Sipping on a Long Pepper Cocktail
The Chippiparai is unique twist on the classic Dalmatian cocktail.
Spices are wonderful additions to any cocktail bar. They make useful garnishes, but they can be part of the base flavor of a cocktail as well. One spice that I always have on hand is the long pepper. This relative of black pepper has a distinct sweet aroma and flavor, and adds a unique touch to cocktails.
Black pepper, and its relatives, seem like an odd addition to a cocktail, but it works. The first “cocktail” that I ever tried with them was a simple black pepper soda from my favourite Italian restaurant, A Tavola, in New Paltz, NY. The bartenders there certainly know their stuff. So it makes sense that when I got my hands on some long pepper, I would try making a simple syrup with it so I could play around with various cocktails.
About Long Pepper
More on that in a minute, but first, a bit more about long peppers. The long pepper, Piper longum, is a close relative of black pepper, Piper nigrum. Long pepper has that characteristic heat that we’ve come to expect from black pepper, but it has an added sweet flavor and scent, which is more reminiscent of the sweeter spices like cinnamon or cloves.
While not a spice that we normally use in kitchens these days, the long pepper was once very popular and used alongside black pepper in European cooking. It’s still used in some regions such as India. You can read more about long pepper, its uses, and its history over at Serious Eats.
If you want to try long peppers, you don’t have to go to some hidden spice shop in a foreign country. Amazon has multiple sellers. The ones that I've been using are from Yours Kitchen (sourced from Thailand). But they seem to be out of stock. Luckily, there are a lot of other options available through Amazon (affiliate link).
For cooking, I use it in most recipes that call for black pepper, especially in ragù sauces, where the element of sweetness helps to counter the acidity of the tomatoes. In the future, I'll try to write more on that topic, but for now, let's talk about cocktails.
Long Pepper Syrup
Flavored syrups allow for endless drink crafting options, and they're very easy to make. The base is just a simple syrup, which is made with equal parts water and sugar, heated until the sugar is fully dissolved. For a flavored version, you just want to infuse the liquid with whatever ingredients you're using.
In this case, it's long pepper. However, black pepper works too, and black pepper soda is surprisingly good. You can coarsely grind the pepper to help the infusion process, but it does take longer to infuse. How much pepper you want to use will depend on how strong a flavor you want. Experiment a little until you get the strength and sweetness combination that you find just right, but it should be around 3 - 4 tablespoons of halved long peppers per one cup of water.
Once the water is infused to the strength you want, strain it and put it back into the pot. Add the sugar and simmer until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let the mixture cool a little and put it into a container. If you have a leftover small glass maple syrup jar, that works well. The syrup should last in the fridge for a few weeks.
The great thing about the soda is that it is not overly spicy. Long pepper isn’t quite as “hot” as black pepper. It’s more like a lingering essence of heat on the back of the palate.
There're still many cool days left in New York's spring, but more and more there are days where the sun is starting to beat down on us, so it's nice to have a refreshing cocktail. And what's more refreshing than citrus? The Dalmatian is a grapefruit cocktail, made with either gin or vodka, and black pepper syrup. Forgo the black pepper and you have a traditional Greyhound cocktail.
Long pepper is from India. So is black pepper actually. So I decided to call my variation the Chippiparai, after an Indian breed of dog. I chose to go with gin, which has more of a floral and spice flavor than straight vodka. And specifically I decided to use Uncle Val’s botanical gin, as I thought it would complement the flavor profile of the other ingredients. Of course, feel free to use what you have available.
For whatever reason, I have a metric jigger, and honestly, I think metric is the way to go anyway. This recipe makes about 2 cocktails. You can adjust the alcohol and simple syrup levels for personal preference. I made it a little sweeter and a bit less boozy so it would work for breakfast (don’t judge). And if you already happen to have a favourite Dalmatian recipe, just adjust that one by using long pepper rather than black pepper.
- 150 ml grapefruit juice
- 7cl long pepper syrup
- 12cl uncle val’s botanical gin
- 4 dashes grapefruit bitters
You can use other types of gin, and if you don't have grapefruit bitters, it won't ruin the drink to leave them out, but they're a nice addition. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, or a chilled coupe/martini glass. And that's it. It's really quite an easy cocktail, once the long pepper syrup is made. And you can make a decent amount of syrup at once.
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