The Syrup Dilemma

Making virgin drinks that taste like the original drink has it’s challenges. To make a virgin mudslide required a coffee syrup and a home made Irish Cream without the Irish Whiskey. Cut with milk this drink was tasty – but sweet. To make my latest masterpiece the Tidy Bowl Shooter, I used curaçao syrup but cut it with Jamaican Ginger Beer so the sweetness was balanced by spice and fizz. Some shooters though are an epic fail – especially when blending multiple syrups instead of multiple liqueurs. While liqueurs are sweet they also have a kick of alcohol, the syrups… well they are simply sweet. This was most apparent when I tried to use my butterscotch syrup in place of butterscotch schnapps. I tried something called a Butterfly shooter from BarNoneDrinks: half Butterscotch and have Irish Cream right? Well I had both of these – in syrups so it should be a piece of cake! Nope. Thick and utterly impossible to drink – ick. Similarily the pumpkin pie shooter made from Butterscotch Scnapps, Baileys and Goldschlager also doesn’t translate well into a combination of syrups. There is also a similar mix called the oatmeal cookie using vodka and cinnamon schnapps, but again too much syrup and nothing to cut it with.

So how to fix this dilemma?

It occurred to me that one needs to balance the sweet with something, similar to in a cocktail where bitters are used to balance the sweetness. And so far, in other more successful shooters, I have used the addition of a cream, a sour mix or a fizzy spicy addition to balances the sweetness of a syrup based skeeters (virgin shooters).

So what options are left? Salty? More Sour? More Fizz or Spice? Or do some drinks simply not convert to the virgin option no matter how much you want them to?

So there is my dilemma – and my latest challenge.

Sugar and Cloth had one way to meet this challenge. She blends sweet caramel, ice-cream and milk with a dash of salt. What a better way to cut sweetness than cream and salt! You can find her recipe here.

Another option is to relish in the sweetness. There are a ton of shooter recipes that are imitating food. The Oreo Cookie Shooter that blends chocolate, coffee liqueur and Irish cream – all easy enough to replace with syrups to make a strong sweet concoction. So why not serve with a glass of milk just like the cookie, as a chaser? Or to be more creative, invest in some shooter bomb glasses and serve the milk around the shooter – just like a kid would dip his oreo in milk. We tried this recipe with non alcoholic syrups… Tasted nothin’ like an Oreo Cookie – unless you are dipping them into coffee!

So this is just the beginning of my journey – and more experiments are needed – but I am hopeful.

Test Tube Shooters

Three Halloween Test Tube Shooters. From left to right: Snake Venom, Beetle Juice & Dragon's Breath.

Three Halloween Test Tube Shooters. From left to right: Snake Venom, Beetle Juice & Dragon’s Breath.

Halloween approaches. In a week my two girls will be out in full costume knocking on doors and filling their bag with loot.

For our family, halloween is about the dressing up and the spooky setting, about the fun of carving pumpkins and creativity.  Our decor is based on real scary things: spiders, snakes and scarecrows and later closer to halloween, jack-o’-lanterns and if possible the fog machine going just outside the door.

Being a mom of two girls has meant keeping the spooky and terrifying at bay, or be plagued with two small children with nightmares for weeks. Now that my eldest is maturing, she is able to differentiate real from imaginary, and is finding the world of myth and folklore fascinating. My youngest is asking for stories of elves, fairies, dragons and unicorns, and I am now the creator of magical tales in our home that both children are waiting to hear before bed.

So for my first venture into Halloween drink making – I have chosen to blend a little of the real with a little of the imagined in these three test tube shooters.

Snake Venom

The idea came to make a snake venom as I was working through scary liquids commonly held in test tubes. In chatting with my local pharmacist and friend, she tells me that snake venom is actually being used now in medicine! I can’t say that my beverage will have any healing effects – but it does have a bite.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (preferably yellow)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice (bottled)
  • 1/4 oz caramel syrup
  • 1/2 oz black pepper syrup (recipe below)
Procedure:

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail mixer with a few ice cubes. Shake well and strain into two 1 oz shot glasses or test tubes. Makes two 1 oz shots.

My Thoughts:

My eldest daughter, niece and I love this drink. It is spicy, sour, bitter and sweet all at once. My youngest daughter isn’t sure what to think of it, and while my husband was willing to try it his comment was ” I wouldn’t choose it”.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 older kid drink
Taste: 4/5 
gotta love sweet and sour to like this
Simplicity: 4/5  
Two recipes to make, one that takes a little time.
Ingredient finding: 4/5 
may not find yellow grapefruit, depends on season


Black Pepper Syrup

I originally found this recipe when working through blackberry lemonade options online. (Someday I’ll tell you all about that! Dole foods provided me with the recipe) This syrup recipe is pretty easy and super versatile. Because the sweet and spicy blend upon cooking, having this pre made is essential if you wish to add a peppery flavour to a sweet drink.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup black pepper corns – cracked
2 cups water
2 cups white sugar

Smash black pepper in a ziplock bag and add to pot with water and sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium high heat until all the sugar is resolved and for about 5 minutes more. Allow to cool and strain into a air tight container. Keep in fridge until use.

