People. They like all kinds of things. It’s a fact that isn’t lost on the gift industry. You can go into any gift shop in any tourist town around the world and you’ll find the same kinds of things – things that are pig-related, golf-related, food-related, booze-related. Things that come in the form of ornaments, keyrings, spoons, fudge, plates... you know what I’m talking about; gifts.
The idea, I assume, is to give people something to buy for themselves, or something easy they can buy for friends or family. Or if I was being cynical; a reason to part with their money. I’m not belittling it; it’s actually a good thing – emotionally and economically. But that’s not the point. This is all really just an overlong introduction.
One of the things that you will find in gift shops around the world is chilli. People develop a liking and then even a passion for chilli. I’m pretty bad for it. If I’m making a sandwich, and chilli could go on it, then chilli will go on it. It’s the same with pizza… ‘yes, this might benefit from a bit of chilli…’. It’s not even necessary most of the time, but I can’t help it.
I don’t really understand why people seem intent on mixing chilli with chocolate, but it just goes to show… you like chilli? You like chocolate? Then you are probably going to buy an overpriced bar of chilli chocolate on a day out at some point of your life. You might even like it, or like me you might think, “it tastes like chocolate but makes my throat burn a bit – what’s the big idea?”
One other thing I haven’t quite got yet is chilli and booze. But now I have the chance since our friends Gav and Clare popped over the other day with a bottle of The Devils Breath. There should probably be an apostrophe in that name, because otherwise it doesn’t make sense…
A quick internet search for “the devil’s breath” reveals that the term refers to a particularly sinister drug, an occurrence of sexual misadventure and an unusual sexual practice – unusual to me at least, but… there sure are more things in the world than I can imagine. If you want more information on those, go this way: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=devil%27s%20breath
For the purposes of this article, The Devils Breath is brandy that has been infused with chilli, and contains flakes of ‘edible gold’ – I don’t know whether this is real gold or, beyond aesthetics, what the point is, but the concoction clocks in at 38% alcohol and… it comes in an atomiser – thus accounting for the breath part of its moniker. I was hoping I could just drink it, but with the atomiser I wasn’t sure what I could use it for. It says, “for food and drink”, so naturally the first thing I did was spray it four times directly into my mouth. That’s just what I do. If I’m making a cocktail with a new liqueur or spirit in it, I’ll always have a sip of the liquid first, just to see what it’s like. I even do it in cooking – trying whole cloves, cardamom pods, black peppercorns – and then marvel at how someone thought it would be a good idea to put these intense flavours into something they were going to eat.
After the initial spray of Devils Breath, there’s a gap of about a second where nothing happens and you go, “muh?”, then there’s an unavoidable flinch as the bitterness and heat of the chilli hits. Your face contorts while your brain frantically scans your memory for something it’s learned in your lifetime that will help it deal with chemical warfare. Either that or it’s pressing its own internal reset button. This is probably what it’s like to have a very brief stroke. The shock subsides about as quickly as it comes - so before you have to start the “Face, Arms, Speech, Time” routine - but the heat stays for a while. If you get a chance, give yourself a spray; it’s quite good fun. Gav, Clare and Brenda all had a go, and they all reacted in the exact same way, so it was quite funny.
As I say, I wasn’t really sure what I could use this for, but the bottle does come emblazoned with a website that I expected would shed a little light – www.laurasanttini.com. I’ve had a good look around, and I’m afraid I’m none the wiser. It doesn’t suggest any possible uses, nor does it tell you whether the gold is real. I see though that Ms Santtini has invented an ‘umami paste’ which is trumpeted as a universal flavour enhancer, so perhaps Devils Breath is intended to be used in a similar way – put it in anything to add a hint of chilli.
So far I’ve added this to a glass of amaretto, a glass of Lamb’s Navy rum and I also tried a spray or two on some cheese on toast [already enhanced with a little garlic powder, oregano and freshly ground black pepper, as is de rigeur in my house] before I put it under the grill. The most successful of those experiments was the cheese on toast. I made four slices, and sprayed two of them, and the two I sprayed were slightly more interesting and tasty than the other two.
The glasses of rum and amaretto weren’t changed all that much beyond acquiring the telltale chilli heat – just like you get with the chilli chocolate - though I felt that complemented the Lamb’s to some degree. I couldn’t see any of the little gold flecks adorning my glasses, so I’m not sure yet whether they make it out of the bottle.
I don’t think I’m quite at the advanced chilli-fan stage, where I want everything to be slightly hot just yet, but rest assured I’ll add this little concoction to a few things, and see what develops. I’ll also encourage as many people as possible to spray it directly into their mouths so that I can laugh at the flinch.
Laura Santtini has developed other products too, including one based on grappa, so go and check out her website. You might find something to interest you. Let me also give you a gentle push in the direction of Clare’s blog, http://feastandglory.blogspot.com/. Clare is South Yorkshire’s premier food blogger, and as such is responsible for bringing Devils Breath to my attention. So you might say, “today’s Drink it How You Like it has been brought to you in association with Clare’s Foody Blog… and let’s say the number 12."
If you’ve found any great chilli and booze combinations, please let me know and we’ll see if we can’t revisit the subject sometime soon.