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?
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.
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 https://tonguespank-spice-company.myshopify.com/.
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.