Saturday, May 3, 2014

One for the Road... the Kampot Fizz

In "One for the Road", one of the guys takes a quick run at a topic for your reading pleasure. Themes will vary, from classic drinks to hand-crafted ingredients and creations of their own, or whatever suits them at the moment. This go around, John presents the Kampot Fizz.

After more than a year in Cambodia, I decided it was time to come up with a drink that payed homage to my home away from home. Cambodia has a range of exports, ranging from the mundane to the... less savory. One of the country's signature exports, though, is Kampot pepper. It comes in a variety of forms, from the young, green pepper and the robust and spicy black peppers, to the rare and much sought after white and red peppercorns. Regardless of the variety, though, it is delicious and well suited to a wide range of uses. Including, apparently, libations.

The Drink
When I set out  to make a Cambodian-influenced drink, I knew I
Early stages of the Kampot Tincture.
wanted to try make use of Kampot pepper. It is hard to think of a more Cambodian ingredient, and it offered the opportunity to add an element often missing from popular cocktails beyond the Bloody Mary: spice and heat. To incorporate the pepper into the drink, I opted to make a tincture, which is basically grain alcohol infused with flavors from one or more ingredients; it is actually a pretty easy process, as the instructions at the bottom of the post show. The beauty of a tincture is that it concentrates the flavor you have captured and allows you to experiment with precise quantities that you add to the drink itself. This allows you to get the exact amount of flavor you are looking for.

I also wanted to incorporate some other traditional South East Asian flavors besides the Kampot pepper, and ultimately settled on lime and ginger. The standard gin fizz - gin, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white (optional) and soda water - is not one of my usual go-to drinks. While refreshing, I find that the gin is often diluted by the other ingredients and the drink itself is often too sweet for my tastes; if you want a tall cold glass of gin to sip on a hot day, a bit of tonic and a lime will do just fine. That said, the gin fizz provides the perfect base to add a little spice with the pepper. Beyond that, it already incorporates lime juice, and the use of simple syrup offers a built in opportunity to play with some other flavors, too.

Prepping for the ginger-lime syrup.
Simple syrup is a surprisingly easy ingredient to experiment with, as Dave pointed out in his Mint Julep entry. A ginger-lime syrup, in this case, offers a great way to add another level of South East Asian flavor to the beverage. I used a recipe  from Brad Thomas Parsons' excellent book, Bitters, but added a little more ginger to up the zest factor. It can be easy to conflate the impact of the ginger and pepper on the drink, of course. Both contribute to the aroma - a sweet, slightly pungent scent that gives a preview of what is to come - while the pepper adds a spicy, almost floral flavor profile that is countered by the sweetened but familiar sting of the ginger.

An easily overlooked ingredient that is nonetheless critical to the drink is the egg. It contributes to the unique visual of the Fizz and adds a bit of texture that helps diffuse the spice from the pepper and ginger across the palate without actually diminishing its impact. The use of raw egg can be a little daunting, of course, and it is perfectly reasonable to omit it from the recipe. One of the benefits of doing so is the drink becomes much less filling. That said, give the egg a shot and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

There you have it: the Kampot Fizz. Perfect for a steamy evening floating down the Mekong or admiring a rooftop view of Phnom Penh's ever changing cityscape. Baht som!
The Kampot Fizz

The Recipe
6cl - gin
2cl - lime juice
1.5tsp - ginger-lime simple syrup*
1/4tsp - kampot pepper tincture**
1/2 egg white
soda water to taste

Combine the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and kampot tincture in a shaker and shake for 5-10 seconds. Add the egg white and shake again for 10-15 seconds, until cold. Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass and top with soda water (ice optional).

*Ginger-Lime Syrup

Don't forget to stir to help the sugar dissolve!
 Derived from Brad Parsons' Bitters: in a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, mature ginger (two 4-inch knobs, peeled and sliced into coins), and the zest of 2 limes. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 

As the mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool, then strain into a container and refrigerate.

**Kampot Pepper Tincture
Soak one cup of black Kampot pepper in two cups of grain alcohol (Everclear is a good option) for one week, shaking vigorously once a day. Strain the peppers out, crush them using a mortar and pestle, and return them to the alcohol for another week (or more to taste), shaking vigorously once a day. Strain using a cheesecloth and store in a glass container.

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