When I was in San Francisco last fall for Foodbuzz Festival, I went with some of my best buds to Cantina for pre-party drinks. The evening was predictably chilly, but a little cold weather will never stop lovely ladies from wearing their best party dresses. So naturally, when we were huddled over the drink menu perusing the options, I was craving something with a little warmth. I didn't want an actual hot beverage, but something with a little spice... some kick that would warm me from the inside-out. As luck would have it, my eyes landed on the Laughing Buddha: hangar one buddha’s hand vodka, lime, crushed ginger & serrano chiles, ginger brew.
Yes, that was the drink I wanted.
It was cool and spicy all at the same time, but best part was that there was a distinct spice from the ginger and ginger brew that was totally different than the heat from the serrano chile. The chile was like an aftershock of warmth that surprised you with each sip. It was amazing, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.
After the new year, I decided I needed to stop thinking about this cocktail and try to recreate it at home. Being a cocktail beginner, I wasn't totally sure about two of the ingredients - the buddha's hand vodka, and the ginger brew - so I did a little researching on the internet. Turns out the buddha's hand vodka is made with none other Buddha's Hand citrus (surprise, surprise), which has an appearance that is both intriguing and terrifying, but a taste that is extremely fragrant. Next, I found that the ginger brew is an all-natural soda made with roots and spices. Fantastic! The ginger brew that seemed to be the most popular was REED's, and I thrilled to discover that I could pick some up at my local Henry's.
And while I picked up my first four-pack of REED's to do some 'practice' for making my cocktail, I have gotten it many more times just because I love the clean, spicy taste. It is like a little treat that rejuvenates me at the end of the day. I think I prefer the Extra Ginger to the regular flavor, but both are tasty and I would highly recommend you try one.
When it came to cocktail-making, I decided to mimic the Cantina recipe using REED's, lime juice, citrus vodka (I didn't quite want to invest in a bottle of Buddha's hand just yet), and the serrano chile. I tried it once by also adding fresh ginger, and I decided it wasn't worth the effort because I couldn't taste the difference that much. I decided my recipe was as close as I was going to get to the original, and I loved it.
While I was making this cocktail more recently, I had a stroke of genius and realized that some salty kale chips would be fantastic to munch on while sipping my drink. I had just picked up some dinosaur kale from the farmer's market so fate was on my side. It seems everyone is jumping on the kale chip bandwagon these days, and although the baking is a little finicky (the chips burn very easily) the final product is undoubtedly worth it: a crispy, crunchy veggie chip that is healthy and earthy.
I made my kale chips with some Ethiopian curry salt that I got from the San Diego-based salt company Salt Farm. The salt didn't quite lend as spicy of a flavor as I would have liked, but the hint of flavor was just enough.
On this particular occasion, I also realized I didn't have any serrano chiles on hand to spice up my cocktail. I thought about running up to the store, but the idea of wasting all that time and energy just for a little chile seemed silly. (And hm, that rhymes.) So instead I opened my refrigerator and grabbed out my handy bottle of fire-red Sriracha. If you don't own a bottle of Sriracha, hurry out and get one, this condiment is most definitely worth a trip to the store because you can put it on everything.
In lieu of the serrano chiles I added a few drops of Sriracha... and it almost did the trick. A few more drops and it was decidedly spicy. The drink was distinctively different than when I had used the serrano, both in the flavor and the timing of when you feel the kick of the heat. With the Sriracha, it is more a slap-you-in-the-face spicy that you can taste immediately and the drink has a more red pepper flavor. The serrano is a sort of sneak-up-behind-you spicy and the green pepper flavor almost goes unnoticed. But whether this ginger citrus cocktail is spiced up with Serrano or Sriracha, I love anything with a kick.
I enjoyed this cocktail with kale chips... and ultimately a burger (I am powerless to resist a good burger) but I also think it would be fantastic with thai food or for your next backyard barbecue. Another boon is that manly men can rest easy knowing this isn't some foo-foo girly drink, yet, I think any gal worth her salt would love this. But the best part for me is that I don't have to go all the way up to San Francisco to get this drink, because I can make one at home that is just as good.
So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself some REED's and spice up your day.
Spicy Ginger Citrus Cocktail
Inspired by the Laughing Buddha Cocktail from Cantina in San Francisco
I love this drink because it is a little spicy from the ginger, but also spicy because of added heat from chiles. I have made this with both serrano peppers and Sriracha sauce, and although I prefer the lingering heat of serranos, I don't always have them on hand and they are hard to handle. The Sriracha sauce gives it a more distinct red chile taste which is really awesome with the citrus and ginger...plus it is always in my fridge. With either the Sriracha or the serrano, add enough to suit your tastes.
2 bottles (24 fl. oz.) of REED's Extra Ginger Brew, or other real ginger ale
Juice from 2 large limes
About 32 drops of Sriracha sauce
1/2 serrano chile, finely sliced
For serving, ice cubes and 1 lemon, sliced in wedges
If you are making this with Sriracha, you can simply combine all the ingredients in a large pitcher with ice and mix. Serve in a highball glass with extra ice and garnish with a lemon wedge.
If you are making this with serrano chiles, use a cocktail shaker to make 2 drinks at a time: put the 1/2 chiles in the bottom of a cocktail shaker with 1/2 the vodka and use a muddler or something similar to crush the chiles to release the heat. Add 1 bottle of REED's and the lime juice, swirl to mix (don't cover and shake vigorously like a martini, Reed's is carbonated), and then strain into two glasses with ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and serve.
Roasted Kale Chips
1 bunch kale, washed throughly and dried
About 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste, use gourmet flavored salt if you like
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the tough ribs from the center of the kale leaves, and slice each kale leaf in half (or to your preferred size). In a large bowl, toss kale with olive oil and salt until well coated. Add salt to taste, but beware of adding too much!
Spread the kale on a baking sheet lined with with parchment or a silicone baking mat, and bake for about 10 minutes. Check the kale and see if it is crispy, it can burn easily! If it is not done yet, toss the kale on the sheet to mix, and bake for another 3-5 minutes.