The Loser lives up to its name
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But the drink that sounded so amazing – black pepper syrup, yowza! – just hasn’t panned out. Four times I’ve tried:
Attempt No. 1: The recipe said to crack the peppercorns coarsely, but it made for a very weak syrup and boring drink.
Attempt No. 2: Armed with a mallet, plastic bag and my alarmingly aggressive children, we pounded the hell out of those peppercorns. This time the syrup was flavorful but still not a winner. Maybe the problem was substituting tequila for the pisco (a grape-based brandy from South America)?
Attempt No. 3: Our friends Stacy and Laura generously donated a bottle of pisco to the cause. Stacy picked up a couple of bottles in Chile when his engineering firm went down to survey the recent earthquake damage. It is lovely having friends that support your, uh, endeavors.
However, even with the pisco this drink doesn’t cut it for me. It could be the pineapple juice; while I love fresh pineapple, I just don’t care for it in cocktails (pina coladas in Maui being the exception). On this third try I did reduce the pineapple juice from 3 ounces to just a ½ ounce, but the pineapple was still pushy.
Attempt No. 4: I am stubbornly pursuing this drink. This last time I eliminated the pineapple juice altogether and upped the lemon juice and black pepper syrup by ½ ounce each. Still, it’s just OK. Maybe using grapefruit juice instead of pineapple would be a worthy substitute?
I guess you win some, lose some, even with cocktails. But not all is lost – I will use the pisco to try shaking up a Pisco Sour — the drink in Peru and Chile — and I just saw some recipes in the new Imbibe magazine calling for black pepper syrup. Oh, darn, more experimenting.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the soda and ground pepper; shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Stir in the soda; garnish with pepper.
Black Pepper Syrup – makes about 8 oz1 c. water ½ c. sugar ¼ cup cracked black peppercorns
In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add sugar and stir over moderately high heat until dissolved. Add peppercorns and let stand off the heat for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.