave & Kerry.
A verdant, earthly paradise depicted in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, as well as on celluloid by Frank Capra, Shangri-La is one of the eternal utopias of the imagination - one where youth does not wither, and peace is not endangered.

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
Shake the ingredients with ice until very cold, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a basil leaf or a lemon twist (or whatever seems right to you - this is utopia after all).

Bottoms up!

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!

1 comment:

  1. a current favorite and I'm testing your angostura version as I type - simply, a delight!


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