"Paprika Punch"- a red bell pepper infused rum mixed with a saffron simple syrup- a surprising and delicious cocktail that Chris has decided is an all time favorite! Plus: we teach you how to use a sous vide to speed up alcohol infusion (from two weeks down to 45 minutes).
Recently, we did a cookbook purge in our house. We are really good about regularly donating items that we no longer need or want, but books is the category that always seems to creep up on us. Chris was paging through the donation pile, writing down inspiration from books published 30 plus years ago and he stumbled upon something called 'paprika punch'. It was a red bell pepper alcohol and he had PLANS for that.
While infusing oils or alcohol used to take two weeks to beyond two months (by letting the flavoring product sit in the liquid and waiting) thanks to a sous vide machine, it now takes only 45 minutes. It takes the flavor and absolutely permeates every molecule of the liquid. You could throw lavender sprigs in vodka for example. Or you could add cinnamon sticks. The possibilities are endless and in this case, Chris took two red bell peppers, threw them in a food processor, added them to a container of white rum, bagged it in a freezer bag (we use Weck jars at home vs typical Mason jars- so if we had a non sealed Mason jar that would have been perfect) and let it infuse for 45 minutes in the water bath. After that, he strained off the solids and discarded them and we had a gorgeous, red colored rum.
While the original iteration of this cocktail Chris created with the red bell pepper rum did not include saffron, the first version absolutely tasted amazing. It had the color and scent of red bell pepper. But adding saffron...well, it made it strangely taste more like all the good parts of a bell pepper than before. And the saffron also reminds us of Copenhagen, so that's a bonus.
This drink does not need a lot of ingredients. As much as we brainstormed, this was a very balanced, free standing cocktail with only the simple syrup and acid with the rum. Anything else we thought to add turned it 'gazpacho' or 'salsa' tasting.
This cocktail is PERFECT with grilled items or picnic items but it's also going to be perfect year round. At least here in Virginia, there's not a lot of variation between the taste of a summer red bell pepper and a winter red bell pepper (something you cannot say the same for a tomato).
I also want to mention the importance of a big ice cube here. Small ice cubes melt quickly and dilute a drink. That's why you see giant ice cubes in good bars- so the item stays cold but it doesn't hurt the drink itself. But here's the thing- really clear ice is hard to come by.
Chris and I had done it all when it came to making clear ice at home. We boiled water. We used filtered water. We froze the cubes in a cooler INSIDE the freezer. But then we tried the clear ice cube maker from Peak Ice Works...and that basically just fixed everything. It's REALLY clear (see final picture in this post or the top down one of me holding it- that's the surface you can see through the ice...). So FYI, if you're also someone who has been chasing the super clear ice goal, just buy this instead. Save yourself the trouble.
This recipe takes some up front work. You have to make a batch of rum. You have to make saffron syrup. You can use a lemon but you can also make a citric acid solution.
Side note: Why Citric Acid? It allows a sour component to be apart of the drink without incorporating a citrus flavored oil to overpower other flavors. You could use other acids such as malic acid. But even these acids have “flavors”. Malic is like green apple and pear, while citric acid is more lemon, orange and lime.
What I'm saying is, this is a GREAT recipe for a party cocktail. You'll have it all done up front! But don't freak out and think this can all happen for a two person batch in five minutes.
Saffron Paprika Punch Cocktail
Red Pepper Rum
- 750 mL silver rum
- 2 red bell peppers into a food processor until a minced like texture is created
- 1/3 cup simple syrup
- 1/2 Tablespoon water
- 15 strands saffron
Citric Acid Solution:
- 3 1/2 teaspoon citric acid powder (find it in the canning goods area of the grocery/Target)
- 1 cup water
- 2 oz red bell pepper rum (above)
- 3/4 oz saffron simple syrup
- 3/4 oz citric acid solution (or lemon juice in a pinch)
- Pinch of msg (1/16 tsp)
- Pinch of smoked paprika powder
- Threads of saffron for garnish
To make rum: Slice red bell pepper and remove inner seeds and stem. Add bell pepper to a food processor. Pulse to chop.
Add bell pepper and white rum to a non-sealed glass jar (evaporation can create too much pressure) or a double bagged freezer bag (what we did). Use water displacement to remove air from bags before sealing
Infuse at 135º for 45 minutes.
Strain solids off and discard. Pour liquid into bottle and cool. Store in fridge.
To make saffron syrup:
- Heat simple syrup and water so hot, but not boiling.
- Add saffron. Stir and leave it to 'bloom' for at least 15 minutes.
- Store in fridge.
To make citric acid solution:
- Add citric acid powder to water. Stir to combine. Store in fridge.
- Note: 1/2 tsp is about the acidity level of 2 T lemon juice.
To make cocktail:
- Place ice cube into desired glassware. Pour ingredients over the top. Stir. Garnish with a dusting of smoked paprika and threads of saffron. Serve.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.