Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sip the Light Fantastic

Last week, I was pleased to be asked by Marx Foods to participate in a cocktail recipe contest using sechuan buttons as an ingredient.  I'd never heard of this ingredient, but I was intrigued.  It turns out that sechuan buttons are flower buds that can create a tingling sensation on your tongue and lips when you eat them.  Originating in Asia and Africa, they are also known as the electric flower.

Once I received the sample package (with a warning label to eat at your own risk!), my husband and I took little tastes by pinching off just a few petals.  To me, it had a subtle herbal flavor, and I thought it felt like eating Pop Rocks candy without the physical popping sensation, just the tingling feeling on my tongue and lips.  My husband said it tasted like electricity, as though he licked an electric socket.

And then, I got to work...

First I decided to infuse some soju with the flowers.  Soju, if you recall, is an Asian style vodka.  I crumbled the petals of 2 flowers into about 8 oz of soju and let it sit about 36 hours in a sealed container.

Soju Socket
Makes 1 drink

3 oz sechuan button infused soju
1 1/2 oz ginger syrup
candied ginger

Put soju, ginger syrup, and ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake until chilled.  Strain into glass and garnish with candied ginger.

To make ginger syrup - Take a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peel, and cut into large chunks.  Put it in a saucepan with 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water, stirring to combine.  Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.  When mixture boils, reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and syrup is slightly thickened.  This usually takes about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, discard ginger, and let cool.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tasting Note:  The sechuan buttons created a mild herbal flavor in the soju that is not detected by all, but I felt the tingle on my lips and tongue and it made a nice combination with the bite of the ginger.

Buzz of the Green Fairy
Makes 1 drink

1/4 oz absinthe
2 oz rye whiskey
1 to 2 dash bitters
petals of one sechuan button
lemon wedge

Cover a small plate with superfine sugar and sprinkle with the petals of one sechuan button.   Using the lemon wedge, moisten the rim of a glass, and then with the sugar and petal mixture.  Place in freezer to chill.

Coat the inside of your chilled glass with absinthe, discarding excess.  Add ice.  Pour in rye whiskey and a drop or two of bitters.  Serve.

Tasting Note:  This drink is best if you make sure to take a sip on sugared part of rim.  The petals will definitely give your lips a little buzz.

Manhattan Cherry Bomb
Makes 1 drink

3 oz bourbon
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
splash of maraschino cherry juice

1 sechuan button
1 maraschino cherry

In shaker, place ice, bourbon, sweet vermouth, and splash of cherry juice.  Shake well until chilled.  Pour into glass and serve straight up or on the rocks, like my husband prefers.

Pluck the bud of a sechuan button flower and push into a maraschino cherry.  Garnish glass and prepare your taste buds!

Tasting Note:  Wow!  My tongue, inside cheeks, and throat all became numb when I ate the button-stuffed cherry.  It was a striking combination of sweet and bitter flavors that lasted for quite some time.


  1. So interesting...never heard of this ingredient myself. What an opportunity you had to test them out!

  2. Thanks, Steve. Yes, it was a lot of fun. Marx Foods has a number of unusual and hard-to-find ingredients.

  3. Wow, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try these but I love that you were brave enough to use them with such versatility :)

  4. I've never heard of that before either! I loved the drinks you created, and I can imagine they would both be perfect after a long day at work.

  5. Thanks, Lawyer Love Lunch, I appreciate that. The tingling side effects are short-lasting, luckily.

    Thank you for stopping by, Monet.

  6. I've got to try some of these! And I'd be making that Manhattan cherry bomb. Wonderful creation!

  7. Such a fun drink for the challenge. I really like the combination of liquors, I love absinthe! Happy to be competing with you! Best of luck!