My Thoughts:

the original recipe called for toasting the pepper corns before infusing them in the syrup. I had mixed peppercorns – red, green and black – and chose to leave them plain. I don’t know what the flavour would be like toasted, possibly darker? Next time I need some of this I will test that theory, but the plain version seems to work well for now.


Dragon’s Breath

This was inspired by my youngest, as we wandered through the grocery isles wasting time before a job interview. Being that she’s huge into fairy creatures, and we had recently watched Shrek 3 for a “movie dinner night”, she suggested making a spicy drink. Originally she had hoped the drink would be called Dragon’s acid, however I pointed out that most dragon’s have hot breath – and this became acceptable.

Coming up with the perfect drink for this became a challenge. Originally I purchased tomato juice, limes and jalepeno peppers, but my non spicy husband and kids made me start searching for alternatives. Being an Epicure fan, I immediately started searching for my red pepper jelly, and came across a secret stash of my friends habanero jelly, gifted to me almost a year ago.

So with that as the starting point, I went back to the research to come up with fruits that paired with this ingredient. What I found was many ideas, all based on jellies, salsa and sauces. No prob! I can adapt that to a drink – sez I! So back to the kitchen, and to the fridge to pull out bottles of juice, specialty syrups and frozen juices I created earlier.

In order to come up with the best combo I tried a number of ideas – mint, grapefruit and jelly; garlic, tomato juice, lime and jelly; cranberry, honey, sour mix and jelly; and finally raspberries. Of all the combos my family and my spicy loving in-laws tried, this is the one that rocked it!

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz raspberry juice (recipe below) or store bought
  • 1/2 oz black pepper syrup
  • 1 tsp red habanero pepper jelly
  • 1 1/2 oz chopped fresh sweet red bell peppers
Procedure:

Muddle pepper syrup, red pepper jelly and fresh bell peppers in bottom of a cocktail mixer. Add 4-5 ice cubes and shake well. Add raspberry juice and shake to blend flavours. Strain into two shot glasses (1 oz each) or test tubes.

My thoughts:

Normally raspberry juice is so strong that it needs sweet to mellow it out. Incredibly enough, spicy will also do the trick! Who knew!

Can’t wait to unleash this on my daughters, who were both in bed by the time I had this all figured out.

I made my own raspberry juice – using frozen raspberries and blending them with water. In some locations you can get red raspberry juice easily, if so and it’s tart, go for it! In my town, not a possibility. you can find the recipe below.

Kid-o-metre ?/5 will keep you posted, my niece who is a teen loved it.
Taste: 5/5 
wow even my hubby liked it!
Simplicity: 4/5  
One recipes to make. One ingredient to find.
Ingredient finding: 5/5
 Red pepper jelly can substitute, making this easy to find all the ingredients for if you have internet and a credit card.


 Raspberry Juice
Ingredients:

1 bag frozen raspberries
2 cups water
1 tbsp citric acid

Heat berries in water to boiling. Turn down and simmer 10 minutes. Strain and press to get all juice out of berries. Add citric acid and stir to mix well. Store in fridge or pour into ice cube trays and freeze for later use.


Beetle Juice

It is said that some beetles have orangish blood. Since this next drink blends the bite of habanero peppers with the sweetness of cranberry and orange, I thought the name fitting. One may say that all drinks named this should be black and white, or that if one asked three times for this shooter, some ghoulish creature will appear and make your life miserable (or is that the cat in the hat?), so if you decide you want a third dose of this great halloween shooter – maybe ask for it by it’s scientific name: Coleoptera juice.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz concentrated frozen orange juice
  • 1 tsp habanero jelly (the red stuff)
Procedure:

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail mixer with 2-3 ice cubes. Shake well to blend in jelly, strain into two shot glasses (1 oz each) or test tubes.

My thoughts:

Habenaro Jelly is the key ingredient in this recipe, but I can’t tell you where to buy it because I am lucky enough to have a super jelly making friend who keeps me topped up every christmas. The one jar often lasts our “non-spicy” family for the full year. There are plenty of recipes for DIY habenaro jelly, I would recommend one that keeps to simple ingredients without any added flavouring components – like on Food52 or My Pantry Shelf. Epicure makes a decent red pepper jelly, that can substitute for the real thing in a pinch.

My spice lovin’ niece and her mom both enjoyed this one. While I am not a fan of super hot flavours, this is a more gentle drink due to the sweetness of the cranberry. The spice is a slow burn that creeps up, so again if you have more than one… beware!

Kid-o-metre 3/5 older kid drink, the sweetness hits first then the spice.
Taste: 4/5 
some in my family are not fans of spicy concoctions. what are your thoughts?
Simplicity: 4/5  
If you can find the jelly, it’s a cinch to make.
Ingredient finding: 4/5 
When I find the jelly anywhere other than in my kitchen, I’ll let you know where to buy it!

Stay tuned for new halloween creations in next ten days!