Cocktail connoisseur Jordie Ho-Shue has been involved in the operation of multiple restaurant and bar concepts in the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily concentrating on her development within well-established craft beverage programs. Possessing a strong passion for cocktail culture and education, Jordie has intimately studied and worked with a variety of artisanal spirits, but the rums of the Caribbean will always hold the key to Jordie's heart. Her latest cocktail creation is Right Near the Beach, Boy for cocktail subscription delivery company Shaker & Spoon. The box’s theme is Rums of Origin 2: Jamaica. (Psst: sign up by July 1st at shakerandspoon.com to get the box and try her cocktail at home.)
We asked Jordie all about this unique cocktail that includes a surprising peanut ingredient.
NPB: You’ve created a cocktail for Shaker & Spoon’s Jamaican-themed box called Right Near the Beach, Boy. What inspired this beverage?
JHS: This cocktail is entirely inspired by my time growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as my life long preoccupation with Jamaican rum. I wanted this drink to not only be a clear representation of the vibrant flavors that molded my palate during my formative years, but also illustrate the evolution that I’ve experienced working behind some of the best bars in San Francisco.
NPB: What is peanut orgeat and what does it bring to this cocktail?
JHS: Traditionally, orgeat syrup is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar, and rose water or orange flower water. Orgeat syrup is an irreplaceable ingredient in the Mai Tai and many Tiki drinks. I thought it would be fun to create a recipe for “peanut orgeat” that would pay homage to the wildly popular peanut punch recipes that me, my friends and my family members all enjoyed back home. The peanut orgeat that I created (I wasn’t able to find any other recipes, so I crafted my own) adds a full-bodied, unctuous quality to this Mai Tai variation and vibrancy that I believe is indicative of Jamaican culinary culture.
NPB: What other cocktail applications can you use the peanut orgeat in?
JHS: I think peanut orgeat would work well with many popular rum-based golden age/ pre-prohibition classic cocktails and modern classics that call for orgeat. Tiki drinks are generally anything but subtle, so I believe that many of those recipes would still maintain their distinctness with the incorporation of peanut orgeat. Please try it in a Fog Cutter and a Trinidad Sour and let me know what you think!
NPB: What thoughts do you have on how peanuts fit into Jamaican cuisine?
JHS: In my personal experience, peanut isn’t a pervasive ingredient found in Jamaican culinary culture. However, peanut porridge and peanut punch are two very popular dishes that many locals enjoy regularly.
NPB: With rum, lime, Jamaican curry coconut syrup and peanut orgeat, it sounds like this cocktail is bursting with flavor. What factors do you consider to get the perfect balance of all of these flavors?
JHS: To be perfectly honest, for me, it comes down to experience. The more that I work with certain flavor combinations, and am willing to step outside of what is typically expected, is the more confidence I’ve gained conceptualizing cocktails. I am extremely comfortable with creating rum cocktails because I feel as though I have a vested reverence for and understanding of the category. But even then, a concept that sounds great on paper often requires some tweaking during the execution phase- for pros and novices alike. I was pleased with the first draft of this cocktail, and when I actually tasted it for the first time, the combination of flavors felt kismet. I’m extremely proud that I was able to not only showcase ingredients that have so much cultural significance for me personally, but also deconstruct these familiar flavors in what believe to be an innovate way.
NPB: Besides rum, we’ve also seen peanuts and peanut butter paired a lot with whiskey. What are your thoughts on peanut-whiskey pairings?
JHS: One of my job titles is co-curator for a unique collaborative bartender advocacy program called Brown & Balanced, which gives Brown and Black bartenders around the country a platform to create and serve cocktails in order to raise money for local charities. The last Brown & Balanced event that I produced was at Camp Runamok in Louisville, Kentucky, and a participating bartender made a peanut butter and jelly inspired cocktail using Uncle Nearest Rye as the base. It was my favorite cocktail of the night, and I thought the fruit and nut flavors harmonized amazingly with the rye. Granted, I haven’t had any other peanut-whisk(e)y cocktails that would add to that perspective, but it makes sense to me why those flavors would play well together.
NPB: From straight peanuts and peanut butter to powdered peanut butter and peanut oil, there are lots of different ways to include peanuts in food and drinks. Have you used peanuts in any other cocktails, or have any ideas that people could experiment with?
JHS: I have used peanut oil to make a candied mushrooms garnish for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture’s (CUESA) winter cocktails of the farmer’s market event in 2017. Obviously, there are many fun and interesting ways that people can incorporate peanuts into their cocktail recipes, but my current ideology regarding cocktail development has been “skip the busy work.” Frequently I find that while painstaking techniques can function as valuable learning opportunities, they don’t intrinsically add higher value to our recipes. In some cases, they are worth the effort, but in most cases, I don’t find that they are. So if someone asked me for advice on how they could start experimenting with peanuts, I would encourage them to try infusing their base spirit with peanut butter, or perhaps making their own peanut milk if they are feeling particularly adventurous. Just try to be mindful of the texture and balance of your drinks, because the addition of powders, creams, and spreads can lead to gritty, thick, muddy cocktails, which are rarely enjoyable.