The popularity of the hot sauce Sriracha has exploded in the last few years. Once a random condiment you would find at your friendly neighborhood Chinese takeaway or Thai noodle hut, the red chili sauce has broken out in a major way attracting a devoted, almost cult-like following and even showing up in random places like on your sandwich at Subway.
It’s also been the subject of legal drama in recent months, as residents of Irwindale, Calif., home of Sriracha’s manufacturer Huy Fong Foods, have been lobbying to close the hot sauce plant, claiming the fumes it emits are the cause of burning eyes and other health ailments. Even though a judge ordered the factory to cease operations that produced noxious fumes, the local city council feels measures didn’t go far enough and has declared the plant a public nuisance instead.
Given the popularity of Sriracha and the uncertainty surrounding the condiment’s near future, it’s fitting to see it showing up in the world of booze. And no surprise that the booze it’s combined with is vodka. Being colorless and having no strong flavor of it’s own, vodka lends itself perfectly to every flavor imaginable, ranging from whipped cream to bacon and now UV’s Sriracha. The result is surprising:
Color: Strangely, this stuff is absolutely colorless. The bottle is a nice shade of Sriracha red, but because other flavored vodkas come in all the lurid shades of the rainbow you could imagine, I was surprised to pour out a clear liquid.
Aroma: In another surprise, the Sriracha spice is very restrained. You might expect, given the power and the kick of the sauce, to have your nose hairs singed slightly, but instead you’re greeted by the smell of the peppers themselves. The spice in the sauce dances in the background, hinting at the burn to come.
Taste: If the spice is somewhat restrained in the aroma, it bites hard in the taste and the general burning sensation follows.
Finish: Here’s where it all goes south for me. Instead of a pleasant rush of spice, you get a burning that’s almost heartburn-like in its intensity. It’s not at all pleasant, I recommend mixing it to cut the burn.
The Mixmaster: The obvious choice for Sriracha vodka is using it in a Bloody Mary, but I wanted to see how versatile this could be, so I did a few experiments. Randomly, I found this recipe for Spicy Sangria, which includes cucumber, chiles and lime, to be a wonderfully refreshing drink. But an experiment to see if a chocolate chili martini might be delicious turned out to be fairly undrinkable. Here’s another idea that involves cooking: If you like vodka sauce on your pasta, Sriracha vodka adds a nice, subtle spice to the traditional recipe.
Overall: The problem with pepper-based vodkas is that they’re not as versatile as other flavored vodkas can be. Outside of cooking and Bloody Marys, there’s not a lot you can do with them. If you love the idea of having a little bit of that Sriracha kick in your bloody mary, then by all means, pony up the $12.49 and snag a bottle from your local Hy-Vee or Barzini’s and enjoy. Alas, for it’s lack of versatility and, though diehard Sriracha fans may disagree, limited appeal it earns: