SSome hot peppers have deceptively distinguished names, like the Scottish Cap, while others are more explicit about their fiery nature, like the Carolina Reaper.
In the early 1990s, hot sauce production / hot pepper enthusiasm increased, and suddenly a subculture of specialty shops and newsletters flourished. Heat fanatics were soon bragging about their collections, and even regular supermarkets started stocking an impressive assortment of these new products. Some of these concoctions were delicious, adding depth and excitement even to a scrambled egg plate, while others were designed purely for maximum payload. Hotter got better, the chilli arms race had officially started.
Everyone who splashed Endorphin Rush during their breakfast and spent the next 20 minutes breathing and nodding (ahem, that would be me) knows that this supposedly pleasurable act isn’t always exactly pleasurable. But the heat seekers, undeterred, extracted oils and hybridized peppers, looking for a cocked top that had nothing to do with culinary satisfaction, and everything to do with making that one cry. no one at the party.
Around 2001, out of all the peppers that were grown to melt your face, the ghost pepper managed to come out of the pack. It hails from northern India and was the first pepper to have over one million Scoville heaters. This is not an easy task. The Scoville heat unit is a measure of how hot a pepper is. To arrive at the measurement, an extract is tasted in increasing dilution until the pepper can no longer be detected by the majority of the judges. The score is derived from the amount of dilution.
Even though it doesn’t contain explosive firepower, the name Ghost Pepper has a mystique and an air of mystery. It’s also perfect for marketing and, of course, Halloween promotions. Dunkin ‘Donuts, for example, just rolled out a special ghost pepper donut for the holidays. To see if this was a trick or a treat, I recently picked up a few. The warmth of the pepper stays in the background, but draws a nice curtain over the softness of the red icing.
They’re pretty good – my family liked them the most in the assortment we bought – but they’re not particularly fiery (or scary for that matter). I guess eating the new Halloween Ghost Pepper Roller Pizza – which has a slice on an otherwise normal Domino’s pie – won’t be such a sweet experience.
A tequila that picks up on this trend could easily have been just another joke, just another product whose value depended on searing palettes and barbones. But Ghost Tequila, I’m happy to report, isn’t that at all. Ghost Tequila is really good.
Interestingly, a high heat level has distinct advantages when making a chili infused liqueur. Chris Moran, who worked in Boston as a bartender before founding Ghost Tequila, experimented with a range of peppers and ultimately selected Ghost Pepper.
“The reason I love ghost pepper,” he told me, “it’s so hot you can use it for a very short time or use a very small amount and get that feeling. without changing flavor. “
Anyone who has infused tequila with strawberries and jalapeños can tell you that you get plant-based flavors. Sometimes they’re good, but sometimes you end up with a grassy flavor reminiscent of old mint stems. Fortunately, there is none of that in Ghost.
For one thing, Moran was protecting the underlying agave flavor of tequila. He’s proud of them, and he’s proud that they have 100% agave on the brand’s label. The tequila itself has a thick, round mouth feel that helps balance the spices and lends a bit of sweetness to the agave.
To get there, he worked to produce an extract of ghost pepper. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experiment with this – and indeed Moran told me that in the developmental stages he sprayed his apartment by accident. The heat of pepper is in its oils. “We took a lot of that oil and replaced it with alcohol,” says Moran, “so you get that touch of warmth and that feeling, but it doesn’t stick.
This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of consuming Ghost. It’s hot enough that you’d expect it to turn, like a plate of Sichuan food, into a sweaty crescendo. This is not the case. It’s clean, balanced warmth that creeps over the finish.
Ghost is an obvious choice for spicy margaritas, but Moran suggested I try it in an Old-Fashioned with bitter chocolate, Angostura Bitter, and a little agave nectar. It is a wonderful drink.
You’ll be mad at it now because the bony skeleton hand on the Ghost label will look great on your spooky Halloween bar, but, trust me, you’ll continue to drink it well after Jack-o’-Lantern season.
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