Give Your Tongue a Spanking With New Liquor-Infused Spices

by Rebecca Rhoades
( August 22nd, 2014 )

Cooking with alcohol is nothing new. From vodka sauce to tequila-marinated chicken to bourbon balls, spirits have long held a prominent place in the kitchen. I’ve even been known to add a little booze to my meals to give them that extra ‘oomph.’

I also love peppers. A Mexican meal—my favorite, by the way—just isn’t a the same without the smoky goodness of a rich chipotle sauce or the fiery bite of some chopped habeneros.

So when I first heard about the new Liquor & Heat spice line from Chicago-based Tonguespank Spice Company, I was intrigued. I was also skeptical. After all, there are a million spices on the market, and to be honest, why would I want to trade in my handy bottle booze and fresh peppers for a powdered mix?

Tonguespank Spices

Well, my curiosity got the best of me, and I contacted Tonguespank, which generously sent me some samples to review. But first, a little about the spices.

Or maybe I shouldn’t call them spices. After all, Tonguespank likes to refer to them as dry hot sauces. “These are not traditional cooking spices, but condiments meant to replace the old standards of salt, pepper, parmesan, and crushed red pepper at the table,” said the company in an announcement hailing the release of the product line, which consists of four regular blends and one superhot “premium” blend. The current lineup of flavors consists of:

• Smoky Bourbon
Made with Koval bourbon, the blend also features morita chipotle peppers and garlic. According to the marketing materials, it finishes with a slow habenero-and-ghost burn that builds. Recommended uses: eggs, burgers, grilled vegetables.

• Garlic Grappa
Italian brandy mixes with Tuscan herbs, balsamic vinegar and habanero chilies. Recommended uses: pasta, marinara sauce

• Citrus Rum
Spiced rum combines with three different citrus fruits and cloves, with a dash of habanero heat at the end. Recommended uses: pork, seafood. Or, combine with sugar for a spicy tropical cocktail rim.

• Wasabi Sake
The kick of sake pairs perfectly with the up-front hit of wasabi and horseradish, while habaneros leave a long burn that lingers. Recommended uses: fish, seafood.

• Scorpion Bourbon
Tonguespank takes Smoky Bourbon and turns the heat up to 11 by adding Trinidad Moruga Scorpions, the world’s hottest pepper with a heat of
2 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). By comparison, jalapeños come in at just 20,000 SHUs.

It just so happened that the evening I received my samples (Smoky Bourbon, Garlic Grappa, and Citrus Rum), I was planning on grilling burgers for dinner, so I decided to give the Smoky Bourbon a try.

Cooking with Tonguespank spices

The smell was complex—a smoky aroma with just a hint nose-burning heat. But it wasn’t overpowering at all. In fact, I was a little worried that the flavor might not live up to the marketing promises. But in order to truly test the flavors, I chose not to add any additional seasonings or spices to my meat.

The finished burgers were not only juicy, they were extremely flavorful. The initial bites weren’t too hot, but soon the burn kicked in—a little too much burn perhaps, making me wonder if I had used too much of the spice. A little goes a long way. And while the presence of bourbon was questionable, the chil-pepper taste was spicy and rich. This wasn’t just heat for the heat’s sake. This was a complex piquancy that accentuated and complemented the beef—and all without the need for any additional high-calorie sauces or sloppy condiments. Best of all, Tonguespank spices are all-natural with no preservatives.


I definitely can’t wait to try the other spices. Next up, some grilled citrus chicken washed down with a rum punch rimmed with Tonguespank spice.

Sound good? Tonguespank Spices are sold exclusively online. You can buy them at


Veni, Vidi, Bibi!



Note: I received media samples of these products free of charge. My opinions are completely my own based on my experience with the products.

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Tempt Your Taste Buds With These Tequila-Based Tipples

by Rebecca Rhoades
( July 24th, 2014 )

tacos and margarita

As I mentioned in my previous post about National Tequila Day, there’s more to tequila than margaritas. Following are just a few creative concoctions that will take your taste buds on a tantalizing trip south of the border.



Created by Pete Vasconcellos of The Penrose in New York City; photo courtesy of Blue Nectar Spirits Company.

2 oz. Blue Nectar Silver tequila
½ oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. ginger beer
mezcal to float (about ¼ oz.)
5 mint leaves

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila and lime juice and shake well. Pour in to a highball glass. Top with ginger beer, and float the mezcal. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


Recipe and photo courtesy of Trianon Tequila.

2 oz. Trianon Reposado tequila
1 oz. grapefruit soda
Fresh-squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt
Lime slice

Rime a glass with salt and fill with ice. Add tequila and grapefruit soda. Squeeze in fresh lime juice and a pinch of salt. Stir, and garnish with lime slice.




Photo and recipe courtesy of Trianon Tequila.

2 oz. Trianon Blanco tequila
1½ oz. cola
Fresh lime juice
Sea salt
Lime slice

Rim glass with salt and add ice. Add lime juice, cola, and tequila. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Garnish with lime slice.


Veni, Vidi, Bibi!


Taco and margarita photo © Dave Pisani

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It’s Time to Celebrate National Tequila Day

by Rebecca Rhoades
( July 22nd, 2014 )

Did you know that this Thursday, July 24, is National Tequila Day? If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t even know that this holiday existed. National Margarita Day, which falls is February, has in recent years received increased media attention. But there’s more to tequila than margaritas, so it’s about time that this south of the border favorite is recognized for its own nuances and flavors.

tequila shot

A little background for those who aren’t familiar with tequila. Like it’s neighbor to the north Kentucky bourbon, which must be produced following certain rules and guidelines, tequila by Mexican law must be made in Mexico, specifically in the state of Jalisco and limited areas in Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. It is produced from blue agave, and more than 300 million blue agave plants are harvested for tequila production in Jalisco annually. Higher-end tequilas are made with 100 percent pure blue agave, while cheaper brands, called mixtos, use less. By law, however, all tequila must contain at least 51 percent agave.

There are five different categories of tequila, each based on how long the distilled tequila is aged.

Blanco: bottled immediately after distillation.
Joven: blanco that is flavored or blended with aged spirits.
Reposado: aged two months to one year.
Añejo: aged one to three years.
Extra añejo: aged at least three years.

If your last experience with tequila included the words “lick it, suck it, slam it,” and ended with a pounding headache the following morning, you might be thrilled to know that tequila has grown up and that there are now numerous premium brands available on the market.

Cirilo Oropeza

“Maybe you have in your mind tequila from 30 years ago. It is different because now all tequila producers in Jalisco really are researching and investing for quality,” says Cirilo Oropeza (pictured), master distiller for the super-premium craft brand Espolón. “Years ago, [slamming tequila] was necessary. But now you can enjoy your tequila without salt, without lemon. You can enjoy it straight.”

Following are a few more fun facts about Mexico’s favorite drink, courtesy of my friends at Blue Nectar Spirits Company. And don’t forget to check back on Thursday for some tasty recipes to help you celebrate National Tequila Day in style.


tequila consumption


Veni, Vidi, Bibi!



Photos © Dave Pisani

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