One thing I love about Seattle: I visited Oola Distillery’s tasting room on a cold Tuesday night, and the counter was busy with patrons buying locally distilled spirits with the same ease and familiarity that one might stock up on apples or pasta at QFC.
This week, owner Kirby Kallas-Lewis quietly released a vodka flavored with hot peppers. He says Howard Lev of Washington pepper phenom Mama Lil’s was instrumental in finding exactly the right peppers. Goathorns give the vodka a delicate orange hue and the same fresh, piquant flavor you get when biting into an actual raw pepper; this vodka practically crunches. The wallop of heat is courtesy of Thai chile peppers.
The 375-mL bottles are $22 and only available at Oola’s tasting room (it’s a nice excuse to visit, not that you should need one). Kallas-Lewis didn’t exactly intend for this release to be so exclusive, but no sooner did he identify just the right combination of peppers than an early freeze decimated the Yakima-grown goathorn crops before he could secure an order. Hence this vodka is in relatively short supply; Oola has produced 400 bottles and Kallas-Lewis estimates he could produce another 400, but that’s it until next year’s pepper crop ripens. But hey, there’s always the rosemary vodka that Oola is releasing in the early part of 2012.
What does one do with hot pepper vodka? Bloody Marys are an obvious conclusion, though it seems a shame to douse this fine product in a salty, overly processed Mary mix. Oola recommends mixing two ounces of the spirit with an ounce of lime and a quarter-ounce of simple syrup.