Sunday, December 29, 2013

Firewater Boilermaker

A shot of chile-infused liqueur dropped in an IPA
Firewater boilermaker
Photograph by A. Schloss
Sweetness and heat are companions and competitors, vying for your attention in an endless cycle of pain and relief. In most recipes the two are kept separate, but when forced to share, they can be a raucous culinary couple. Sweet-Heat Firewater (page 90, Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits) is a case in point. Made from tequila infused with chiles and sweetened with agave (cactus sugar syrup), its perfume arises from an earthy influx of toasted cumin and the volatile aromatic oils in the chiles you choose — woody ancho, floral guajillo, meaty habanero, or acidic pequin.

The process is practically effortless. Just soak the chilies in the booze and wait. Capturing the chile aroma goes hand in hand with the ascendency of heat in the liqueur. In taking time for the flavor to build, you run the risk of producing a tincture of incendiary power. I suggest tasting after a day and deciding how much longer your palate can stand. I usually stop at 48 hours.

The finished liqueur makes an awesome Bloody Maria (1 oz added to the vodka that you normally use in your Bloody Marys).

Sweet-Heat Firewater in process
Photograph by A. Schloss

Sweet-Heat Firewater (page 90, Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits)

Makes about 1 quart

1 fifth (750 ml/3.2 cups) blanco tequila (80 proof)
6 whole dried chiles, like ancho, guajillo, habanero, pequin, or any combination, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds
1 cup agave syrup

Ancho and cayenne chilies; cumin seed, tequila
Photograph by A. Schloss
Combine the tequila, chiles, and cumin seeds in a quart jar. Stir to moisten everything.

Seal the jar and put it in a cool, dark cabinet until the liquid smells and tastes strongly of chiles, 1 to 2 days.

Strain the solids from the liquid through a mesh strainer into a clean quart jar. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid. Stir in the agave syrup.

Seal and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Use within 1 year. 

This New Year's eve we're dropping shots of chile-laced tequila into the hoppiest IPA we can find to welcome in 2014 with an old fashioned fire-eating boilermaker.

Fire Water Boiler Maker 

Chilled Pilsner Glass
Shot Glass
12 fl oz bottle IPA beer
Pour into chilled pilsner glass
1 oz Sweet-Heat Firewater (see recipe above)
 Pour into shot glass

Drop shot glass into the beer and chug.