Even though it felt more like fall than late spring/early summer here in Iowa over the weekend, we can have hope that the temps will increase, and we will soon be soaking up the sun with an icy beverage in hand! When that does happen, I hope you take time to try this Spicy Cucumber Cocktail recipe. It’s refreshing, makes enough for a crowd (perfect next time you host an outdoor barbecue), and has a little kick to it that will keep you from downing the whole pitcher before your guests arrive!
This recipe is part of the monthly Recipe Redux series that I have been a part of for the last few months. The series theme for this month is…
Cocktails and Mocktails May Celebrations
May is always chock full of special occasions, where a drink like this Spicy Cucumber Cocktail would fit right in. Whether you’re hosting a wedding shower, baby shower, graduation reception, retirement party, or any other gathering, this cocktail would be perfect.
Back in March, we had dinner out with some of our neighbors, and it proved to be one of the best food experiences I’ve had in Des Moines! If you hadn’t heard, Des Moines has one of the best food scenes in the Midwest, with enough unique restaurants to keep your taste buds entertained indefinitely. Many of the restaurants feature seasonal menus that the chef(s) change throughout the year, which means you can have a different food experience even if you go to the same place multiple times.
One of my favorite restaurants (Proof, for my local readers – check out the “second Saturday” tasting dinners there) puts on a monthly tasting dinner, where the chef features 10 different courses that fit the theme he chooses. This was the dinner we ate with our neighbors, and it was anything but disappointing! Every course was exquisite, with a variety of textures and flavors that kept us all guessing and wanting more.
The palate cleansing course was a shot glass size serving of this cucumber cocktail (they referred to it as a “shrub”), and we were all in foodie heaven when we drank it. It was SO delicious and served the purpose of refreshing our palate very well. Since our neighbors are “regulars” at these tasting dinners, and were on a first name basis with all the servers, we were told the ingredients of the drink. Score! So, I set to work creating my version of the cocktail we were all googly-eyed over!
The restaurant version of the cocktail used Pisco (which is a type of brandy from Peru or Chile), habanero pepper, a simple syrup, and cucumber. Because the drink we had there was a very pale green color (compared to my more vibrant green colored version), I’m betting the chef at the restaurant peeled the cucumber. I did not, however, if you’d like to peel the cucumber, feel free to do so. Also, I couldn’t easily find the Pisco, so I substituted a combination of Saint Germain and vodka, to get what I think is a similar match for flavor. I really like using both liqueurs because it keeps the flavor more balanced.
If you think the habanero pepper sounds strange, I can tell you that I served this at a birthday party to people with a wide range of ages and food preferences, and it was well liked! The kick from the habanero builds, which, as I mentioned above, keeps you from drinking the cocktail too quickly. Call it a good way to moderate how much you’re drinking! You can vary the amount of pepper you use based on your preference for heat – I prefer using the whole pepper, but if you like things on the mild side, go for just ¾ of the pepper. My husband, who is a “the spicier the better” type of guy, would probably appreciate if I would use 1 ½ peppers!
Enjoy all your summer gatherings, and if you give this Spicy Cucumber Cocktail a try, leave a comment to let me know how you liked it!
Spicy Cucumber Cocktail How-To Photos:
Cover the hand you are touching the habanero pepper with! I use a small plastic bag if I don’t have any disposable plastic gloves. See tip at the bottom of the recipe.
Add the pepper quarters, water, and sugar to a small saucepan. Heat to boiling; cook to infuse the water with the heat from the pepper.
Use an English (sometimes referred to as “seedless”) cucumber for this. You can peel it or leave the peel on.
Add the coarsely chopped cucumber to a blender.
Remove the pepper pieces from the sugar water and add to blender with cucumber. Blend until nearly smooth.
Here is the blended cucumber mixture.
Strain the cucumber liquid through a fine mesh sieve.
You’ll be left with some pulp in the sieve. Discard that.
Add vodka and St. Germain to the cucumber liquid.
Serve in glasses with ice. Garnish with cucumber slices, mint sprigs, and fresh ginger if desired. The mint and ginger flavors pair really well with the spicy cucumber flavor – plus, they are pretty and who doesn’t love a pretty cocktail?!
- ¾ to 1 habanero chile pepper*
- 2 ¼ cups water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 medium English cucumber, peeled if desired**
- 1 ¼ cups Saint Germain liqueur
- 1 cup plain vodka
- Cucumber slices, fresh mint sprigs, and/or thinly sliced fresh ginger (optional)
- Cut stem off habanero pepper.* Cut pepper into quarters. Add pepper, water, and sugar to a small saucepan. Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cool completely.
- Coarsely chop cucumber. Transfer to a blender. Remove the pepper pieces and any seeds from the cooled sugar water using a slotted spoon; discard pepper. Add sugar water to the blender with cucumber. Cover; blend until very smooth.
- Using a fine mesh sieve***, strain blended mixture into an 8-cup glass measure or other glass bowl, using a spoon to stir and help press through the liquid. Discard any pulp left in the sieve.
- Add Saint Germain and vodka to strained cucumber liquid. To serve, fill cocktail glasses halfway with ice. Add about 6 ounces of the drink to each glass. If desired, garnish glasses with cucumber slices, fresh mint sprigs, and/or ginger slices.
- *When handling a hot chile pepper, such as a habanero, it is important to avoid touching the pepper directly with your fingers. Use disposable gloves when handling and chopping the pepper, or surround your hand with a small plastic bag if you don’t have gloves. If you do touch the pepper by accident, wash your hands well with hot soapy water AND avoid touching sensitives open areas on your body (such as your eyes, nostrils, mouth, or any open cuts) for at least several hours after touching the pepper.
- **Peeling the cucumber will result in a lighter colored cocktail, with a little less cucumber flavor.
- ***Line the sieve with double thickness of cheesecloth or strain the liquid through a nut milk bag instead of a sieve if you prefer no pulp in your drink.
- Make Ahead Directions: Prepare as directed through step 3. Cover and chill the strained liquid for up to 3 days. To serve, continue as directed in step 4.
- 8 servings (about 6 ounces per serving)
- 223 cals, 0 g pro, 24 g carb, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g sat fat, 0 g fiber, 3 mg sodium