Are you ready to add something new to your list of liquor cabinet essentials?
Created by award-winning, self-proclaimed “cocktologist” Jared Hirsch, Caged Heat is made with a red hot blend of tamarind, cardamom, ghost pepper, and sugar cane, all locally sourced from Oaktown Spice Shop in the Bay Area. Previously, Caged Heat was only available at two bars in the Bay, Sidebar in Oakland (where Hirsch is the bar manager) and Southside Spirit House in San Francisco, but thanks to a Kickstarter account, NickelDime LLC, and some rabid supporters, Caged Heat may be available to you as soon as April 1st.
The Caged Heat Classic:
A Humble Start
Hirsch’s “seductively spicy” masterpiece first debuted at St. George Spirit’s “Breaking and Entering Bourbon” release back in 2012, and still continues to be a hot item on the shelves at both of the places where it’s currently being offered. Of course, I couldn’t write about something as far out there as a ghost pepper simple syrup without trying it first, so I made my way to Southside Spirit House to see for myself just what makes this stuff so popular.
Taking a Test Drive
The Caged Heat cocktail is a simple mix of Dickel Whiskey (though any Whiskey or Bourbon would suffice) and the Caged Heat syrup, garnished with lemon slices. The warmth from the ghost peppers takes a moment to spread across the palate and builds with every sip, but never reaches the point where it becomes overpowering or too spicy. The Indian spices included in the mix add a peppery, earthy aftertaste that can help balance out the sweetness of the sugar cane in the syrup and in the alcohol itself.
Unsurprisingly, I was informed by my bartender extraordinaire of the evening Whitney, that not only is Caged Heat adored by the patrons of the bar, the bartenders love it too. Having all of the ingredients balanced into one bottle makes it easier to create drinks that leave the bar quickly and are mixed perfectly nearly every time. The Kickstarter page includes a list of other possible uses for this syrup than to mix with whiskey. One of the reasons I wanted so badly to try it was that I didn’t think it could be possible for anything made with something as notoriously spicy as ghost pepper to be able to mesh well with a variety of opposing flavors.
The Caged Heat Margarita:
So, Whitney was kind enough to concoct a few other recipes featuring Caged Heat for me so I could test this theory. The result? As far as I can tell, you can put Caged Heat on anything. Immediately following the traditional Caged Heat cocktail, I was treated with a classic margarita spiced up with a little Heat. This was how Caged Heat was first used on the bar scene, as a blend with tequila, and this variation ended up being my favorite drink of the night. I generally prefer my drinks to be on the savory side, and the Caged Heat syrup subtly enhanced the saltiness and the lime flavor in the margarita to create a taste that was so classic and yet somehow so much more than your average margarita. I was also able to sample a whiskey sour, a current personal favorite of mine, with the syrup included. Though the taste was overall pretty similar to the classic Caged Heat cocktail, the additional sweetness of the lemon juice and sugar in the drink really helped to bring out the spicy overtones of the syrup to create an explosive taste sensation.
Lucky for me, my bartender Whitney is very familiar with Jared Hirsch and his work in creating new and exciting things in the world of craft cocktails. “I call him the kung fu panda of cocktails,” she says, assuring me that Caged Heat is not even close to Hirsch’s first foray into the science of “cocktology.” After sampling the syrup for myself, I can’t say I disagree. The only thing that could overshadow the genius blend of flavors in Caged Heat syrup, is, possibly, its many different uses. Take for example, the “Dry Heat,” so aptly named for it’s lack of alcohol. This mix of soda water, lemon, and the Caged Heat syrup is, according to Whitney, really delicious and helpful with stomach aches. In addition, according to Jared Hirsch himself, the syrup is extremely tasty on anything that you would put maple syrup on (pancakes, ice cream, etc.) and is an excellent marinade for meat. Which means not only is this product a must-have addition to your liquor cabinet, but can spice up your meals and desserts as well.
The Caged Heat Sour
The best part is, the Kickstarter for a bottled version of Caged Heat has already surpassed its $10,000 dollar goal with lots of time to spare. There is no informationon the Caged Heat Kickstarter page as to where you will be able to buy the syrup once it is ready for wider sale, but I can assume that information will most likely be available on the product’s website, CagedHeatSyrup.com, when the time comes.
Either way Caged Heat is almost ready to be purchased and experimented with by you, so the only remaining question is, are you ready for it?