The long pepper is a relative of black pepper, but it has a distinct sweet aroma which adds a unique touch to cocktails.
Black pepper, and its relatives, seem like an odd addition to a cocktail, but it works. The first “cocktail” that I ever tried with them was a simple black pepper soda from my favourite Italian restaurant, A Tavola, in New Paltz, NY. The bartenders there certainly know their stuff. So it makes sense that when I got my hands on some long pepper, I would try making a simple syrup with it so I could play around with various cocktails.
More on that in a minute, but first, a bit more about long peppers. The long pepper, Piper longum, is a close relative of black pepper, Piper nigrum. Long pepper has that characteristic heat that we’ve come to expect from black pepper, but it has an added sweet flavor and scent, which is more reminiscent of the sweeter spices like cinnamon or cloves.
While not a spice that we normally use in kitchens these days, the long pepper was once very popular and used alongside black pepper in European cooking. It’s still used in some regions such as India. You can read more about long pepper, its uses, and its history over at Serious Eats.
If you want to try long peppers, you don’t have to go to some hidden spice shop in a foreign country. Amazon has multiple sellers. The ones I’m using are from Yours Kitchen (sourced from Thailand).
For cooking, I use it in most recipes that call for black pepper, especially in ragu sauces, where the element of sweetness helps to counter the acidity of the tomatoes.
Long Pepper Soda
Now, on to the drinking. I wanted to start by getting the full flavor of the pepper, and there’s no better way than a soda from long pepper infused simple syrup and some club. I’m still working on my photography skills, so apologies if it’s not perfect.
The great thing about the soda is that it is not overly spicy. Long pepper isn’t quite as “hot” as black pepper. It’s more like a lingering essence of heat on the back of the palate. For the simple syrup, you can use the same recipe for the black peppercorn simple syrup from Chow Hound: 1.5 cups water, 1 cup white sugar, and 1 – 2 tablespoons of long pepper. Simmer for ~20 – 25 minutes, let cool and strain.
And that’s all there is to it. Unfortunately I don’t have all the ingredients I want for the cocktails I plan on making with this syrup, so that’ll be all for this post. But there’ll be more to come. Thanks for reading, and happy drinking.