Last summer I read about cocktails using black pepper in Imbibe magazine. I thought the spice of black pepper would go better with a crisp or cold night and last week finally got around to making the "Rye," which is kind of a lame name. Shouldn't a cocktail be named something other than its base alchohol? In any case, the Rye calls for black peppercorn infused rye, Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur, lime juice, and simple syrup. To infuse the rye, you put 1.5 tablespoons of ground peppercorns in 500 ml of rye and let it stand for 48 hours before straining out the peppercorns. The resulting drink is very spicy, as you have the spice from the rye, the spice from the peppercorns, and the spice from the ginger.
An aside on flavor combinations: In food and drink, putting flavors together can be done by contrast, complement, and/or enhancement. For example, when pairing beer and cheese, beer expert Randy Mosher recommends complementary flavors, like a toasty, malty ale with a soft cheese like camembert; think grilled cheese sandwich. If you choose a hoppy beer with spicy food, the hops and carbonation will scrape your palate clean in between bites but you will also be highlighting and enhancing the spice of each; some folks like this effect but not all palates can handle it. You may want a sweeter, maltier beer with your spicy food to temper it, like a brown ale or abbey dubbel.
Back to cocktails. In a Manhattan, the sweet vermouth tempers the spice of the rye by contrasting with it. With the Rye, the ginger, pepper, and rye are only slightly tamed by the sour from the lime and sweetness from the simple syrup. It's a bold drink for sure, and not one I would recommend to be enjoyed before dinner or with food.
I got to thinking, what if I switched out the ginger liqueur for fresh ginger juice? My thinking was, fresher is always better. So I juiced some ginger and made a ginger syrup, as I have done when making the Penicillin, perhaps my favorite cocktail (I will write it up soon). Long story short, the ginger juice was too much. I had to add a couple of barspoons of simple syrup to my drink just to get it down, the spice was overwhelming. In this case, the spice from the liqueur is more than enough and fresher did not mean better.
The Rye. My wife liked this cocktail more than I did. It was a fun process but in the end too much like drinking a hoppy IPA with Indian food; my mouth was on fire. If you do want to try it, here's the recipe:
1.5 oz black peppercorn infused rye (I used Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded)
.5 oz Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur
.5 oz simple syrup (you may want a rich syrup, 2:1 sugar to water)
.75 oz lime juice