We’ve finally arrived at the sweet spot of this year, post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas. Admittedly, this is a filler post. I’m working on a longer piece comparing China’s urban parks with America’s, and it is taking me in unexpected directions. It seems I need a little encouragement and some holiday cheer.
Visitors to Shanghai are inevitably taken by their expat friends to dinner at Lost Heaven on The Bund, where they will be quickly introduced to the Thai Zeed. It’s a magical drink, and Lost Heaven makes a big deal of its secret recipe. I’m pretty sure anyone who’s had this drink goes home and immediately tries to copy it. If you’re good at mixed drinks, it’s an easy one to figure out, but when I googled for an online recipe, I couldn’t find one (or at least not the right one). As with any drink imitation, getting the proportions correct takes practice. Lost Heaven garnishes its drinks with a Thai chili and lemon and lime, but I swear the lemon is a red herring intended to discourage imitations; I’m positive the drink is actually made with lime juice. The 6 ingredients are simple.
- Thai chili infused vodka (Absolut)
- Coconut rum (Malibu)
- Fresh lime juice
- Sugar syrup
- Splash of water
- Salt for the rim
As for the proportions: it’s all about how spicy you like your drink. Chili infused vodka only takes about 3 or 4 hours to make. When I first started thinking about this drink, I naively assumed making chili-infused vodka would be a months-long process similar to making Limoncello. It’s not. I put 6 cut chilies into a quarter of a 750 ml bottle of Absolut for 5 hours. ON FIRE. The next time I put 6 cut chilies in half of a bottle, but I accidentally left it overnight (24 hours!). The liquid was actually pink. BRUTAL. I added some plain vodka to the mix, and it was fine. The vodka needs to be very spicy to get the kick since there are plenty of other ingredients in the glass. Basically, make the vodka, make the drink, and if it’s too spicy, dilute it. I like my drink with a strong kick and have settled on half a bottle of vodka to about 5-6 cut chilies for 4-5 hours. It’s fine to use the same number of chilies for a whole bottle, just let it sit longer. For two drinks:
Salt the rims of two glasses
Fill a shaker with ice and add:
¼ cup chili infused vodka
¼ cup coconut rum
¼ cup (and a splash more) of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 cup sugar syrup (equal parts dissolved water/sugar)
Splash of water (this can help control for spiciness too)
Obviously, you can add more sugar syrup if you like more sweetness or more lime if you like it tart. Shake it well so it gets a little foamy. I keep my chili vodka in the freezer, and I chill the rum beforehand. Garnish with cut lemons or limes and a sliced red Thai chili on the rim.