Orange Grove Fire

I’ve been taking a lot of pride in knowing what ingredients are involved in the drinks and food I enjoy for the last few years. More recently, I’ve been pushing myself to take this knowledge and apply my own twists to recipes to make them my own — this recipe is no example. This recipe is a modified version of the “Southern Screwdriver” served by Sean Brock in his Husk restaurants and from his cookbook Heritage. The pepper infused vodka has been a big hit no matter where I take it and can be substituted for typical vodka wherever you would use them — just keep in mind you may want to cut the drink with water or soda to keep the spice levels down if it’s too much for you or a guest. To cut down on sugars, this drink is perfectly fine without the basil simple syrup, which is my preferred way of drinking. It can be made into a spritzer by adding Topo Chico or seltzer.

Orange Grove Fire Cocktail

2 oz spicy vodka (recipe below)
1 oz normal vodka
1/2 cup of orange juice or favorite citrus
1 tablespoon/half of an ounce of basil simple syrup (recipe below)
Sparkling water to taste if warranted. Recommend Topo Chico.
Basil for garnish
1. Combine all liquid ingredients into a boston shaker (spicy and normal vodkas can be combined well beforehand) with ice, shake for around 6 seconds to combine
2. Spank a medium size leaf or three leaf sprout of basil by placing leaf(s) in the palm of one hand and clapping the hands together. This allows the oils and flavor to come out naturally from the basil, top as garnish to the drink and enjoy.

Spicy Vodka

It’s my suggestion from trial and error to use peppers that are lower on the scoville scale so to both get a flavor from the pepper used and a fair amount of spice. Keep in mind, alcohol dissolves capsaicin directly so the spice of peppers transitions directly into the vodka so keep this in mind if experimenting with hotter peppers. If you’re a masochist you can use something like cayenne or habanero but you won’t be able to soak them as long to get the pepper flavor — they’ll just be really hot, you psycho. To take down the spicy factor, seed the peppers before infusing as a large part of the capsaicin is within the seeds.

1 liter of vodka — would suggest something of medium shelf quality like Titos or Prairie. You’re drinking it so choose whatever you want.
2 Jalapeno or 1 Serrano pepper(s)
1. Cut peppers in half, removing stem. Seed them if you would like.
2. Combine peppers and liter of vodka in a mason jar or suitable container that you can easily take peppers out of.
3. Leave peppers and vodka in a cool dry place for at least 2 days or to spicy taste. You can always sample it along the way to find your ideal flavor!
4. Remove peppers and pass through a filter to remove seeds if necessary. Can place back into the bottle and combined with the normal vodka (recommend 1:1 ratio for combining) for ready drinking.
Will keep nearly forever like other vodkas if stored in a cool place.

Basil Simple Syrup

1. Combine equal parts (1 cup each) water and sugar (type of sugar can be to your taste but for this, best with white plain sugar) into a saucepan and bring to medium heat.
2. Stir to combine the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves and water thickens to a slight syrup consistency. Set aside to cool.
3. Once at room temperature, combine 1/3 of a cup of the simple syrup and 4 large basil leaves into a blender and blitz until full shredded. Add this back to the rest of the simple syrup and stir to combine.
Will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.