Mixology Monday: The Hot Stick and Jalapeno-Cilantro Infused Vodka

A couple of months ago,  I was bumming around the internet and found this list of Haribo gummies not typically found in the US. Because of my love for spiciness and sweetness, Haribo Hot Sticks,  raspberry-jalapeno,  habanero-orange, and lemon-ginger gummies, caught my eye. The only problem – all these flavors are combined with licorice. While I detest eating licorice, I actually love the weight and dimension an anise flavor imparts to a cocktail. When The Straight Up chose Anise for Mixology Monday I decided to skip paying shipping and handling fees and imagine Haribo’s Hot Sticks as a cocktail. I added smoked cinnamon to complement the ginger and anise notes, while also being a quite literal stand-in for a “hot stick.”

The Hot Stick tastes great two ways – “naughty” or “nice” – with or without jalapeno-cilantro infused vodka. In both versions, the sambuca’s anise flavor blends beautifully as an essential, grounding element of the whole drink but not as a domineering note.

Without the infused vodka, the drink is pleasantly warming, refreshing, and almost tropical, like enjoying a Christmas bonfire in the Caribbean. However, the vodka adds a fantastic hutzpah; if you can take the heat, then please go for it. As the old saying goes, nice drinks finish last.

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The Hot Stick

Makes one cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz sambuca
  • 1 oz jalapeno-cilantro Infused Vodka (optional; recipe below)
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
  • half of a cinnamon stick (smaller than the diameter of your chosen vessel)
  • 4 oz ginger beer (I prefer Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew)

1. In a shaker with a few ice cubes, combine the sambuca, infused vodka, and orange juice. Shake well. After shaking, add chilled ginger beer.

2. Place the cinnamon stick on a plate and light it until smoldering. Cover the stick with the mouth of your drinking glass to capture the smoke. Flip the plate and glass over, so that the cinnamon falls into the glass,  lift the plate, and strain the previously mixed ingredients into the glass.

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Jalapeno-Cilantro Infused Vodka

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When I make infused vodkas, I prefer to take a 1.75-liter bottle of an economical but decent vodka (Svedka’s my go-to) and divide it into four different flavors (of about 14 oz each) to store in pint-sized mason jars after straining. I use gallon jars for the infusing process, but quart jars would probably work just as well, if not better.

  • about 14 oz of vodka
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • at least three stems of cilantro, but I tend to use a small handful

1. Rinse, deseed, and halve each jalapeno pepper.

2. Rinse and bruise the cilantro.

3. Place the cilantro in a large jar, then top with the peppers, creating a lattice-like structure. This minimizes any contact between the herbs, vegetables, and air in the jar. Top with vodka. Refrigerate.

4. Wait for 48-72 hours, stirring the infusion about 3 times a day. When you’re satisfied with the taste, strain the vodka using a fine mesh sieve, removing the cilantro and peppers, into a clean jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated.

The longer you infuse with jalapenos, the spicier the vodka. After infusing for 72 hours, the vodka is perfectly spicy and earthy for me and those I’ve served, but you could try longer if you so dare!

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