Mad Science: Habanero Infusion

If you haven’t spent any time in Canada, you might not be familiar with the Caesar cocktail. It’s ubiquitous here and, much to my initial surprise, delicious. I was surprised as I didn’t normally like drinks made with clam juice. That was an assumption, by the way, as I hadn’t really gone out of my way to try clam juice up until that point for fairly obvious reasons.


The central ingredients of a good Caesar are vodka, Clamato, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and a little celery salt on the glass rim. It’s usually garnished with a celery stalk, but the more adventurous add a green bean, cucumber or even bacon.


I make pretty good Caesars. Not that it’s hard or anything, but I’m generous with the Worcestershire sauce (pronounced “wuster”, North Americans! Not “Worsester-shire” as I’ve heard more than one person say) and more importantly the Tabasco. I’m a bit obsessed with high spice levels. As I write this I have jerk chicken in the oven, the marinade for which was made with eleven fresh habaneros. I seek out heat wherever I go. I haven’t found an Indian restaurant here in Canada that can make a curry hot enough for my liking, not even close really (this does not apply to Indian restaurants in England, some of which can make dishes that would render a careless diner unconscious at fifty paces).


So how to take my Caesars to the next level? I think you know the answer to that by now. More heat!




Actually, my method for improvement is a two-step process. First, I’m not using the traditional vodka, but the unusual White Owl Canadian rye whisky. This is a very nice whisky that happens to be completely clear; it’s aged as normal in virgin oak barrels, but then filtered to remove the colour. I can’t imagine the taste isn’t affected too, but it manages to remain rather tasty and can absolutely be drunk straight. It’s not as complex or layered as something like Forty Creek’s output, but for my purposes here that’s just fine.


So now to the interesting part – I’m going to infuse this stuff with habanero peppers. Infusion, of course, is the process of transferring strong flavours into a liquid through the immersion of said flavours over a period of time. A quick trip to the supermarket to pick up some Mason jars, and all that is needed is to pour in about 250ml of the whisky, wash and chop in half a couple of habaneros and drop them in. The how-to guide for liquor infusion that I read said to deseed the habaneros first, but that doesn’t sound like something a real Canadian would do so I didn’t bother. I wonder if I’ll live to regret that… but then real Canadians only regret things they did, not things they didn’t do, so I think I’ll be OK!


The jar has been moved off to a cupboard for a few days, with a plan for periodic shaking and tasting to find the right moment for rebottling. I’ve been led to expect about 3 or 4 days for optimum flavour, but I’m willing to experiment as this is my first try. I’ll report back when it’s done, and you can all laugh at either my glorious success or miserable failure. I really don’t know what to expect – I can’t see just a couple of habaneros making that much difference to the whisky to be honest, but time will tell. If I burn off the lining of my throat when I try the results, we’ll count that as a success!


UPDATE #1: After 24 hours, the previously transparent whisky has taken on a very light but noticeable yellow/orange hue. Haven’t tried it yet, I’m going to wait until the 48 hour mark for that.

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