Our friends Barry and Malka recently returned from a trip to Berlin and Budapest. It was in the latter city that Barry picked up a couple of half-pint flasks of Kecskeméti paprika vodka... and last Friday evening at dinner, he trotted one out after having put it in the freezer to chill for a few days.
Paprika vodka! Leave it to those nutty Hungarians to come up with something like that.
There are two kinds of paprika in the spice aisle: sweet and hot. This stuff was most definitely made with hot paprika... and if any additional confirmation were necessary, it would have been provided by the whole orange-red pepper that was crammed into that little half-pint bottle.
Served ice-cold, paprika vodka has a surprising degree of heat - a combination of spice and alcohol. It delivers a powerful, peppery kick. I can imagine drinking shots of it alongside a bowl of paprika-laden Hungarian goulash... or using it to make a Magyar Mae - Budapest’s answer to the Bloody Mary.
I have no idea where to score a bottle of this stuff hereabouts, but it reminded me of my favorite Spicy Tipple, a liquor that, unfortunately, seems to no longer be available in this country: Stolichnaya Pertsovka. It’s a vodka infused with pepper - both capsicum and peppercorn - and ginger, and it packs a flavorful, fiery wallop. I first had it some 35 years ago, when a friend brought a bottle back from the USSR, and I fell in love with it. I’m not sure about how it matches up with Russian food, but nothing goes quite as well with Szechuan cuisine.
Now, if you want peppery vodka, you’re stuck with Absolut Peppar, which tastes like a combination of lighter fluid and burning tires. Or you can make your own pertsovka by infusing vodka with chile peppers, peppercorns, and ginger for a few weeks. That’s what I’ll be doing. I’ve also got a jar of vodka in which are marinating a couple of hacked-up serrano peppers. That oughta be strong enough to peel paint.
And, like revenge, pepper-infused vodka is a drink best served cold. Very cold. Stick it in the freezer until it becomes almost syrupy, and then it’s ready to drink. Amazing how something that cold can be so hot!