With the change in weather, I'm having to take painkillers a lot more regularly, which means I can't drink.
I thought, as an option, I'd explore some non-alcoholic spirits - there seems to be quite a market for them, so there must be some good ones out there.
I did have some luck in finding some "gin". However, whilst searching, I stumbled upon "Xachoh Blend No. 7 Non Alcoholic Spirit", which lists the following tasting notes
Xachoh Blend No. 7 has a warm and richly spiced aroma. The prominent flavours of ginger root and blades of mace strike a perfect blend of warmth, spice and a subtle fruitiness. The luxurious aroma of cinnamon quills brings sweetness to the nose and palate, balancing perfectly with saffron & the other spices. Dark crystal malt adds delicious toasted notes and a real depth of flavour, similar to that of a well-aged dark spirit. All of these rich and dark flavours are balanced by a refreshing acidity of sumac on the palate, leaving the way for a long finish and an eagerness for that next sip.
Sounds good eh? As with anything on Amazon, reviews were incredibly mixed, some love it, some hate it.
So, as it sounded good, I took a risk and ordered a bottle.
It arrived this morning:
So having been looking forward to it's arrival, I had a little taste.
It's got a nice and very varied aroma to it. But things go downhill once you get it to your mouth - if it was just a little less watery, I'd probably be looking to add Ribena to it.
Disappointing doesn't cover it, the only trace of flavour it has is a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste. Unfortunately, if you mix it with ginger ale, it transpires that all you get is ginger ale with a horrendous aftertaste.
The answer for why lies on the back label (and in fairness *is* listed on the Amazon listing)
With the exception of a tiny bit of salt, the nutritional information is just 0's. This stuff is literally water with some Barley Malt and a few flavourings.
It's "natural", it Gluten Free, it's vegan, it's... it's fucking shit and it's destined for the drain. Yuck
But, rather than pour a £30 bottle of water down the drain, I thought I'd have a go at improving it first - worst comes to worst I'm just pouring a slightly more expensive bottle of water down the drain, and it's not like I could realistically make it much worse.
As I'm extremely unlikely to try making this again, and there's not a lot of room there for snark, I figured this was better placed here than on my recipes site.
As it lacks in both flavour and texture, I needed to address both.
I like a strong flavour, and the one thing all non-alcoholic spirits have in common is that they just don't have the heat of their full-fun brethren. That's partly because of the lack of alcohol to create a burn, but also (I suspect) arising from a lack of imagination amongst their creators.
Whilst it's never going to be as awesome as Fireball, the aim is to try and get something that widens peoples eyes a little when they taste it.
A quick trip to Tesco (other supermarkets are available) later, and I had a set of ingredients
- Cardamom pods
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Root Ginger
- Ground Cinnamon
- Dark Brown Soft Sugar
- err... Tights
The tights are essential because it gets cold in the kit... they're going to be cut up and used to make little bags so that we can infuse the flavours into the drink and hopefully not have to decant it when serving.
If you're wondering why the spices are facing backwards, blame Michael McIntyre for having instilled a small but weird habit.
Also if the background looks familiar it's because I did this on my workbench rather than in the kitchen (using a kitchen chopping board etc) - no-one complains when I use a workshop hoover to tidy up spilt sugar and cinnamon, they might if I use the house's main hoover.
Because I'm going to rely on infusion as a mechanism for putting some flavour into this stuff, an extremely high surface area is needed.
So, each of the flavours needs to be chopped up reasonably finely (but not so much so that it'll pass through the tights)
Next up is the ginger, so nearly the whole root gets peeled, chopped up and put in (I put that much ginger in a stir-fry once, it was fucking awesome)
I mixed them together on a plate and added the Cardamom pods. Then, because Cinnamon is awesome, I sprinkled half a tablespoon of ground Cinnamon onto it (with luck, this will dissolve into the drink)
Then I cut the ends off of the tights to make little packages of flavour and spice
After stretching the neck of the package up, I tied it in a knot, then tied some thread around it before carefully pushing it into the bottle.
I'm not convinced the packages will actually pull back out, so it may need re-bottling, but the thread at least means I can try
Then, because this thing needs to be rammed with Cinnamon, I also added a tied cinnamon stick in
One little package clearly wasn't going to be enough, so I carried on making them until I ran out of mixture. 5 packages in total (means I've got an odd tight to stick in someones drawer at some point to cause some confusion). I also added an additional cinnamon stick.
With all the little packages safely rammed into the bottle, there was just the texture to address. It doesn't matter how you flavour it, watery crap is still water crap.
So, to induce a slightly more syrupy consistency, I carefully scraped 12 tablespoons of brown sugar into the bottle whilst stirring with a chopstick, closed the lid and gave it a good shake.
After letting it sit for 30 mins I poured a small amount into a shot glass just so I could get an idea of texture/flavour. There still a slight watery edge (though I suspect that'll go), but it's now full of flavour with a rum like feeling in the mouth. The aftertaste has changed significantly, it lasts longer and now has a warm burn that'll probably make others ask whether I went overboard with the cinnamon.
I'll now leave the bottle in a warm room for at least a couple of days so that the flavours can (hopefully) percolate. With luck it'll be ready soon enough that I'll have recovered from any poisoning before Xmas...
The bottle has been sat for about a week, and the flavour has definitely changed - but it's just not enough. The unpleasant aftertaste is still there, though it takes a little longer to creep up on you.
It was worth a try, but it went down the drain last night.