About a year and a half ago, one of our regulars came in and challenged us to make a ghost pepper cocktail. The ghost pepper, or Bhut Jolokia, was recognized in 2007 by the Guiness Book as the world’s hottest pepper. We decided to make a syrup and started by chopping the peppers and dumping them into boiling water. After about 15 minutes the two bartenders working in the kitchen were coughing pretty hard every few seconds. After another 30 minutes or so everyone was coughing non-stop with blood-shot and teary eyes, so they took the pot off of the heat, added and dissolved the sugar, and strained the syrup into bottles. We were surprised that while definitely spicy, the syrup was a) approachable, b) had a really interesting flavor (rather than just heat), and c) the heat never accelerated, but very slowly subsided, leaving a pleasant tingle on the tongue. It tasted peppery and smoky with a touch of tropical fruit. We decided to focus on the complexity of the pepper and used Ransom Gin and Benedictine to build around the syrup. The acid in the OJ ramps up the heat just a bit, and the sweetness of the Aperol ties everything together. We tell guests that the heat level is about equal to “Hot” at a Thai restaurant.
.75 oz. Ransom Old Tom Gin
.75 oz. Aperol
.75 oz. Orange Juice
.25 oz. Benedictine
.5 oz. Ghost Pepper Syrup*
Shake and strain into a Ghost Pepper Sea Salt rimmed coupe.
*Using gloves, coarsely chop 10-15 dried ghost peppers and add to 1 Liter of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Add 1.5 pounds white sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain and cool. Make certain that there is ample ventilation where this syrup is being prepared.