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In this episode of Local Flight, Shawn meets up with Ranjini Bose at the Upper East Side bar Seamstress. They hit the streets of New York City to find two unusual ingredients that give a new meaning to heat and create a cocktail with a kick.

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Transcript

- I'm Shawn Thomas. I'm in New York. And this is Local Flight. Join me as we travel across the country to discover extraordinary bartenders and purveyors. We'll share their stories as they work together to create innovative cocktails using unique local ingredients. In this episode of Local Flight, we're turning up the heat to bring the flavors of New York together in a whole new way. The Upper East Side was once known as the Silk Stocking district, in reference to the sophisticated set that built up the neighborhood during the turn of the last century. And it's still on of the most elegant neighborhoods in the country today. I'm meeting up with Ranjini Bose at Seamstress, an outpost of historic decor meets cutting edge cocktails at 75th Street and 1st Avenue. Tell me a little bit about your cocktail program. - We tend to do takes on classics or kind of creative culinary, like our own infusions. - I'd love to try something. - So this is a take on a classic 50/50 but mine is kind of a spring time twist on it. - Cool. - Instead of they dry vermouth, I infused a white aperitif wine with apricots and cinnamon. - [Shawn] Oh wow. - To give a little bit more fruit character. First I'm gonna add the chocolate mole bitters. One and a half ounces of the apricot cinnamon infusion. For my gin, I use Bombay Sapphire. - [Shawn] Juniper forward. - Juniper forward but it also has some great floral notes. Okay, I'm gonna add my ice. Give it a stir. Now we're gonna strain it. Two garnishes on this. - Okay. - The first one is a little bit of walnut oil just on the surface. I also want to garnish with some lemon oils. Just do a classic twist. Rim the glass with that. And I actually like to discard. - Just the expression. - Yeah, just the expression. - Okay. - And there you are. - Thank you, what do you call this cocktail? - I call it the My Fair Lady. - My Fair Lady? - Yeah. - All right. Delicious. When I taste the walnut oil, it brings out more of the cinnamon and a little bit more of that stone fruit from apricot. So Ranjini, where do you draw you're inspiration from for your cocktails? - I'll actually look up recipes, like dessert recipes. - Sure. - Or like curry recipes. - To get an idea what spices work? - Just to get an idea. Yeah. Not even look at cocktails. - Right. - But look at food. - Right. - Totally. - So I'm back in New York. And I'm here because I wanna find unusual ingredients. Something that's unique to New York. - Well lately I've been thinking a lot about spice or heat. - Sure. - I mean I think bartenders tend to use like Tabasco or jalapeno whenever that comes up. - Yeah. - But I mean I know that there's other types of heat. I'd be curious. - A new take on heat. - Yeah, a new take on heat. Something a little different. - Okay, cool. At the first stop our search for unusual heat, Ranjini and I met up with Alan Kaufman, owner of The Pickle Guys. Alan's been a Lower East Side pickler for almost 40 years and his store is one of the last standing in a long tradition of pickle shops in the neighborhood, dating back over a century. You guys say you know the customers by order. Is that true? - I believe so. I believe he's got this one pegged. Hey Vic! What's this guy gettin' in the back? The guy in red. Two salad pickled, one is spicy. - Close. - [Shawn] Close. - Three and one, not two and one. - Three and one. - [Vic] Three and one. - He went up one. He did go up one. - [Shawn] He changed it up today. Every year before Passover, Alan and his team make one and a half tons of horseradish. It's such a huge quantity, they have to wear gas masks. - Take a little at a time. You don't have to gulp that. Like a champion, huh? - Today Alan is making a special batch just for us inside his Essex Street shop. - [Alan] How's your nose? - Okay. This is horseradish. Horseradish is a root. It grows in the ground like a carrot. Only the top part sticks out and there's big flowers up here. What we're gonna do first is cut the ends off and we cut the tops off. And now we're gonna take a peeler and we peel it down 'til we get rid of all the skin. Then we're gonna take a hand grater and we're gonna grate the horseradish just like you would anything else. I'm gonna let one of you guys finish peeling this one, gratin' this one. - I guess I'll go ahead and do it. - [Both] Okay. - I'll set you up for something young lady. - [Ranjini] Okay. - Then we're all doin' this together here. This stuff will go like wildfire. - [Shawn] Really? - [Alan] Yeah, but the best horseradish comes from St. Louis. - [Shawn] St. Louis? - Yeah, I think it has to do with the Mississippi mud. One for you. - Okay. - And here's a little grater for you. - Grate that one up? - Yeah. If you wanna keep it for a while, there's a simple way of doin' it. Take a little bit of salt, a little bit of water add a dash of apple cider vinegar. And once you got that goin', you just pour a little bit in there. And you're gonna mix it up. You wanna get the consistency of mashed potatoes. If you wanna use a red, same thing. Except you use beets and you add a little beet juice to it. - [Shawn] Slight taste from the. - [Alan] Slight taste. - Little bit of vegetableness from the beet. - It tastes a little earthy. You guys wanna try some? - Yeah, love it. - [Ranjini] Yes. Mmmmm. - A little spicy - Yeah. - [Ranjini] It's spicy. - A little heat you feel it. - Right to the sinuses. - Like you're pinchin' your nose there? - Yeah. - [Ranjini] Mmm-hmm. Now I'd love to try some of these pickles. I know