Friday, April 6, 2012

Fun Behind Bars with Dy Mixes

Something Great from Wisconsin...

We've got a lot to be proud of in Wisconsin, and our stock just went up again. Agave Loco Brands (based in Illinois) is producing (in Pewaukee) a liqueur of such storied quality that I can scarcely find a negative review of it, and for the fourth year in a row, its sales are up over 100%. For the second year in a row, RumChata is one of America's best-selling brands, according to statistics compiled by the Beverage Information Group, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

It is still possible that someone, somewhere is not yet familiar with this creamy spirit. My guests are almost unanimous in their description of its flavor as "the milk from a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch" breakfast cereal. A few things about its formula can be known: its base spirit is obviously rum, and the "Chata" refers to a centuries-old rice drink which is sweetened with sugar and flavored with any combination of fruits and spices. RumChata's formula is obviously a well-guarded secret, but they confess to Caribbean Rum, Wisconsin dairy cream and ingredients from six countries, including Madagascar (perhaps vanilla beans?) on their website.
While most creamy liqueurs have a mellow flavor that blends in, RumChata has a surprisingly bold cinnamon finish.

Although it has a very unique flavor that is delicious on its own, RumChata easily lends itself to mixology. As a general guideline, stick to complementary, confectionery spirits; think vanilla, butterscotch, and spice. One of the simplest applications is to mix it 1:1 with a spiced rum like Captain Morgan. Another popular drink is a variation of the Blind Russian that substitutes RumChata for Bailey's Irish Cream atop vodka and Kahlua. My own favorite involves chai-infused vanilla vodka; it takes a little work but I'm not the type to mind. Note that mixing this product with anything that has a high concentration of citric acid, like juice or soft drinks will cause it to curdle in an aesthetically-unpleasing (though not dangerous) way. One important exception is Dad's Root Beer, so the Root Beer Float experiment can proceed.

It has developed such an enthusiastic following that its fans are not just drinking it, we're eating it, too. The brand's website features numerous recipes, and a few of the most promising are RumChata Pumpkin Pie, RumChata Buttercream Frosting, and RumChata French Toast. I'm currently working on thickening it slightly to drizzle over Spicy Carrot Cake.

You might expect Agave Loco to stick to variations on their creamy sensation, the brand shakes things up with its pepper-cured tequila. For generations, Jalisco natives had been preserving their peppers in tequila, as such preservation produces a sweeter result than using vinegar. The resulting liquid, however, is too spicy to be comfortably consumed by mortals, so it is cut with additional tequila. In Agave Loco's Pepper Cured Tequila, 100% Agave, Reposado tequila is imbued with the flavors and oils of six different varieties of peppers by the brand's Founder and Master Blender, Tom Maas. It obviously blends well with savory drinks like a Tequila-based Bloody Mary (sometimes called a Bloody Mariachi or a Bloody Maria), but surprisingly well with the sweetness of fruit in a Strawberry Margarita. Such use combines three elements on the rise right now: Super-premium Tequila, the Margarita, and Specialty Peppers.

Unfortunately, this particular spirit is not for sale at this time in Wisconsin but can be ordered through If you'd like to try to make your own, start with a good, 100% Agave, Reposado or Anejo tequila. Well-begun is half-done. Then, choose a variety of peppers ranging from sweet to as spicy as your palate can handle. Decide whether your finished product should be mild or bold, and clean your peppers to produce that blend. Scrub and slice them, removing the seeds. Some recommend leaving the seeds in, but in my experience they are not necessary to achieve an enjoyable heat index, and leaving them in can impart a slightly bitter cast. Submerge the peppers in the tequila in a clean vessel and cap tightly. Shake it up once a day, which will speed your process along, and start tasting it at about three days. You will probably have a fresh-tasting blend of spirit and heat in just under a week, but it pays to taste it every couple of days.

I'll be drinking mine on the deck with a side of Sangrita on Cinco de Mayo....

Find more from Dy at: Fun Behind Bars

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