Ranjini definitely. - [Ranjini] Definitely. Sour pickles, thank you very much. Mmmmm. - This is a great pickle. This is so good. - It's solid. - It's really good. - You can't say that without a smile, can you? - And it's fun. Pickles are fun. So I gotta couple of jars of horseradish here for you guys. - Thank you so much. - Thank you very much. The horseradish is going to give the cocktail a distinctive aromatic kick. But Ranjini has one more stop for something a bit more unusual to round it out. Our next stop, Cafe China, boasts a 1930s inspired interior, where they serve an eclectic mix of Chinese favorites. And many of their dishes incorporate another source of unusual heat, the Szechuan peppercorn. - Brought Shawn here because I'm a big fan of Szechuan cuisine and I know that their peppercorns are a big component of it. - [Man] Absolutely, yes. - Thinking of maybe trying out some ways that you guys use it. - Peppercorn leaves a numbing sensation on the tongue. For a taste of what the strength peppercorn by itself tastes like. We start with the appetizer. So this is the duck and peppercorn. - Okay. - Cheers. I get the numbing effect right off. - Yeah. - It's subtle but I see what you mean. It really coats the palette. - [Man] Right. Mapo tofu is a traditional dish, very popular. - That's nice. - Yeah, this one's definitely more savory than the duck but I still do get a little bit of that numbing. - Right. - On my tongue, just a little bit. - And the spice isn't too much. It's definitely spicy but it's not. A little sniffle but it's manageable for sure. - Next one gonna make you cry. - You think so? - All right, here we go. - This is called Chongqing spicy chicken. Chongqing is a big town in Szechuan. Lots of peppers. - I can see that. - Yeah. - I can definitely see that. - It's super, super flavorful and spicy. - All right, here goes. - [Ranjini] All right, here we go. - Chongqing chicken. - Don't forget the spicy chicken. - Mmm, Chongqing spicy chicken. Oh yep, I can see why they call it spicy chicken for sure. Do you feel like you have enough here as far as inspiration to play with in your cocktail idea? - Yeah I'm getting a lot of ideas from this. - Well we don't sell it but here's some that we can. - [Shawn] Would you look at that? - [Ranjini] Look at that. - [Man] Yeah, there ya go. - Ask and ye shall receive. All right, well I'm just gonna try some just as is. - That's a good idea. - Here goes. - Oh boy. - It's like a light, floral pepper. Not quite as harsh as a black pepper, up front. And then it starts to numb the palette. - It was not a pepper. It is actually a citrus fruit. - They're so strongly flavored, I think I can take this and extract flavor. Do some pretty interesting things with it. - Thank you so much. - Good night, thank you. - Have a great night. - Good-bye. - With our jars of horseradish and box of Szechuan peppercorns, Ranjini and I are heading uptown to see what we can do with these two types of exotic heat. - So what do you think? - I've been thinking with the peppercorns, probably the best way to go is an infusion and just to kind of really extract it into a spirit so we can use that. - I think that's a great idea. - Grey Goose is a great way to do this. - [Shawn] Clean, neutral spirit to draw some of that. - Exactly. I like to do cold infusions. You kind of retain the more natural flavor of the ingredient. - Sure, you don't cook anything. - And I'm not cooking it. - Yeah. - With how intense these peppercorns are, I don't think this will take too long. So agitate a little bit more and I think we can just kind of put it to the side. - So what do you think about the horseradish? I mean, it was really vegetal. - Yeah. - So I mean, obviously something like a Bloody Mary. I mean is that the route you wanna go or what do you think? - Since we're doing unusual things, maybe go unconventional and actually do a sour style. - Classic sour? - So I think yeah, a classic sour. So, citrus for a sour. - [Shawn] Yeah, sure. - Gonna start with half an ounce of lemon juice. It's thinking about bringing out the floral notes in the pepper, so luckily I have this chamomile syrup that I make. - Sounds great. Do you make it like a tea, like you steep it and then fortify it with sugar? - That's exactly how you make it. And then I'm also thinking maybe some amaro? - I love amaro. - Yeah, me too. - What's the flavor profile on that one? - This one's a little bit lighter-bodied, a lot of green, herbal notes to it. We should do a little bit of the horseradish. It's pretty powerful though. I really love the color of this. - All right. - And I think the beet could give it an interesting earthiness. And then I think now we're ready to add the vodka. - Should we try it and make sure you like where the heat is at? - We should probably taste it first, yeah. That's spicy. - Yeah that heated up pretty quick. - That did, I thought it would infuse pretty quickly. So I'm just gonna go ahead and strain this. So let's just do two ounces of that like a classic. - [Shawn] Standard poor. - Yeah. That's a beautiful color. Look at that. Maybe some of the peppercorns as a garnish. - [Shawn] Thank you very much. - [Ranjini] You're welcome. - Wow. That's incredible. It's interesting, so the lemon actually cuts through it and makes the horseradish almost taste like ginger would. - It's like very savory. - Right. I got one of those Szechuan peppercorns. It brings out the citrus way more. Like if you actually chew one of the peppercorns. - A success. - It's a solid sour. - Okay. - Now what do you think as far as a name? " - Well we got all the ingredients on the Lower East Side. - It's the East Side Story. - Oh man, like the West Side Story. - Exactly. But this is the east side. - I love it. - [Shawn] You love it? That's great, yeah, that's awesome. - East Side Story. - Here's to that. - Cheers.